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What prospects are there for offering DTP services?

I have worked as a full-time translator since 2009 and am now contemplating to purchase a Mac and DTP software like Adobe InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator and Quark so I can widen my offering of services to include DTP as well. This is normally something the translation agencies handle themselves, but perhaps I could easier find direct customers by offering them DTP services.

As I translate in a language direction which is highly demanded, I receive more job offers than I can accept. How is the situation when it comes to DTP?

1. Can I do DTP for other languages (at least languages I am somewhat familiar with, like Chinese, Russian and French)?

2. Which areas could I quite easily get a good start in within sub-areas of DTP? For example, DTP that is related to translation would be one sub-area. What other sub-areas are there?

3. Which  industries require DTP from freelancers the most (more than the translation industry)?

4. How do I handle files if I work with DTP software on a Mac and my customers send me Windows DTP files?

5. How long would it take me to get started with DTP with no previous knowledge of it by just having the necessary hardware and software?

6. How good is the profit margin (how much competition is there)?

7. If I purchase the software and a Mac, can I, to start with at least, let someone else use this Mac with the installed DTP software and work remotely with DTP tasks? In other words, I give this other person full access to my Mac and all installed DTP software. Would it work for this other person to work full-time using this method?

I am interested in starting with this, but need to make sure I can make a reasonable profit on it also before I purchase anything.
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Eoin OSullivanConsultant
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Commented:
I think you are not going to like my suggestion but I'd suggest you DO NOT consider a career in DTP = Desktop Publishing = Graphic & Print  Design without a LOT more research.

The DTP sector is very broad and complex ranging from illustration, graphic design for print and web and much more.  Many (but not all) designers have completed many years study in college as these skills are quite complex and many years practice is required to refine your skills.

Buying a Mac and Adobe Software and expecting to be able to produce quality work is unreasonable and it can take several years to become proficient in Illustrator or Photoshop.

A qualified Graphic Designer with good skills and experience can earn a good salary anywhere in the world but you're going to need to invest a lot of time and practice to reach those levels.

Author

Commented:
What about if I concentrate on my current domain (translation), and I begin there and have DTP as a side-line to my translation business? And take on easier tasks the first year, only working with translation related DTP?
Eoin OSullivanConsultant
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Commented:
Translation related to DTP isn't really a job that I can see  .. translation is a specific skill which you have but it is text-based and not really a DESIGN skill like DTP.  

People working in DTP and graphics will use the services of a translator but a translator that knows DTP isn't really much of an advantage.  They can give you a Word or text file to translate and then insert it into a specific design in Illustrator or Quark or InDesign.

Its like cycling and painting .. you can do both things .. but they really don't work well together.  They are two specific areas of expertise with little overlap.
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Commented:
I agree with Eoin OSullivan, I would steer you away from Desk Top Publishing.

That being said, I will condition it with this. DTP is a lot like photography. Anyone can get a camera and take pictures. They can offer to take pictures for others. This does not make them a professional photographer nor can they compete with photographers that take pictures for a living.

However, perhaps you are not wanting to compete. There are a lot of amateur photographers who are able to earn some extra income by snapping photos at friends weddings and such. They are not as good as a professional, but their friends didn't want to lay out the money for a professional and were willing to settle for something less.

In your business, I suspect you see a great many jobs that are simply pasting text into text boxes and arranging them nicely on a page. This I suspect you could do. Maybe add some graphics and a pull quote or such. I further suggest that you not lay out any additional money for publishing software. You should be able to do most of what you need with a text editor such as Microsoft Word or one of its clones.

This is not something that is going to make you rich. It might not even prove to be worth your time. After all "I receive more job offers than I can accept." Just as in the scenario that I offered above, the photographers friends hired him because he was cheep. Without experience and a quality portfolio, these are about the only jobs that you can expect. But it is a way to get started.

Author

Commented:
What David describes is what I had in mind: more for a layman's tasks. I was also thinking of if I had these DTP tools, would it make it easier/quicker to edit cumbersome text sections with formating that takes a long time to edit in MS Word? Often I receive these files which have been converted from pdf, and the formating takes a long time to get right in MS Word.

And also, for example, I might take scuba diving photos and then if I have these DTP programs and a Mac perhaps I could make very good editing of the photos and sell to magazines.

I think there are numerous other opportunities to put a Mac with DTP software to good use as a side income source besides my current translation business. Just being able to make a lot of things easily and quickly with photos and being able to combine photos with text etc. gives a lot of potential to create.

I also think it's possible for me to get direct clients instead of working for translation agencies (which handle DTP themselves) if I have a Mac with DTP software. Although my clients always send Windows files to me (mostly MS Word and pdf and Excel, sometimes InDesign) and SDLXLIFF files and MemoQ files, as I understood it it won't present any problem for me when using DTP software in Mac.
Eoin OSullivanConsultant
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Commented:
As I said before .. it isn't that you CANNOT do DTP .. just that it is quite complex and takes time to become proficient.

Understanding the "rules" of design such as layout, colour choice, font selection, typography etc. take time and practice.  There is a reason that people study Graphic design in college for years .. there is a LOT to learn.

Almost anyone can insert an image into a block of text in Word or Illustrator but making it look good, balanced and professional takes a little more skill.

The professional DTP applications like InDesign, Quark, Photoshop etc cost quite a few $$ per month and year and to justify the cost you need to be sure of earning quite a bit of money.  Graphic design companies will spend thousands on software to be able to work with a wide range of files and formats.

There are many different file formats in DTP for images, documents and design files .. you cannot open Quark files in Illustrator and many other variations exist.  


I would suggest that if you already have clients for translation work .. why not canvas them to see what other services you could offer .. see what they are looking for and what they'd be willing to pay.

Author

Commented:
Would it be useful with DTP software if I later would get into game writing? DTP software, image processing software, etc. like Final Cut Pro and Motion 5 for Mac?
Eoin OSullivanConsultant
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Commented:
Not really .. Video Editing and Game Development are completely different areas of expertise and knowing a lot about DTP will NOT help you to become a video producer or game designer.

Author

Commented:
Thanks for the suggestions, I could enquire at some of my customers also what type of DTP services they might be in need of.

I received this advice also from another translator who works with DTP:

"Trying to save money on production tools is usually a bad idea. One or two minor DTP jobs per month, and Adobe CC pays for itself. Try it for a year, and the worst-case scenario is you've learned DTP. Worth the fee, I think."
Adrian CozmaArt Director

Commented:
There's no need for DTP skills in order to translate a document as of late. There are plugins, online services and various workflows to get a document translated with ease. I don't think you can have a competitive advantage under a year, until when you need to get up to speed with the DTP lingo and processes involved in creating professional work.