Beginning; it can be daunting, exhilarating, discouraging and stimulating all at once. If you do freelance work I suspect that you know what I’m talking about.
When I first started out as an independent translator, I wasn’t sure how I would build the business I envisioned. I had so many questions. How would I attract clients? Where would they come from? How would they find me? How would I make sure that clients came back to me? And so on.
Now, several years later, I’ve come to rely on key principles to govern the choices and decisions I make on a daily basis. These factors guide the decisions that I make every day. They help me to achieve my professional objectives and sustain the work that I do.
What principles guide your business practices? The following help me to stay focused and to make decisions.
1. Look forward to doing your work every morning by building your offered services based on what you love to do.
As freelance professionals, we have the freedom to define the type of work that we do. What do you love to do and are happy to do every day? This is the driving force behind a successful practice. There is a lot of discussion in translation circles about the importance of specialization. It will serve you well indeed, but not only because that’s what clients are looking for. It is also a key motivator as you carry on with your work.
If you prefer translating to proofreading, then make it your focus. Narrow it down even further to the type of translations that you like to handle. Short documents or long documents? Science, business or art related topics? Back translation, harmonization or linguistic validation? There are many possibilities.
Initially, you may not get exactly the kind of work you love, but start with your goal in mind.
Passion + Focus = Purpose to drive your work
2. Gain the trust of your clients by establishing a regular schedule.
Responding to business correspondence in a timely manner is a good way to let your clients know that you are reliable. Even when you are not busy full time, make a habit of having designated business hours. This will help you to create working habits and will make it possible for potential clients to reach you. As you know, in translation, time is of the essence.
If you are not busy with translation related work, your time can be used for business development. Depending on your professionals objectives, think about things such as building your online presence, networking in your community, taking courses, marketing your services, etc.
Positive Work Habits + Constancy = Business Growth
3. Be indispensable by offering personalized services.
Extend courtesy, respond professionally, follow-up and answer questions. Quite simply, make sure that your clients enjoy every interaction they have with you. It’s a good way to build long term collaborations and to build your professional reputation.
Personalized Services = Long Term Business Relationships
4. Feel confident in your chosen field(s) and language by establishing a learning practice.
As you gain in knowledge and confidence, you are able to better serve your clients. Learning is a great way to perfect your skills and to add a field of specialization to your portfolio. It is a win-win situation.
Assuming that you have chosen your area of focus, you can now seek out places to learn more about the topic. Set aside some time in your work schedule to do so. Choose what works best for you, here are some ideas for your learning mix:
? Read books, blogs, and magazines
? Take online classes or listen to podcasts (from professional organisations, iTunes U, Coursera, Proz, etc.)
? Attend a class at your local university or college
? Take classes for fun, such as drawing for example. This is a great way to relax away from the computer while being exposed to new vocabulary.
? Form a study group with peers (local or virtual)
? Set aside some time to learn new software or to better understand the software that you already use.
Knowledge + Practice = Mastery
5. Navigate the highs and lows of self-employment by cultivating a long-term view of your career.
Your translation business needs to evolve along with the market, the tools of the trade, your experience, your clients’ needs, your family’s needs, etc. While you are working at what you love and developing your skills, build a business that will last. To help you to do this, don’t settle for what you know works today.
Notice aspects of your business that are working and others that can be improved. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my observations in Evernote (it’s always with me for quick access, since it is on my computer and on my iPod).
When an issue needs to be addressed, try developing your initial reflection into a project or a task. This could be as simple as purchasing a book or software to facilitate your work, or talking to a client about an aspect of your business relationship. It could also be more complex and involve planning and a larger investment of resources.
Ideas + Proactive Response = Sustainability
6. Remain engaged and flexible as a language professional by taking steps every day to grow your business and to manage change.
A career in translation usually builds over years, not weeks or months (to my knowledge, anyway). As you work with purpose, build relationships, learn, grow and remain proactive, persistence will bring you closer to your objectives.
On good days and bad days, continue working diligently. By taking action, even if it is in small steps, you will eventually notice the cumulative effect of your actions.
Persistence = Success
I still ask myself business questions, just different ones to those I asked myself when I started out. I suspect this will go on. It is a big part of what makes being a freelance professional interesting for me.
And remember, not everyone defines success in the same way. Your business will reflect you, your unique abilities and your life situation.
I would love to hear from you:
How do you define success as a language professional?
What guiding principles have helped you?