Amy Williams is a freelance translator working from French and Italian into English, and a director of Eggplant Translations. She specialises in marketing and advertising, and the arts, media and music in particular. In the early stages of my freelance career, Amy was kind enough to give me some great advice on setting up a website. Here I ask her for more tips about marketing, her areas of specialisation and why she has chosen to pursue further studies in psychology. [Read more…]
With a background in landscape planning and several years’ freelance experience as a copywriter, editor and desktop publisher, in 2001 Betti Moser decided to qualify as a German translator so she could work from home more often. Currently based in London, Betti talks to us about about setting up a freelance practice, finding clients and marketing yourself as a freelancer. [Read more…]
Guerrilla marketing involves taking a non-traditional approach to meeting conventional marketing goals. Best of all, it’s a way for small fry to successfully compete with the big players in the industry by applying a toolbox of tricks that no self-respecting translator should be without.
In fact, it’s probably more accurate to describe guerrilla marketing as a mindset. Key to its adoption is the understanding that marketing is not just about trying to sell your services. Marketing involves everything you do in the process of carrying out your day-to-day business activities (including the clients you choose to work with).
The really interesting thing about all this is that when you take a guerrilla approach to marketing, the question of whether to use [insert preferred web 2.0 tool here] is no longer relevant. Instead the question becomes what exactly do these online tools offer, and how can you apply them to meet your specific, offline goals.
If you want to read a little bit more about guerrilla marketing, I recommend downloading this free pdf called Guide to Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants. It doesn’t refer to web 2.0 directly but it does give a really useful framework on which to hang your activities.
Image via Wikipedia
As a freelancer, specialising doesn’t only refer to the sector you choose to work in but also the kind of clients you take on. Here are a couple of hard-earned lessons on pricing to make sure your clients are the keeping kind:
1. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. Remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It may seem counter-intuitive (especially when you’re worried about keeping the wolves from the door) but if the price is not right, or if the work is bringing you into an area you don’t want to be in, then sometimes the best thing you can do is to turn it down. What happens if you accept the job, then the job of your dreams comes in tomorrow? Will you be able to give it the attention it deserves? Sometimes, no work really is better than crappy work.
2. Don’t worry about over-pricing. Clients won’t think less of you if you lower your rates, but it’s much, much harder to increase your rates after you realise they’re too low, – especially when you’re starting out. Premium rates will attract premium buyers (of course, it goes without saying that standard of your work is also premium). Peanuts, on the other hand, will only attract monkeys
3. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that after a few low paid jobs your client will suddenly see the light and start offering you better paid ones. In fact, the opposite usually occurs – your clients will see you as either someone naïve who doesn’t know the value of their work, or quite simply cheap. Not the personal brand any of us really want, now is it?
4. Work for free rather than for cheap. If you are really struggling to find work in your field and are tempted to take on a poorly-paid job, resist the urge and look for some genuine pro bono work instead. (And by genuine I mean not-for-profit organisations, not just unscrupulous agencies or cheap-scate companies looking for a freebie). There are lots of perks to this approach. Geniune pro bono clients are often more flexible with their deadlines and are usually generous with feedback, so you can really take the time to hone your skills. Even if it means taking a part-time job in another field to tide you over financially, you’ll gain a lot more than if you’d taken on work from some shark offering below industry rates.
There are companies out there who are willing and able to pay for excellent professional services. So put a price on your time, and stick to it – it will pay off.
*for a wordier version of this post, see What are you worth? Don’t be a monkey.
Seth Godin writes the most popular marketing blog in the world. So it’s reasonable to assume that when he writes about something, there just might be something to it. The good news for freelance translators is that for some time now he’s been saying that small is the new big. And some other great posts have been written about this too.
At some early point in their career, freelancers usually have to chose whether to position themselves as a “we” or as an “I”. Most Many translators tend to go for “we”, despite being soloists. There seems to be a perception that it’s weightier somehow, more credible. And no wonder – it’s easy to imagine that the only way to do business is the way we see it being done by the companies we hear about and deal with every day. But is the royal “we” really called for anymore?
Here are some things for freelance translators to consider when thinking about their brand positioning, based on Seth Godin’s book Small is the New Big:
1. “Find a niche, not a nation”. We don’t have to conquer the world every morning we open our doors for business just to break even. We can make a very nice living off the crumbs hat the big fish miss. What’s wrong with that?
2. Everyone likes to deal with the CEO. So don’t hide the fact that when clients deal with you, they are. Plus, because you call all the shots, there’s no need for pointless rules, needless paperwork or slow decision-making. What client wouldn’t want that level of attention and service?
3. Vive le solopreneur. Teamwork isn’t always the way to go. Groups can get bogged down and lose focus in areas where an individual can whip through. These are the areas where we can thrive.
4. Everybody loves an underdog. Some people even prefer to buy from them. Put yourself in front of these people.
5. Focus on your craft. Build your business by doing great work consistently, and you’ll never be short of work. (This is my favourite tip, and has always been my take on freelancing.)
6. Be a bootstrapper. This is the best bit of advice Godin has, in my opinion. By only spending money where you really need to, you give yourself the freedom of flexibility and time, and have a lot less to lose. I reckon this is the secret to long-term survival as a freelancer (and a good approach to money in general).
So why not embrace the fact that we’re small?
First published in March 2007
I’ve spoken before about how important it is to specialise if you really want to make your living as a freelance translator. But I want to do more than just make a living, I also want longevity in my career, so I’ve also tried to heed Chris Durban’s advice when she said “Shifting your focus to a sector that is bound to discover Internet outsourcing any day now is a short-term, short-sighted fix”. Very good point – I don’t want to be one of those translators who is always looking over their shoulder, afraid of being replaced by a machine or another professional working in a country where the cost of living is lower than the UK (that would be most countries, then).
You’ll notice I place a lot of store in Chris’s advice – I think she should be compulsory reading for all newbies. I first heard her speak, again in my formative years, about how to set yourself up as a freelance translator and she really impressed me. She was probably the only translator that I heard say during that time that there was no shortage of translation work, but you had to position yourself for it. She has repeatedly advocated pitching yourself at the higher end of the market.
This approach has definitely paid off for me. Not only have I also discovered to my delight that there is no shortage of work around, I’ve also been well rewarded for the work that I’ve done and have continued to learn and develop (because as you know, for a translator, the learning never stops). But I’m surprised at how many translators don’t seem to appreciate that they don’t do themselves any favours by taking on poorly paid work… I’d get more upset about it only it leaves so much more work for me 🙂
So I’ve learnt that specialising doesn’t only refer to the sector you chose to work in, but also the kind of clients you decide to work with. It’s pretty standard advice to turn down work if it’s not in your area of expertise, but just because you can do a job does not automatically mean you should take it on. Here are a couple of hard-learnt lessons I’ve faced so far:
1. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. It may well seem counter-intuitive (especially when you’re starting up and desperate for work) but if the price is not right or you feel the work is bringing you into an area you don’t want to be in, then sometimes the best thing you can do is to turn it down. What happens if you accept the job, then the job of your dreams comes in tomorrow? Will you be able to give it the attention it deserves? Sometimes, no work really is better than crappy work.
2. Don’t worry about over-pricing your services. Clients won’t think less of you if you lower your rates, but it’s much, much harder to increase your rates after you realise they’re too low, especially when you’re only starting out. Premium rates will attract premium buyers (that the standard of your work is also premium goes without saying, of course). Peanuts, on the other hand, will only attract monkeys 🙂
3. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that after a few low paid jobs your client will suddenly see the light and start offering you better paid ones. In fact, the opposite usually occurs – your clients will see you either as someone naïve who doesn’t know the value of their work, or quite simply cheap. Not the personal brand any of us really want, now is it?
4. Work for free rather than for cheap. If you really are struggling to find work and your quiet days are starting to echo unbareably, don’t give in to the lowly paid translation jobs. Take on some pro bono work instead. Even if it means taking a part-time job in another field to tide you over financially, it will pay dividends professionally and help further build your profile in the industry.
Not only is the work very satisfying, I’ve found geniune pro bono clients are often more flexible with their deadlines so I can really take the time to hone my translation skills (and by genuine I mean not-for-profit organisations, not just unscrupulous agencies or cheap-scate companies looking for a free translation). These kind of work providers can also be generous to a fault in offering feedback and you can usually swing a name check on their website or in the document you’ve done for them too. Try here for an organisation I’ve worked with before and can highly recommend. If you’re interested in specialising in localisation, you could always check out SourceForge.net, an open-source software development which hosts more than 100,000 programs, many of which need localising (this work is free rather than pro bono, of course). Either way, you’ll gain a lot more than if you’d taken on work from some shark offering below-industry rates.
I think it helped that I’d had a very well paid corporate job before I decided to go freelance as a translator. Even though this job was not in translation, I saw just how much companies were prepared to pay for excellent service. It forced me to put a price on my time as I didn’t see the point in chucking in a well paid job to go work for peanuts, regardless of how much more satisfying it might be. So I decided early on that this was the approach that I was going to take. I knew that it would be hard, and that it would take balls of steel, but I was determined not to take on jobs that would have me earning below a certain hourly rate. So put a price on your time, and stick to it – it will pay off.
I love this quote, which I found over at Rowan Manahan’s Fortify your Oasis:
(From a training brochure)
I can see myself paraphrasing this to clients in future – something like, “If you think translation is expensive, try a bad translation…” 🙂 Very in line with the kind of client education stuff that Chris Durban preaches.