Freelance Translators as an Entrepreneurs

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By Beti Levensteinas

Entrepreneurship is certainly an option for language professionals to move forward. In order to achieve that, translators must build and maintain their professional identities and create their personal brand. They must also need to devise ways to stand out from the crowd in the competitive translation industry.

They need to acquire an entrepreneurial mindset, continuously adapting to the dynamics of market forces, marketing themselves as professional translators, promoting themselves, using online tools, social media platforms, growing their professional network, spending lots of personal time and effort in customer prospecting, acquisition and retention.

A successful freelancer must dedicate himself/herself at least 10% of his/her time on marketing, customer prospecting and marketing himself/herself as a continuing process; if s/he stops chasing it, s/he becomes invisible, so s/he should never give up.

A successful freelancer identifies his/her status (freelancer or translation agency), language pairs, services, expertise (maximum five specializations), rates, education, credentials, professional experience and provides his Curriculum Vitae. S/he also has good communication skills, providing quick responses, being accessible and responsible, doing what s/he agrees to, meeting deadlines (but never sacrificing quality over deadlines), listening to customers, asking questions, making suggestions. S/he must be open and frank, avoid miscommunication and request feedback.

There are some attitudes in order to achieve professionalism: becoming member of professional associations, designing websites, marketing services, blogging, continuing education and learning, stay up-to-date on translation industry, attending meetings, conferences, having a critical approach towards what customers want and say, caring about one’s network (existing and prospective), having a critical eye, investing in quality, adhering to endorsing guidelines, respecting rules and presence in social media.

Before even that, a successful freelancer should set his/her goals, target audience, determine unique value proposition (distinguish himself/herself from others, e.g. in view of his/her specialization), build his/her website, blogging, become a social networker, review and update his/her personal brand regularly, that is required for people to know the freelancer, who must turn into an entrepreneur, a continuous marketer.

A successful freelancer is a multi-talented and multi-tasked person.

The freelancer may choose to work with translation agencies and direct customers. Working with translation agencies provides a steady workflow, but lower rates. On the other hand, working with direct customers may provide occasional jobs, but higher rates.

When prospecting customer, you can send out your CV, fill out applications at Websites or associations, quote for jobs listed, advertise your services or write articles to social media, letting customers find you, use word of mouth communications, contact local companies, attend translation meetings and workshops and think locally.

In your contacts, applications materials should be error-free, state clearly what you’re applying for, start your email with objective information (language pairs, freelancer status etc.), be always quick and responsive to any customers’ requests and do a follow-up, get final confirmation from manager before starting a translation.

Marketing is an endless task to become and keep visible. Following up customers is important as prospecting them.

It is worthwhile to keep a log of communications, contact periodically customer to let them know you’re still interested and available.
Following up on customers is important to control project flow, show customers that you care, improve customer-translation relationship and build long-lasting cooperation. Happy customers make translators happy, maintaining good relations is a win-win situation for both translator and customers. It pays off in the long-run to know better customer’s needs.

In order to maintain an existing clientele, it is required to maintain an effective communication (e.g., sending holiday cards, keeping lines of communication open, being responsible, caring for customer’s concerns).

Freelancers should invest in quality and excellent customer service, letting customers know that above all is quality and customer satisfaction, live up to customer’s expectations,

Freelancers should also be proactive, contacting customers if they haven’t heard from customer in a while to remind customer of them, getting tips on upcoming work for them to plan their upcoming schedules, to keep first in customer’s database.

In order to enter translation market for the first time, one should go after official studies in schools, attending seminars and workshops, networking, marketing, getting certified, undergoing supervised training and internships, that is something developed throughout years and it requires a lot of patience.

Translators play an entrepreneurship role in the world and they must integrate translation with IT.

Technologies have potential roles in promoting entrepreneurship among translators because technologies provide translators with cost-effective and/or free online resources, open source platforms, free online services, making easier to network with peers, develop online communities through social media platforms, such as Facebook, twitter, Google Plus etc. Translators can develop required competence through online training and they can promote themselves by designing Websites and using social media marketing, search engine optimization. Technologies minimize costs and, in addition, they are not, thus, damaging to translators, one might think they are cutting jobs, reducing translation work available, but even translation memories require translators because strings need to be confirmed and validated. Machine tools may reduce translation to basic phrase replacement process and phrase and formal equivalence, so translation work may be changing, but not decreasing. Technologies enable translators networking and cooperation.

Initiative, determination, ambition, use of resources, taking into account circumstances, getting to know a number of linguists to start an enterprise, looking for new horizons, openness to new ideas, acumen, determination to succeed, bridging the gap between academic world and industry, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship are the key points that must be taken care of for becoming successful translators .

Work experience, combined with various available opportunities enable translators to play entrepreneurial role in society.

If freelancers do all of that, they will be adding value to their work, walking the extra mile for their customers, nurturing long cooperation with customers, showing customers that they care.

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