Greater than 4 minutes, my friend!
Today I want to share another great tip for newbies who want to kickstart their translation business.
When I started freelancing full time in late 2014, just a few months after graduating with my master’s degree, I had good translating and interpreting skills, but little clue about how to run a business and market my services. One day I came across a tweet by industry leader Nicole Y. Adams, advertising a discount on her online course, The A to Z of Freelance Translation: Everything you need to know for your first year as a freelance translator and beyond.
As you can imagine, the headline caught my attention and I immediately clicked on the shortened URL. I was directed to ruzuku.com, a platform for online courses, and read through the course description:
“The A to Z of freelance translation” is a completely self-paced course made up of 15 lessons, each one covering a topic relevant to freelance translators who want to establish their business. Each lesson comes with writing assignments and tasks that help you put into practice what you’ve learnt during the course.
Back then, I felt it was exactly what I was looking for. So I registered and completed (almost) all the lessons and assignments within two months.
Now, almost 18 months since I completed the course, I’d like to assess what I’ve learned and what I’ve successfully implemented so far. Here’s a list (you know I love lists) of five main points that I put into practice and that have helped me start my journey to becoming a professional freelancer on the right foot:
- Testimonials go a long way
In the first lesson of the course, special attention is devoted to how less experienced translators can showcase their competence and earn the trust of their prospective clients. Besides recommendations from colleagues, testimonials about past projects definitely go a long way. But what if you don’t have any practical experience at all? Nicole’s advice is try to think of anything at all that relates to translation that you’ve done so far.
After reading that lesson, I decided to take the first step out of my comfort zone and requested testimonials from the following people:
– the marketing manager of a company where I had completed a translation internship after graduation
– a few colleagues who had outsourced translation projects to me before
– an acquaintance I had translated something for.
The response was mainly positive and they all gave me flattering testimonials. This gave me the self-confidence I needed and made me realise I wasn’t starting from scratch.
2. Translation agencies
One of the reasons I liked the course from the start was Nicole’s advice regarding translation agencies. Unlike many other established colleagues, Nicole doesn’t try to discourage younger colleagues from working with translation agencies. She highlights the benefits for newbie translators of cooperating with an agency, and explains how to make a great first impression on high-end agencies.
After completing that part of the course I took the following steps:
– I made a list of renowned translation agencies, using the Blue Board section on Proz or social media.
– I updated my CV, including references and other important information as described in the course.
– I crafted a personal cover letter for each translation company, following the steps outlined in the course (e.g. highlighting how my experience could be a good fit for the company)
– I sent a personal email to the contact person of each agency I was targeting.
Some of the agencies I got in touch with this way have turned into steady clients. J
3. Project management for dummies
When I started out, my first reaction when someone called or emailed me to ask for a quote was not “Yaaay” but pure panic. What and how should I reply? I’ve never translated something like this before. Am I up to the job? How much should I charge for it? What if the client notices I have almost no experience at all? Is he or she reliable?
In the fourth lesson of her course, Nicole explains how to reply to a job enquiry, ask the right questions and quote like a pro. She also underlines the important of “due diligence” meaning a procedure to assess the new client’s background and creditworthiness. Finally, she covers the basics of price negotiation.
After that lesson I was able to manage enquiries in a more professional way—or at least, I don’t panic any more.
4. What to do if things go wrong
One of the lessons I enjoyed the most was called “What if things go wrong? Typical issues and how to tackle them”.
The lesson includes different scenarios of how things can go wrong, for example, scams or clients who don’t pay . It also touches upon a very sensitive issue, which most newbies as well as seasoned freelance translators experience at least once in their career: the client is not happy with their translation. This can happen even to the best of us. Nicole explains how to react to complaints, depending on whether they’re justified or not, and how to turn negative feedback into an opportunity to show professionalism.
Keeping that advice in mind, I’ve been able to react properly to a not-so-positive feedback lately and seize the opportunity to impress the client with my professional approach.
5. How to become a preferred supplier
Last but not least, one of the ideas that has stuck in my mind is the concept of “preferred supplier” in Lesson 10. After that lesson I changed my attitude and workflow, putting into practice a few tips to differentiate myself from my competitors and offer not only excellent quality, but also great customer service. This includes asking for feedback, going “the extra mile” to satisfy a good client or recommending a colleague to them.
Of course, these are only a few of the benefits I derived from the course. As a whole, the course gave me the self-confidence I needed to establish a successful business. I would recommend it to all colleagues who are new to the profession.