Helen’s Adventures in Translation, Chapter 2: Preparing to Launch

By the fall of 2010 I had done a lot of groundwork for launching:

  • I had acquired enough credentials to be credible so that potential clients could trust me.
  • I had the resources I needed. I had spent a few thousand dollars on dictionaries, plus another few thousand on training, a laptop and a smartphone with all the bells and whistles I thought would be helpful.
  • I had clients I had been working with part-time as it fit in with my obligations as a homeschool mom for years.
  • I had been participating in the ATA listservs, particularly Espalista (Spanish Language Division) and Business Practices.

It was time for the final countdown to launching as a full-time freelancer. I wanted local businesses in my community to know I existed. What were they looking for beyond credentials?

Business name: I found that people listen differently when we have a “business name.” So, I registered in the State of Oregon. I had two problems to solve with my company name:

  • English speakers not believing I could be a Spanish translator and interpreter because my English is so good.
  • Businesses not being interested in doing business with an individual.

Gaucha Translations was born. “Gaucha” is a reference to Argentina. I loved it when I got a compliment for solving a problem creatively! “Translations” is only part of what I do. I am also an interpreter and an interpreter trainer. However, many clients do not know the difference between translators and interpreters, and I figured I could explain that later.  As usual, not everyone agrees with my choice of a name. However, it has worked well and many people now use it as my nickname. Oh, my car has a custom license plate now: Pampa (Gaucha was taken). The Pampa is the land of the gauchos in Argentina.

Business cards: I went to the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and networked, trying out several different homemade business cards as I went. I tested the type of information people would need to see and the type of card that was easy for me to use when others gave one to me. I also went to SCORE  to see what they recommended. I ended up with:

My business cards

My business cards

  • My business name and contact information on the front, with a brief list of credentials on the back.
  • White paper that would accept pencil and ballpoint markings
  • Reasonably thick card stock
  • Something graphic on the front. Lots of white space so they could write “Helen is Awesome” or simply “Wake Up Nov 5” and remember where they had met me
  • Professional printing

Website: Everyone has a website today! I paid for my domain name and my business name in the .com and .net versions. So, I own the following domains, and they all forward to the same web pagehttp://www.heleneby.com, http://www.heleneby.net, http://www.gauchatranslations.com and http://www.gauchatranslations.net.  A friend recommended that, saying people would search for me by my name as well as my business name. All of them forward to gauchatranslations.com.

I tested website content for months, with SCORE consultants and with the Hillsboro Chamber. Finally, I worked with a website designer to narrow it down. It cost money, but it was worth the investment. A few years later I landed a contract with a very interesting local company. I asked how they found me, and they told me I was the only local translator with a good website.

I view my website as a site people will consult after they hear about me elsewhere, whether through the Chamber of Commerce or some other means of networking. I always ask people how they found me before I do business with them.

At this point, I keep adding things to my website. Some things I do NOT put on my site:

  • Prices and sample contracts. I have standard terms in mind, but I want to introduce them to the client as part of the conversation.
  • My resume. As a friend told me, I am offering a service, not looking for a job. I send a resume to those who ask for it, but generally ask people to check my website first. I tell them they will find more information on my site than on my resume.

One thing I DID put on my website:

  • My street address. When I check a website, I like to know it is a real business in a real place. I do a Google Maps search of a potential business partner’s address before I do business with them, and have discarded some options because their address appeared to be an abandoned warehouse in the middle of the fields or some other unreasonable location. I have never had security problems because of this.

Other things potential clients check:

  • My LinkedIn profile. Many members of the Hillsboro Chamber have told me that they validate my statements by checking me out on LinkedIn. As they have seen the types of people I am connected with, they have felt more inclined to trust me.

So far, all these steps are working for me because they are consistent with who I am. In the Hillsboro Chamber they say that people do business with those they know, like and trust. With my marketing materials and strategy, I try to be real so clients can know me and trust me, and not be disappointed later when they meet me in person. I do not want to appear to be larger than I am or try to look like an agency. As a matter of fact, I openly state that I am a sole proprietor. When speaking to people in the translation field, I call myself “a freelancer with a business name.”

Next installment: How I decided what I should charge (a geek in action)

Update: This article was originally posted without the image of Helen’s business cards.  This image has now been included.  Apologies to Helen for the mistake!

About heleneby

Helen Eby grew up in Argentina, the land of the gauchos. She is certified as an English Spanish translator by ATA and as a Spanish interpreter by the Oregon Judicial Department and by the Oregon Health Authority. She co-founded The Savvy Newcomer and the ¡Al rescate del español! blogs, both of which are team efforts to provide resources for other language professionals. She is also a founding board member of the Spanish Editors Association.

5 thoughts on “Helen’s Adventures in Translation, Chapter 2: Preparing to Launch

  1. This is perhaps the most comprehensive and useful piece of writing I’ve seen on how to (really) get started as a freelance translator. Many writers don’t even seem to remember being preoccupied with some of these details and many aspiring translators aren’t aware of others. Thank you!

  2. Helen, this is so helpful. And you have found the perfect description for many of us who feel the same way: “a freelancer with a business name”, it’s genius! Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Helen’s Adventures in Translation, Chapter 3: Launch Time! Going from 20% to 80% Capacity As Fast As Possible | The Savvy Newcomer

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