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 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 page: http://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!