In my last post, I explained how I evaluated and met the requirements my potential clients might have, including qualifications, website and connections.
I said I would delve into how I set my rates next, but Giovanna Lester wrote an excellent post on that, and it reflected how I had done it!
After making myself known, it was time to ramp up my work. How did I do that?
I had been working as a part-time interpreter and translator for several agency clients for over 10 years. I had routinely accepted small assignments that fit with my commitments as a homeschool mom. During my youngest child’s senior year of high school, I realized it was time to start the launch. A business grows gradually, and my daughter needed to learn that her mother also worked. Besides, we were going to have college bills to pay!
I bought an iPhone so I could answer emails quickly, and a laptop so I could work from my daughter’s viola lessons. Then I sent an email to my favorite clients. I announced that I had completed the NYU Certificate in Translation and my daughter was graduating, so I had more time to work for them. In a month, my business tripled! Why?
- I had always done quality work.
- My clients now knew about my professional development.
- I had always kept my word, delivered on time, and treated my clients professionally.
- I always answered emails and phone calls promptly.
Pretty soon I saw that I was getting emails addressed to me personally, not addressed to “undisclosed recipients.” As clients found they could count on me, they started to call first and send the email later. Price became the last thing we discussed. This was the type of relationship I really wanted.
The next step was to prepare to work with direct clients. With one agency client, I realized that another translator and I always asked for each other as partners. I therefore called Gabriela Penrod and asked if she would be my primary editor/co-translator for direct client work. The fact that we both grew up in different places (Gaby is Mexican and I grew up in Argentina) enriches us personally and professionally. If we can both agree on something, the outcome is usually pretty good! It has been wonderful!
Nothing ruins a friendship quite as effectively as an unclear work partnership. So, keeping expectations clear has been super important! Our professional relationship and our friendship have grown over the last few years because:
- I treat her with the utmost transparency (I send her a copy of the invoice I send the client);
- We respect each other and edit each other’s work, thinking only about creating the best possible product for our audience;
- I pay her very promptly; and
- I always discuss any changes in our relationship for a given project.
Working more, however, forced me to adjust how I used my time and organized my accounts. I hired a house cleaner, hired an accountant to help me set up QuickBooks, and developed a process to remember what projects I was working on and what was due when.
This also forced me to change certain family priorities. My children now did not always come before my work. (Of course they are still more important than my work, but I establish my priorities on a case-by-case basis.) Since my children were becoming young adults, this provided a healthy way to develop mutual independence. As an empty nester, I found I had interesting things to do with my time, and they found I was available to support them within reasonable limits, delegating more responsibilities to them. People asked me how the newly-empty nest was feeling, and I could honestly say it was great because my children were more mature and independent, and I was able to serve my community in a new and exciting way. It was a win-win situation.
This transition from part-time to full-time was very smooth because it was the natural result of a process that had been planned and implemented over about 10 years. What’s more, as a family, we had all participated by observing my training (great role modeling for my college kids), watching me gradually develop a client base, and seeing the positive outcome of all my efforts. We all enjoyed the process and were excited about it.
It wasn’t just a Helen project, but an Eby family project, where everyone had the opportunity to contribute some level of support and input. I have consulted with my husband, who is an engineer, on technical issues, with my children for support with some projects, and we have all been comfortable with the development of my business.
Next: Steps I took to connect with direct clients, and why I sought them out.