What freelancers can learn from entrepreneurs

Get paid for doing what I love, doing it wherever I want, whenever I want, and however I want. No more bosses demanding unconvincing protocols or mandatory smiles (I’ll never forget those six years at a burger joint where “smiles were a part of my uniform”), and no more needing to be at a specific place at a specific time.

That was the dream I was sold. But then I found myself staring blankly at the computer. Not quite looking at it — my eyes crossed just enough to see the particles of dust floating in front of it.

I had just delivered a month-long project to a regular client. It was a grueling month. The deadline bordered unreasonable and in order to deliver on time I had to work late into the nights. It was August and, despite the respite I found with the air-conditioned interior, I still longed to go out there.

The project finished. Boom. Delivered. It was done. Was that the best work I’ve done? I don’t think so. Did it fill me with joy and a sense of fulfilment? Definitely not. Had I become a freelancer, moved to Europe, and found my “freedom” just to be locked inside an office all summer? Was this supposed to be my calling? Why did I feel so empty?

By that point, the work grind I had invested so much of myself in resulted in a burn out. That night, after I hit the little blue send button with all the deliverables packed cozily in a zipped package, I couldn’t even read an email.

I had to leave. From the next month, anybody trying to get a hold of me would only get an automatic away message. I stuffed a backpack and got the first ticket I could find to a Greek island. I didn’t care which. I had no paid vacation, and I needed to work. But I couldn’t.

For the first time since I’d begun freelancing, I wasn’t excited to get back to work. I didn’t understand why this hustle and grind had left me feeling so depleted. That month of August, I made the most money I have ever made in my career as a freelance translator and writer. But was that sustainable?

All I understood was that there was something that wasn’t clicking about my approach to work. The secret, it turns out, was creating systems.

A new approach

When I reluctantly came back to work, having spent all my money, I spent weeks thinking about how I could rearrange my professional life. I binge-listened to podcasts, blogs, and began my habit of reading three books a month. I would find the solution.

And the message began to manifest itself to me: I had to learn to work like entrepreneurs and corporations do.Focus management, not time management, was the answer. And I had to prioritize what was most important. I wanted to spend more time in my genius zone and less time in everything else. I would find ways to automate, diversify, and scale my income.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial approach to freelancing: I understood it was a business, that I needed to consider marketing, organization, and customer service in my approach. I created content to help people around me. I needed to be reachable, pleasant to work with, and deliver fantastic work on time.

But there had to be a better way than just increasing rates or getting more gigs. Freelancing is a fantastic way to find freedom, follow your life’s calling, and make great money. Which is a viable and perfect business model for many. But there was something limiting me, and I knew that spending all my time on billable hours was not the way to grow.

Bigger and scalable

As Seth Godin put it: “Your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).”

So I decided to shift into an entrepreneur mindset. You don’t need to become an entrepreneur, but take an entrepreneurial approach. You don’t need to give up freelancing in lieu of being an entrepreneur, per se.

Entrepreneurs work to take themselves out of the equation; they use ideas to build well-oiled systems to run their businesses. Freelancers do something they’re good at in exchange for money. There are similarities between the approaches. For example, both entrepreneurs and freelancers can have a personal brand, and neither of them have a boss.

I love to write and translate and would like to continue doing it. But we can take examples from entrepreneurs and apply it to our freelance businesses. The most useful thing freelancers can take from entrepreneurs is to create systems for their businesses.

Create a system for your work and stick to it

Entrepreneurs are masters at building systems. That’s the premise of their whole business plan. Build a system, implement it, and turn it into a cash machine. Freelancers can create systems to increase productivity and performance:

  • Email templates
  • A customer management system
  • An onboarding sequence (pre-call questionnaire, a brief created to make the most of your client call, and follow-up)
  • A feedback system (creating a client questionnaire asking for feedback on specific stages of your service – outreach, onboarding, customer service, deliverables, and the actual work itself)
  • An automated social media plan
  • Outsource what you do not want to do yourself: accounting, bookkeeping, social media, etc.
  • A specific quality assurance system that you follow for every job
  • Terms and conditions designed to save back-and-forth and hassle
  • Defined objectives and steps to reach them
  • A set schedule that includes non-billable work (marketing, growth and development) PLANNED in. Your work as a freelancer is not only your client work. Plan for it. Plan time to plan. Build your business continuously. There will never be a moment when you have “free time”.

The list goes on.

Creating these systems builds your personal brand as a professional, increases leads, sales, and makes happier customers. You’ll become better at attracting the right clients and repelling the ones that are not aligned with you. Ultimately you’ll better respond to their needs because you’ll have a system for understanding what they are.

Now, tell me, do you have systems for your business?

Image source: Pixabay

Maeva Cifuentes is a digital nomad, blogger, content strategist, writer and translator. She helps entrepreneurs grow their brands and find freedom.

Glossaries for Translators: Why You Need Them

Photo Credit: Alex Read via Unsplash

This post was originally published on the Ben Translates blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

If you are a translator and you haven’t made your own translation glossaries yet, you need to create one right now. You are not just missing out; you are doing yourself a disservice. The benefits of creating and maintaining your own glossary(ies) cannot be understated, from increased productivity to better translation quality. They are essential tools for all translators that should be put to use on every single project. Need a little convincing? Below are five reasons you shouldn’t spend another minute without creating your own glossary (or glossaries!).

Glossaries are worth their weight in gold

Conservatively, let’s say your first glossary has about 100 terms in it and that you spent an average of five minutes researching each term. If your hourly rate is $50, that glossary is “worth” just over $400. Now, picture this: my personal Chinese to English glossary, which I use for every project that crosses my desk, currently has 1,258 terms. One SAP glossary that I accessed had 16,383 terms in five languages. Imagine how much a glossary like that is worth! By maintaining a glossary, you are capturing value, like a bank account whose balance never decreases.

Glossaries help you work better and faster

Now imagine how much more quickly and accurately you could work with the help of an impeccably-researched 16,000-term glossary. As we all know, time is money. If you never have to research the same term twice, you will be able to work faster, more consistently, and ensure higher quality. Translators who want to stand a chance of competing effectively in our ever more discerning market must compete on quality, not price, and glossaries are an effective way to work both better and faster.

Glossaries are not difficult to create

Actually creating the glossary is the easy part. If you use a CAT tool, it will have an integrated feature for adding terms and their equivalents. Some products, like SDL MultiTerm Extract, will identify and extract terms from a corpus of texts for you (at a cost) while tools like memoQ QTerm, as one reader pointed out, have a free integrated term extraction feature. Don’t use a CAT tool? That’s OK! A glossary can easily be made in Excel or in a free version of an Excel-type software, such as those published by OpenOffice or Google. A glossary can be made with just three columns: source language, target language, and notes, in which you can include an explanation of one or both terms, definitions, etc. If you like, you can add any number of additional columns for context, definition, where you found the term, and the date that you added the term. You can then alphabetize the column by either the source or target language column and search for specific terms as needed.

Glossary creation can be monetized

In addition to being a great resource for yourself, glossaries are a great product that you can sell to new or existing clients. Glossaries provide you with a host of benefits, and you should be able to sell your clients on those same benefits: increased accuracy, better consistency, and the creation of a valuable asset that they own and can control (with your help, of course). Want more help convincing a client to purchase terminology management services from you? Have them read my post on glossaries for translation buyers.

Glossaries evolve

Glossaries, like languages, are living things. You will never be able to take your glossary, put a bow on it, and call it done. As you, your clients, your areas of expertise, and your knowledge evolve, your glossary will undoubtedly grow, change, and improve, too. New realities will become new glossary terms. You very well may find a better term for that entry you added last week or even last year, and that’s OK (in fact, it’s great!). As time passes, it will become an increasingly valuable asset for you and for your clients.

Have I convinced you yet? The bottom line is that glossaries are invaluable resources for all language professionals. If you don’t have one yet, make creating one the first thing you do after you are done reading this. The effort you put in will pay you back ten times over, guaranteed.

Please consider subscribing to this blog for more content like this. If you absolutely love your glossary(ies), please like this post and tell me about it by tweeting me at @Bentranslates.

The Monterey Institute: A Translator’s Tale

The purpose of this post is to help you answer the question: Is it worth it for me to get a degree in translation? By degree, I mean a formal, one- or two-year academic program that teaches the theory and practice of translation. Clearly, the answer to the question will depend on the individual and their circumstances. To help you decide, I will describe my experiences at the two-year master’s degree program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California (MIIS), way back in the late eighties.

Two caveats come with this post. First and foremost, as I’ve just said, I attended the institute back in the Jurassic Period, when it was still known as the Monterey Institute. I’m sure the school has changed its curriculum and its entire program to some degree. Yet I still think it will be valid for me to talk about the teaching methods, the organization of the program, and the benefits I derived from attending.

The second caveat is that you should not assume I believe that a specialized degree in translation is the only way to go. A fair number of us have arrived at the destination of professional translation through many a winding turn and side road. I am certain that plenty of excellent translators out there never attended such a program. For me, however, the experience proved essential.

When I was at the Monterey Institute, the translation and interpretation program was divided into two years of two semesters each. Candidates had to pass a screening process that included demonstrating fluency in at least one other language, their B language. Your A language is your native language (not necessarily English), a third language is your C language, and so on.

The first year was devoted to honing English skills through exercises that taught us how to analyze a text, and introducing us to the various methods of interpretation: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting. We also learned how to translate. Translators who learn on the job can certainly figure out an approach to their craft, but I am grateful that I had experts teaching me exactly how to read a text, how many passes to go through to produce a final translation, and what each pass should consist of.

At the end of the first year, I opted for the translation-only track. Classes consisted of small groups of six or seven students; we would go around in a circle reading aloud one section of a translation we had prepared in advance as homework. One class was technical translation into and out of the foreign language; the other was general texts in the same two directions. “Technical” texts included anything from an article on local area networks to a description of the Chernobyl disaster. “General” texts tended toward international affairs and politics because many of the teachers worked for the European Union. They were practicing translators and interpreters, able to give us critical exposure to real-life skills and methods.

Meeting in small groups meant everyone had to participate, and everyone was able to receive feedback from professionals. Working into our B and C languages provided useful insights into why those languages use the styles they do, and how to go about molding them to fit the usage norms of our native languages. I think it would be difficult or impossible to reproduce these aspects of the program on your own.

The Monterey Institute teaches students to be generalists, on the theory that if you know how to research a topic and how to translate, the specializations will come as you build your career. This training contrasts with that of translators who have received degrees in a specialized field such as law or biology, most likely in their native language, and then learned how to translate as they went along. Ideally, a student would have both types of education, in a much longer academic program combining undergraduate and graduate studies. But life is rarely ideal. A college education requires a great deal of time and money. My own view is that while a master’s degree in translation is not essential to becoming a translator, a bachelor’s degree certainly is. Four years of undergraduate work provide the exposure to the wide breadth of basic knowledge that translators need to understand the texts they are translating.

Another benefit of the Monterey program is what I think of as the network effect. Because of the professional connections with the EU and Brussels, graduates often moved to Brussels with their degrees to begin work. When a friend from my class and I did the same, we had three instant contacts in the city to show us the ropes. As with any college program, you get to know a group of people, and they become potential job connections, along with the school’s alumni.

A graduate degree program is not feasible for everyone. I was fortunate to have attended the Monterey Institute; I learned lessons and gained experiences that I never would have otherwise. Luckily for all of us, a plethora of online and in-person training programs and courses also exists to help us perfect our craft.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

After graduating from the Monterey Institute, Diana Rhudick worked briefly in Brussels as a translator before returning to the States to teach and start her freelance career. Following a short stint as a translation agency project manager, she began her own translation and editing business.

Currently, she divides her time between her freelance work and project management for a boutique translation company.

Networking 101 for freelancers

Every freelance professional knows the drill. You enter a door to some event space and there’s a desk with name tags on it. “Hi! My name is ________.” You take a black marker and write your name on the small blank canvas. You peel off the nametag and stick it to your shirt. And yes, it will fall off several times during the next two hours. A smiling young woman or man behind the desk says “hi!” and points you to a food table.

You grab a beer or a glass of wine and look around. People are clustered in circles of four or five. Most of these people are young writers and editors, or maybe designers or videographers. You walk up to the edge of a circle of chatting people and lean your head into the ongoing conversation. A woman or man smiles at you, takes one step to the side and lets you enter the circle. You nod, introducing yourself and shaking hands all around.

People are engaged, energetically discussing the creative life and how to make connections with audiences. This being an event for writers and editors or designers, the conversation turns to clients and how we approach the process of telling stories and making designs for our clients. It’s fun to talk with friendly folks engaged in the same daily activities, with the same ups and downs, as you are.

Why network?

One of the main reasons to attend networking events is to help make connections with other creative professionals, the kind of people who can refer you to potential clients or hire you outright. You might also want to network as a way to manage the isolation and loneliness of being a freelancer. Community can be a great way to help your business and it can enable you to maintain good mental health too.

The foundation of good networking: Give before you get

You shouldn’t network with “getting” in mind. The best networkers give first, putting faith in karma and the psychological rule of reciprocity: When you do for others, they naturally seek to return the kindness. In my experience, you invariably get a much higher return than you’d ever expected when you help someone and don’t expect something in return.

I like to introduce people whenever I find there’s a match between what somebody wants to do (a freelancer seeking to write for a technology client, for example) and what somebody needs (an editor or marketing leader who’s looking for a technology writer). For me, networking is first about making connections for others. And yes, indirectly, I make connections for myself too, but that’s a secondary concern

I didn’t learn this “give first” style of networking on my own, but from people who recommended me to friends in need, and did so without expectation of return. Author Dorie Clark is a great example. She recommended me several years ago to the biggest writing client I have right now. She barely knew me then, but she created an opportunity for me by recommending me to this client. She also showed me that this is what great networkers do: help others first.

Prioritize a few “real” connections over multiple shallow ones

Networking, suggests Clark in her book, Stand Out Networking, isn’t about passing out business cards or adding names to some database or spreadsheet. When we network, we don’t need to be fake or bring our smooth, practiced elevator pitches. Keeping it (and ourselves) “real” is the best and only thing that works to turn acquaintances into deep relationships that help our businesses and lives.

What matters most at any networking event is the quality of the human interactions, not the quantity. You can spend your entire time talking to two people, and have the event be a smashing success. You can also walk around the room handing out fifty business cards and chatting with people for ten seconds each, and have absolutely zero impact. That’s a fail for sure.

In his must-read book on networking, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says it best:

“Today’s most valuable currency is social capital, defined as the information, expertise, trust, and total value that exist in the relationships you have and social networks to which you belong.”

And the best way to build those crucial relationships, Ferrazzi repeatedly says, is by giving first.

The takeaway here is simple: When we help others and expect no immediate return, we do the most important thing any person or business can do. We build connections and deepen human relationships that sustain us as people and help grow our freelance businesses.

In the end, that’s what networking is about.

Image source: Pixabay

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance B2B Brand Storyteller who connects brands and customers through engaging stories. His clients include Sojourn Solutions, The Boston Globe’s BG Brand Lab, MITx, abas USA, and The National Center for the Middle Market. His website is http://www.chuckleddy.com/.

International Translation Day 2019 – A Day in the Life of a Translator or Interpreter

Have you heard? ATA is encouraging translators and interpreters to celebrate International Translation Day (ITD) in a BIG way this year! A United Nations resolution passed in 2017 recognizes ITD as the day to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, and to celebrate this huge step for our profession, ATA is celebrating big time on September 30, 2019. We just need your help to make it happen!

What’s the big deal?

How often do you meet people who don’t know what translators and interpreters do, or how many times have you cringed when you heard a translator referred to as an interpreter and vice versa? How often have you had to explain to friends or family members that yes, you do make a living as a translator or interpreter? How often do you encounter people in your community who are unaware of the role language services play in our world? Probably all too often!

What’s the plan?

On International Translation Day (September 30, 2019), ATA will unveil an informational video taking viewers through a day in the life of a translator or interpreter. The video will help you get the word out to both your professional andpersonal network—people who may not be familiar with what you do—about the importance of your profession and your role in it.

I’m in. What do I need to do?

  • Follow ATA on social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) and share the video on your own social media accounts on September 30. You can also visit the ITD webpage on September 30, download the video and post it on your own social media accounts. In your post to social media, we’d love to see you tell us what a day in your life as a translator or interpreter looks like.
  • Find out if your local ATA Chapter or Affiliate will be hosting a gathering to celebrate translators and interpreters. If not, consider hosting one yourself!
  • Schedule a School Outreach presentation in honor of ITD. Now is the time to teach the next generation of translators and interpreters about our exciting and growing profession. Materials and inspiration can be found at the School Outreach website.

A Day in the Life of a Translator or Interpreter!

ATA is set to make International Translation Day 2019 all about showing the world what a typical day in the life of a translator or interpreter looks like. Raising awareness about translation and interpreting will help pave the way for a better future for our profession, and it can start right here in our own backyards. You can help! Mark your calendars, follow ATA on social media, and help spread the word by sharing the video on September 30, 2019!

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/