28 May 2013

Focus, focus, focus: keeping one's eyes on the ball as a freelance translator

I am pretty sure I am doing (at least most of) the right things en route to being a successful freelance translator, and yet some things do not quite feel right at the moment. My conclusion is that, while I am doing lots of things that should help my career in the future, I may not be doing enough to push it along right now: focus is definitely the word of the week!

I've got a website and a blog. I'll be starting the NYU Certificate in Translation next week and sitting the DipTrans exam in January. I have joined the ATA and I am in the process of joining my local translators association (which is actually a lot more complicated). And yet... I am clearly not doing enough in terms of short-term client search, good old-fashioned client canvassing.

It is hard to stay focused on your everyday life as a freelance translator while you also deal with a day job, think about your long-term freelance career and closely follow several LinkedIn groups! In my case, the simpler marketing tasks appear to have fallen through the cracks. I have kept monitoring ProZ.com and bidding on jobs there, but I have not been actively looking for new clients beyond that, either agencies or direct clients. And I should have.

So it is time to go back to basics. I have drawn up a new informal business plan (the old one is more than six months old and has a Stone Age feel to it by now), and I have set myself the goal of writing off to five new agencies per week, just to tell them that I exist. I am starting out with ATA corporate members in Spain and Argentina and hope to take it from there.

More generally, however, I need to consciously devote more effort from now on to just staying focused. There is a good chance that in translation, as in so many other walks of life, things do not just "happen." You need to make them happen, and it is no good putting the cart before the horse: long-term growth is good, but it should not come at the expense of short-term development. Qualifications are great for the future, but I also need to grow my client base now.

Blogs and social networks are fun and they actually teach you a zillion things, but they unfortunately do not increase short-term income. If there was a financial reward for research into translation as an industry, how it works and how I can fit into it, I would be really well off by now. But that is of course not true. What I need to be better off than I currently am is more clients, and the only way to get those is to really focus and to implement a solid marketing strategy.

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