How to Prepare for your first translation conference: A guest post by Susie Jackson

How to prepare for attending your first translation conference

When you register to attend a conference, you probably feel excited about the opportunity to learn from and meet other translators. But as it draws closer, you may start to feel a little overwhelmed about all the options you have while you’re there. There are conference sessions, official networking events, informal socials, and much more. So what’s the best way to ensure you get the most from the experience? By creating a detailed plan that you can follow so you don’t miss out on anything important.

Conference sessions

If you’re anything like me, the thing you’ll be most excited to check out is the timetable for conference sessions. You may already have skimmed it as soon as it was released... Now is the time to go through it more closely, noting down the details of any sessions that you’d like to attend.

Make a note of any sessions that:

  • Appealed to you instantly when you read the schedule;

  • Have some relevance to your own work as a freelance translator (services, specializations, etc.);

  • You may be interested in attending if you are available at that time;

  • Are presented by speakers you know or have some connection to.

Make sure you jot down all the details you’ll need to be able to attend those sessions, including the day, time, speaker, session title, and location, or use the conference app if there is one available.

Social and networking events

Next up, look at the social and networking events being organized around the formal sessions. You may have bought a ticket for the gala dinner when you registered, but what other opportunities will you have to meet people? Conference organizers often build in some kind of welcome event, as well as break-out events for particular language combinations or specializations. You might even find exercise classes or excursions have been organized for attendees.

If you find networking a daunting prospect, try to find at least one small event you can attend. That can be less intimidating and facilitate meeting people, as everyone will be involved in conversation. You never know—someone you meet at a small event may also attend a larger event you’re going to, so you’ll see a familiar face.

Again, note down all the details you’ll need (day, time, location, etc.) if you decide to attend those events. Remember that networking events may begin the day before the main sessions, so make sure you build that into your travel plans if you can.

Speakers

Next, take a look at the speakers’ bios. You’ll have seen the names when you looked through the list of sessions, but take some time now to look at the speakers in more detail:

  • Have you met any of them before, either at a previous conference or some other networking event?

  • Do you subscribe to any of their blogs or email newsletters?

  • Have you read any of their books?

  • Are you connected to any of them on social media?

Note down anyone who you have some kind of connection to, and take a moment to get specific about what that connection is. If you feel you’ve met someone before, do some research into where that might have been.

Why not get in touch with some of these speakers before the conference? Hit reply the next time you get an email from them or send them a short message via social media. Introducing yourself ahead of time will mean you can approach them with confidence at the conference.

Now go through the same process for the other attendees. The conference website might tell you who else has registered to attend, or you can try to find out from social media. Check whether there’s a Facebook event for the conference or a hashtag that people are using on Twitter.

Putting together a plan

Once you’ve looked at all these details, it’s time to put them into a plan that you’ll take with you to the conference. This will help you stay on track and make sure you don’t miss out on anything you planned to attend.

Whether you choose to write your plan by hand or produce it digitally, it should be detailed and tell you exactly where you need to go and at what time. For each day, you should include the conference sessions you plan to attend, any fringe events you want to go to, and anyone you’d like to speak to you if get an opportunity.

Travel and accommodation

You may already have finalized your travel plans, but make sure you’re clear on the timings for your travel and the details of where you’ll be staying. Create an itinerary for yourself and keep it somewhere you can access it easily while traveling.

Have you thought about how you’ll get around while at the conference? If your hotel is at the conference venue, then you may mostly be able to manage by walking. But how will you get to the hotel when you arrive? Do you need to rent a car, or is public transport easy to navigate? Will you need to rely on taxis, or is Uber or another ride-share option available in that city?

Keeping track of who you meet

It pays to think in advance about how you’ll remember the people you meet at the conference. My favorite method is to set up a simple document that I complete at the end of each day. That way I can reach out to people once I’m home if I want to, and I’ll have a note of what we talked about and what they do (language pairs, specializations, etc.). Wait longer and you might forget those details.

Want some help putting together your conference plan? Here's how you can get my free conference preparation toolkit.


 
Susie Jackson - profile photo.jpg

Susie Jackson is a freelance translation project manager, Spanish to English translator, and academic copy editor. She helps freelancers become more organized in how they run their business by providing tools, resources, and tips through her blog and mentoring program. You can connect with her on Instagram (@the.organizedfreelancer) or Twitter (@jacksonsusie).

 
 

How to Plan for Big Changes in Your Freelance Business

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Have you ever felt like you need to make a change in your business, but you're not sure when to pull the trigger? Or maybe you know you've needed to make a change for some time, and you just keep putting it off. 

If you aren't sure when the best time is to make a change in your business, or if you're unsure if you should make one at all, you might first mull over the reason you even think making a change is necessary at all. 

Is something in your business no longer working as you'd hoped it would? Are you feeling burned out in your business and feeling like you ought to pivot to do something else or offer a new service? 

Unless something sudden causes us to react quickly, most of us prefer to plan for the changes we make. And for a lot of us, the planning might take place at the beginning of the year. After all, isn't that when most people set out to make a change?

I'd argue, however, that the fall (or spring, depending on where you live in the world) is the best time to do this planning. There's one quarter left of the year, and you know that the new year is just around the corner. This can be the best time to reassess your business, ask yourself some hard questions, and get the ball rolling on making changes that impact your business in a positive way.

How to plan for changes this fall

You might start the change-making by asking yourself some key questions.

  • What is going well in my business?

  • What is not going well?

  • What clients do I like to work with?

  • What clients would I rather not continue working with (and can I afford to let them go)? 

  • If I do want to let go of a client but can't afford to yet, can I look for one or two better clients so that I can eventually replace this less-than-ideal client?

  • What new skills would I like to learn?

  • What can I do to improve my skills so that I can add more value to my clients, and perhaps even raise my rates?

  • If I could change anything in my business, what would it be?

    • Work fewer hours, but make more money?

    • Work with only direct clients?

    • Work on building up my portfolio in a new specialization?

After you've taken some time to answer these questions, it's time to make some decisions about how you will implement these changes.

  • Do you need to inform clients about these changes?

  • Do you need to "fire" a client?

  • Do you need to start asking for more referrals or letting certain clients know you have more capacity now to be more available to them?

  • Do you need to take a special course, get a specific certificate or certification, etc.?

Next, set up a timeline or plan to implement the changes based on your decisions. This is an important step so that you don't let unexpected events derail your plans.

  • What are the individual steps you need to take to implement your new plans?

  • How can you break these steps down into smaller, more manageable (and less overwhelming!) tasks?

  • When will you get these tasks done? 

Tip! Put this important work on your calendar, and make it just as important as you would an appointment with a client or your best friend.

Finally, put a date on your calendar now to reassess your situation in a few months.

  • Are you happy with the outcome of your decisions and changes?

  • If you had to make these decisions again, would you change anything or do you feel like you made the right move?

  • What parts of your plan worked well, and what could you do differently when planning and implementing your decisions in the future? 

  • Are there any pending tasks or projects left in your plan? If so, schedule time to reassess the changes you're making in three to six months.

It can be overwhelming to make big changes in your freelance business. But planning for changes by breaking them down into manageable steps and reassessing your progress and decisions can remove a lot of this stress. And less time worrying means more time implementing! 

What changes would you like to make in your business? What is your plan to implement them? Do you have any suggestions or nuggets of wisdom for other freelancers who are looking to make a big change?

How to Decide What Type of Marketing is Right for Your Freelance Translation or Interpreting Business

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There are lots of ways to market your freelance translation or interpreting business. In fact, there are so many ways, it can be truly overwhelming at times. 

Not only do you need to learn how to market, but having a diverse marketing strategy is key.

When I hear people say they don't market, I get a twinge of anxiety for them. Why's that? Because I personally fell into a "I'm so busy with work, I don't have time to market" trap myself once before. And if I'm honest, it lasted way too long and it came back to bite me. Big time.

From my own experience, let's just say that after I got comfortable to the point of thinking that I didn't need to market much over a period of several years, I decided I had enough work to be able to let go of a client that I didn't care to work for anymore.

Here's the kicker, though. 

At the same time that I let go of that less-than-ideal client, one of my anchor clients, i.e., one of my most consistent and well-paying direct clients, was purchased by another company. Not only did my work slow down for about a year, but it was slower than it had ever been. 

This is not a good position to be in. Trust me.

So, from my own experience, I can tell you that it's good to always be marketing in some way, even if you can market more during some seasons of the life of your business than others.

Why a lot of translators and interpreters avoid marketing their freelance businesses

There are several mindset blocks I see among freelance translators and interpreters when it comes to marketing their businesses. Do any of these sound like you?

  • "I hate marketing because it feels awkward and I'm afraid to come across as salesy or pushy."

  • "Marketing isn't worth my time because it has never worked for me in the past."

  • "I know I need to market my business, but I don't even know where to start."

And I'm here to tell you that these are all excuses. There are plenty of ways to market your business that are not "salesy" or pushy. The idea that something didn't work in the past is not a good enough reason to not try something new or to simply try again. And lastly, no one is born knowing where to start. 

The difference is that those who figure it out are the ones who succeed

So, how do you decide what kind of marketing is right for your translation or interpreting business?

The simple answer to this question is "the kind of marketing you know you can stick to."  

Sounds pretty simple, right? But that's the thing. You won't know what you can stick to and what will bring results until you take the time to try something and give it time to work.

If you've tried to market your services in the past and it always felt hard or awkward, then perhaps that just wasn't the right strategy for you. 

So, here's a challenge for you.

Tips for finding a marketing strategy that you can stick to

  • Make a decision to test two new marketing strategies at a time.

    Give yourself a quarter (that's just 3 short months!) to try two new marketing strategies. At the end of the three months, ask yourself which strategy always felt hard or tedious. Ask yourself which one felt easy or enjoyable and brought results. The reason for testing two strategies simultaneously is that one strategy may not work forever. Instead of starting over after one strategy doesn't work out, you can put more energy into another that gives you more results. If you look at this like a personal (and professional) challenge, it will make the process more exciting. Test strategies that feel natural to you or like an extension of your personality. Those are usually the ones that work best! More on that in the next point.

  • To make the process fun, test strategies that you might actually enjoy.

    Think about what you're good at, what others like about you, and how you can maximize those traits to work in your favor. For example, are you an outgoing person? If so, maybe you should be speaking at local trade shows, frequenting networking groups, or attending conferences that your target market attends. Are you a bit more introverted, but you have a knack for writing? Maybe you can spiff up your marketing materials with some stellar copy and organize an email or direct mail marketing campaign. Or maybe you are someone who has amazing research skills (many translators do!). Perhaps you could create a list of potential clients in your specialization that you could approach and send them warm emails over the next few months. Research their contact information, and schedule time to reach out to (and follow up with) each of them to keep the conversation going.

  • Take a look at what others are doing and do something different.

If everyone you know markets their services the same way, then how will that help you stand out? Instead, look at what freelance service providers do in other professions and adopt some of their strategies to fit what you can offer. This strategy has truly helped me uncover some of the best and most natural-feeling marketing strategies I use today.

When it comes to marketing, you can avoid it, or you can do something different and see if it results in more business for you. Of course, if you don't test different strategies, you'll never know for sure what works. Like anything in business, marketing techniques are simply a test. 

Give yourself a time frame to test one strategy at a time if more than one feels too overwhelming. At the end of that period, look at the results. If you picked up even one or two new clients, then I would say your strategy was successful. If the strategy felt natural or easy to you and worked, then you know you've got something worth doing again. No two people are the same, so what works for one translator or interpreter might not work for you. Of course, you won't know until you try!

What kind of marketing strategy feels right for you? If you don't know yet, how will you explore new ways to market your business in the coming quarter/year?

6 Simple Mindset Strategies to Help You Grow Your Translation Business

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Scarcity vs. abundance. Perhaps these are buzz words nowadays thanks to the self-development industry. But these concepts do tend to bring about a sense of self-reflection nonetheless. 

And because it's a topic I keep seeing pop up time and again in a variety of fields, it got me thinking about how freelance translators can easily fall into one of these mindsets. What I tend to see more often reflected (and not just from translators, but perhaps it's just human nature?) is that of the scarcity mindset, however. 

Those who tend to have a scarcity mindset typically act in a way that expresses their belief that there will never be enough of something. Whether it's time, money, clients, or something else related to business, operating from a place of scarcity means that you're always running on the hamster wheel, trying to do more, more, more. But it never seems to be enough. There is never enough time to get it all done, and there is always something lacking. It's a vicious cycle that I think is somewhat natural to get sucked into as a freelancer. After all, we often hear that if we want to make more money, we have to work more. If we want better clients, we have to work harder to find them because they are fewer and farther between. 

In my early days, I subscribed to this way of thinking. After all, anytime there is uncertainty in a given situation, our minds seem to be automatically programmed to worry that there won't be enough [fill in the blank] for us. And let's face it. Freelance work has its fair share of uncertainty.

But so does any type of business. If you talk to just about any business owner – no matter the size of their business – you will rarely (if ever!) hear them say, "Oh, business is always excellent. We never have to worry about cash flow, and we don't market at all."

How do you know if you have a scarcity mindset?

First, it's important to assess the way you think about your business, your work and the market itself.

Do you see others who are "making it" while you're still struggling to pay your bills? Have you had a few bad experiences with clients, and now you think that all clients must be this way? I just don't know how to find the good clients. Maybe I should just look for a corporate job.

Do you have a fear of rejection? What if a client rejects my rates? What if they don't like my work and decide not to pay, or if they decide not to work with me again? 

Do you have a fear of loss? Do you find yourself worrying about losing a client due to reasons outside your control, losing projects to other translators who might be more skilled, losing the opportunity to work on a project because you might not be able to respond to the client within seconds of their message landing in your inbox (yes, this is a thing, especially among those who work with large agency clients… you don't have to fall into this trap!), or even losing money?

This way of thinking is a reflection of a scarcity mindset. It's likely that you're one of many translators with at least one of these fears. We all experience uncertainty in our businesses at one point or another. 

If a market seems saturated, you could take that to mean one of two things: either there is not enough work for everyone because too many players are taking up all the clients (this thought stems from a scarcity mindset), or there is plenty of work out there, which has already been proven, or validated, because there are people who are clearly willing to pay for a product or service (this thought is the result of an abundance mindset).

And while there's plenty you can do to change your mindset, you have to first recognize that the saying, "where your attention goes, energy flows and results show" is true. The less energy you expend on thoughts related to scarcity in business, the less scarcity you'll see. Put another way, the more you focus on what you lack in any area of your life, the more you'll feel that sense of lacking.

It may sound a bit woo-woo to some, but I can honestly say that when I changed my mindset during moments when I had thoughts related to scarcity, my business flourished and continues to do so, even when things don't always go as planned.

So, how do you move from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset in order to grow your freelance translation business?

Here are 6 simple strategies to try.

  • Understand that not every client is the right client for you.

It can be easy to take on any job that comes your way. And when you're a new translator, this might make sense to help you get established. But if you're still taking on every client who comes your way after the first few years, even if you don't have to, you may want to start combing your list of clients to weed out those who are holding you back. More of the good ones will come your way if your new focus is working for better clients. Of course, you will need to market your business, but if you continue to work for the wrong clients, you may never find the time you need to do that!

By finding ways to invest in yourself and hone your craft, you improve your skills and your business. You will notice a shift that takes place. You will stand a little taller, you will have more confidence in marketing your services to better clients and you will be able to say that you are worth the higher rates you'd like to charge. When you implement the strategies and techniques you learn as part of your ongoing education, you allow your mind to open up to new possibilities. This, in turn, gives you a sense of abundance. 

Asking for referrals should be an ongoing practice. Think about it this way. If you ask clients who are pleased with your work to pass the word on to others, your chances of growing your business improve. Pretty simple, right? But time and again, I see translators who are afraid to ask for referrals from happy clients. Or they would rather not bother their colleagues to request referrals from time to time. Again, this goes back to a scarcity mindset that is a result of fear (most probably a fear of rejection). It's an excuse. 

Sometimes it's easier to look at an example from another industry in order to start doing something in our own business. Consider this. If you listen to podcasts, for example, what do you tend to hear at the end of every podcast episode? The host almost always asks listeners to share the podcast. They also ask for ratings on podcast apps. These are requests for referrals! Everyone who wants to grow their business should be asking for referrals. Most people are happy to refer you if they've had a great experience. Don't let fear of rejection stop you.

  • Surround yourself with colleagues you deem successful and kind.

This one is truly key. By having a circle of trusted colleagues who you admire and respect, you start to develop some of the same characteristics as they have. You also notice that these colleagues can offer you support and knowledge when you need it. If you deem these colleagues successful and kind, it's probably also true that they have an abundance mindset, too.

Think about it. If you surround yourself with other translators who moan and groan about clients, who complain that they can't make more money because the market is pitiful or because the well-paying clients are just out of their reach, you will start to believe and internalize these thoughts, too. But if you surround yourself with those who believe that there are plenty of well-paying clients out there for everyone and that the challenge of growing a business is one to embrace, you will start to think similarly. I know who I'd want in my circle of colleagues!

  • Show gratitude for your clients (big or small).

Showing gratitude may not seem to correspond to growth in one's business, but I've seen it happen time and again. By expressing gratitude and putting attention toward the good things we receive from our customers, what we're grateful for tends to multiply. The same can be said for negative aspects of business. Decide where to focus your thoughts, and you will reap more of the same.

  • Find an association that supports you and get involved, too.

Professional associations are a wonderful place to turn to find more like-minded people who have a similar mindset as you have adopted for your translation business. Not only will you gain support from colleagues, but you will also find more opportunities to get involved and gain knowledge from others. If the association is committed to supporting you as well, it's likely that you'll be able to find resources that allow you to grow your business and maintain your mindset of abundance in your freelance translation business.

It seems that more often than not, I hear negative thoughts and comments coming from translators whose businesses are just not where they expected it to be at a given point in their career. Many are frustrated about the clients they serve. Many are worried that technology is taking over. But the ones I choose to surround myself with and collaborate with are the ones who are creative in finding better clients. They're the ones who know that we have to embrace technology and adapt to change in order to grow our businesses. They're the ones who believe that there's enough solid work out there for anyone who's willing to look for it. And I don't think of them as seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. They are intelligent, practical people. They just subscribe to an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset. Which do you prefer?

Have you checked your business mindset lately? What tips do you have for colleagues who want to practice more of an abundance mindset in their freelance translation business?

Learning vs. Implementing: A Simple Strategy to Overcome Overwhelm and Start Taking Action in Your Freelance Business

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A good number of us translators and interpreters would classify ourselves as lifelong learners. This is an excellent trait to have as people who study and use languages in their work and daily lives, and also as small business owners. The same can be said for professionals in many fields, but I feel pretty sure that many translators and interpreters would actually classify themselves as lifelong learners and perfectionists.

With so much information available to us with the click of a button these days, we can learn in a variety of ways – whether online or in person. And while it's excellent to continue gaining knowledge and honing our skills, this can sometimes create a bottleneck in our businesses when it comes to actually implementing what we learn. It can be hard to know how to overcome the overwhelm as a freelance translator or interpreter when there is so much to learn (and do).

As I was listening to a business podcast recently, the interviewee mentioned how important it is to do a "learning vs. doing ratio" check-in with ourselves. So, I started to think about how this could apply to myself and to my colleagues.

The concept, in a nutshell, is that we need to be conscious of how much learning we're doing versus how much we are (or aren't) implementing what we learn. I think we can all raise our hand at some point in our career if asked whether we implement only a small portion of what we learn in workshops, conference sessions, webinars, online courses, etc. We set the best of intentions, but life and work quickly take over, and we find ourselves not implementing as much of what we learned as we'd originally intended.

This could be due to many reasons, of course, but it got me thinking… How many of those reasons not to implement something we learn are simply due to fear of that thing not working out, or even due to imposter's syndrome

Could it be that we don't think we'll succeed or that we don't yet have all the information we think we need to move forward?

I can tell you, I see this a lot, especially in the courses and webinars I teach. There are a few students who take my advice of "done is better than perfect" to heart. And there are others who tell me they know the best approach to actually move the needle forward in their businesses is to take action, but they just don't have something quite perfect yet. That tells me they don't actually get it.

So, they pause. They hesitate. They stall. They come up with a million reasons why they can't take action. We have all done this, right?

So, I'd like to challenge you to start thinking of how much you learn and how much you implement as two dials that you can turn up and turn down.

A Simple Strategy to Overcome Overwhelm and Start Taking Action

One dial is the learning dial. Anytime your learning dial is turned up, the implementing dial is likely to be turned down. In some courses and cases, your learning and implementing dial will both be turned up to about the same level. However, as most of us know from experience, this is not sustainable for long periods of time.

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If we intentionally turn up one dial – let's say, learning –, then we know that we will soon need to turn it down. This allows us to turn up the other dial – implementing. 

Problems arise when you turn down both your learning and your implementing dials for long periods of time. This is the best recipe for stagnation that I can think of. And it's fairly easy to do. 

If you do happen to turn down both the learning and implementing dials, ask yourself:

Is this because I'm feeling overwhelmed or burned out in my business? Or is it an intentional and temporary decision?

Once you know whether the dials are turned down due to overwhelm or an intentional decision, you can then make plans to turn one of them up again soon.

Ideally, the best pattern is to turn up the learning dial, and then simultaneously turn it down a bit while turning up the implementing dial. Once you implement what you learn on a given topic, then turn up the learning dial again, and turn down the implementation dial until you're ready to put into practice what you're learning. A steady pattern like this will keep you moving forward intellectually and professionally. 

Be careful not to keep the implementation dial turned down for too long, especially if you realize it is fear of failure that's keeping you from turning it up. Work out the reasons why you think you might fail, and then decide that it's okay if you do. Great things come from failing. Just ask any of the successful people you know.

One thing I tell myself when I'm procrastinating the implementation of something new I've learned is that everyone has to start somewhere. I only have to take the first small step, and then usually, momentum will allow the rest to follow.

Do you find yourself turning up the learning dial and then finding reasons not to turn up the implementation dial soon after? What would you like to start implementing in your business soon?