Five Ways to Promote Your Freelance Business During Slower Months

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The slower work months can feel a bit miserable in the life of a freelancer. The lulls can seem never-ending. Will the work ever come again? Will I be able to pay my bills in the coming months?

Hopefully you aren't too deeply entrenched in these concerns, but if you are, then this particular post might give you some ideas to get the ball rolling again. Even if you don't have these specific concerns, experiencing slower months in your business is bound to happen at some point.

I'd argue that the slower times are some of the best to take care of the biggest marketing projects that can make an impact in your business.

Today we're going to tackle five ways to promote your freelance business during slower months.

  1. Reach out to previous clients you enjoyed working with and let them know about your upcoming availability.

You don't have to let anyone know that you don't currently have work in the pipeline. Instead, be strategic about the way you let clients know that you're available for work they might have for you. One good way to do this is to write something like this:

"Dear [insert the name of your client],

I hope all is well since the last time we spoke. I wanted to let you know that I just finished working on a large project and I have some upcoming availability. I'm filling in my calendar for the rest of the month and thought I'd send you a note in case you have any projects you'd like me to make time for."

By tapping into your current client base first when the work isn't steadily trickling in, you pick the low-hanging fruit. Remember, it's easier to market to existing clients since you've already converted them into paying customers.

2. Update your website.

This might seem like a no-brainer to some. What better time to work on your website than when you don't have any client projects to handle? But so many freelance translators put off their website updates for so long that their sites start to become truly outdated.

The next time work is slow, do a website audit! Look at every page of your site and decide what should stay, what should change and mark your calendar for exactly when you're going to make these changes happen.

For a few website-related tips, check out How to Use Your Website to Build Trust with Your T&I Clients and 13 Must-Know Tips to Nailing Your T&I Website and Converting Leads into Clients.

3. Update your LinkedIn profile and create an outreach strategy for this platform.

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I feel very strongly about the power of LinkedIn, especially for freelance professionals. LinkedIn—but more specifically, LinkedIn messaging—is one of the best ways to gain new clients and to continue marketing to existing ones over time. I would say that if you have a LinkedIn profile and you're not using the platform to market your services, you are leaving money on the table. Full stop.

For loads of ideas on how to use LinkedIn to market your translation services, make sure to read this blog post and check out my on-demand webinar on the topic.

4. Start sending out several LOIs (letters of introduction) each day to clients in your target market.

You may have heard the term LOI referred to by others as warm email, email marketing, or by another name. Essentially, an LOI is an email to a client in which you introduce yourself and let clients know that you are available to help them by providing translation services. Of course, you have to approach the right clients to make this work, right?

Rather than create a full summary here about how to find the right clients to approach with your LOIs, I would highly suggest reading this blog post by copywriter Jennifer Gregory and listening to her interview with Ed Gandia in this episode of High-Income Business Writing Podcast. And if you're feeling extra excited about this process, I would also very much recommend Jennifer's book on marketing to direct clients. Yes, she writes tips for copywriters, but everything she mentions in the blog post, podcast interview and in her book can be applied to freelance translators seeking new clients.

5. Reach out to those in your own networks and let them know you're looking to expand your portfolio.

When I say "network," I'm talking about everyone you know, people you've met at networking events or social gatherings, relatives, colleagues, other professionals, friends, etc. In a few lines, just mention that you are looking to expand your portfolio as a translator in a certain field or type of project, and ask them to refer others to you if they know anyone. There is no pressure for them to even respond, but if you do this regularly—say, a handful of people per week—, then you can expect for someone to eventually send a referral your way. It's also worth noting that even if these people don't have any suggestions for you right now, they might in the future!

It can be all too easy to fall into the habit of pushing marketing aside, even when work is slow. There are lots of other things that sound much better, right?

Yes, of course, take advantage of a slow month now and then to relax a bit, breathe and slow down, but be careful not to get too comfortable. If you can keep up these regular marketing practices (even during busier months), you will find that the slower months will become fewer and fewer!

What tips do you have for promoting your business during slower seasons of year? Do you keep up your marketing efforts all year long or do you work in spurts?

Why Batch Days Will Make You a More Productive Freelance Translator

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Batching your work, i.e., working on a set of similar tasks in the same block of time, can be a real time saver and lead to more productivity. It takes a little bit of planning ahead, but by batching your tasks, you can avoid distractions and get more done during the work day.

There are many reasons to batch your tasks. First, there is a wide amount of research proving how much time is wasted when we switch back and forth from one task to another, or even between tabs in our web browser. It’s no wonder that we can sometimes work the day away and feel like we’ve accomplished very little. The amount of time it takes to stop and start a task, answer a random email in the middle of a task or creative project, take a client call or even pop on a social media app for a few minutes (which we all know can turn into much more than a few minutes!) takes away from valuable time we could be spending on business-related tasks that move the needle forward.

How does a batch day work?

The ideal batch day consists of putting all your related projects together in one large "batch" and working on them back to back, taking breaks as needed, and not allowing anyone to interrupt that planned work time. Yes, boundaries are key!

Remember that with batching tasks and your work days, you set the parameters. Let those around you know what you’re working on, and ask them to respect your work time. You can even do this with your clients. Set up an auto-responder on your email to tell recipients that you’re working on a time-sensitive project and you’ll reply to them the next time you check your email, or within 24 hours. If you work from home, ask your family members not to interrupt you during your work hours unless they truly need you for something that cannot wait.

Next, you’ll want to decide what days will work best for you to handle specific tasks. Do you prefer to handle client calls on a specific day of the week? I try to hold calls only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Do you need to set aside time to work on balancing your books or invoicing your clients? I certainly do. I like to handle my accounting-related tasks on what I’ve dubbed “Finance Fridays.”

What kinds of tasks should you batch?

Once you feel comfortable that the right people are notified about your unavailable times, decide what tasks are most essential in helping you grow your business. These tasks can be related to client projects, content creation like writing blog or social media posts, updating your website or directory listings with new information, writing warm emails to clients as part of your marketing efforts, etc.

If you have a set of tasks that you find tedious to handle (think of those that you would rather put off by scrolling social media or checking your inbox every few minutes, even when you’re not waiting on a specific message from anyone!), batch them together and commit to finishing them before you move on to something else. For example, if you dread working on marketing, you can take all of those pesky tasks and handle them on Mondays. "Marketing Mondays," anyone?

Personally, I find batching tasks that are similar in nature to be the best way to make sure I get all of them done. This puts my mind at ease and helps me to do the rest of my work better, too. By taking care of tasks in batches or blocks of time, it ensures that I can stay on top of all the projects I have going on simultaneously.

How do you batch your tasks to maximize your work productivity and time?

You can do it any way you like, but if you're to make the most of your time, it's a good idea to first take a look at all the tasks you do on a regular basis (even those you would rather put off). Once you have things laid out in front of you, it's easier to see which ones are related. You can list them in categories so that you have a clear visual to work with, if you like.

For example, you could put all of your marketing tasks in one batch or break them into two batches if you find that you have several tasks to handle and little time. You could even schedule these tasks on Monday so that you are sure to get them out of the way for the week. It could look something like this.

Marketing Monday

  • Write to 5 new potential clients.

  • Touch base with 3 current clients to say “hello” and send them an article they might appreciate (this keeps you top of mind!).

  • Write a blog post.

  • Send a handwritten note to one of your favorite clients.

  • Prepare your social media posts for the week.

  • Outline your next client newsletter.

Even if you can’t work on all of the items under your marketing category list at once, you can choose two or three to do every Monday. This means that you are consistently marketing your business, something we all need to be doing regardless of how busy we are! This type of progress will continue to compound over time, and you’ll find that the couple of hours you put in every Monday are well worth it.

By blocking time to knock out several tasks of the same kind at once, you also give yourself more freedom to work on other items throughout the day. And you know that you've already handled these items and won't put them off for another week!

Here’s another example.

Finance Friday

  • Pay your business credit card and other business-related bills.

  • Balance your books.

  • Send any invoices or receipts to your bookkeeper or accountant.

  • Invoice clients.

  • Pay estimated taxes.

  • Pay yourself!

If you already know that you handle finance-related tasks every Friday, you won't have to stop during the rest of your work week to handle them. Again, by setting aside this time, you are being proactive instead of reactive!

As I mentioned above, another way that I handle batching is with phone calls and meetings. I try my best to hold calls and meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This way, I'm not spending an hour or two in meetings five days a week. This allows me to schedule specific and dedicated time to my client work, volunteer commitments, colleagues, etc. If this is something you’d like to try, check out Calendly for scheduling calls and Zoom for holding virtual meetings and calls.

Some freelancers I know even batch their client works on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day when they know they're most productive. Whether you do your best work early in the morning or long into the evening, choose the time of day when your brain tends to fire on all cylinders, and use that time for client and creative work. Leave the administrative work for the times when you don’t need as much creativity. This way, you won't be using precious work hours on the behind-the-scenes tasks that don't actually pay the bills.

Now, you tell me. Have you ever tried batching your work or tasks? Do you have certain days of the week when you handle marketing, financial tasks, etc.?

5 Ways to Collaborate With Other T&I Freelancers

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Sometimes we get into the habit of putting our heads down to work and not coming up for air. But perhaps just as important as working hard to grow in our profession is taking the time to develop relationships with others who do what we do for a living.

One of the ways we can do this is to collaborate! Not only does collaborating help you to grow in your craft, but it could very well open the door to new opportunities, even if that isn't your primary intention for the starting a collaboration.

Here are 5 ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers to grow in your career.

1. Attend client-facing conferences together.

This can be a really wonderful way to work with a colleague in a strategic way. When you find someone who is willing to attend a conference with you in one of your areas of specialization, you can benefit from this experience both in the long term and the short term.

Split up at the event and talk to as many people as you can. Think of one another as your "wingperson" throughout the conference weekend. By pairing up with a colleague at client-facing events, you can promote your own business, as well as theirs, more widely. Circle back to one another every few hours and share ideas, contact information for possible leads, notes to follow up with certain people or companies, etc.

2. Write an article together.

This might be one way to collaborate that most people don't think about. However, when you write an article on a given topic related to your area of specialization or language pair, you are often seen by readers as an authority on that topic.

Split up the work involved in pitching and writing the article. Decide who will do what part of the research and writing process, benefit from editing one another's work, and enjoy seeing your names together in writing. Then share the article with your colleagues and clients!

3. Present together.

This may be another rarely considered form of collaboration among colleagues. Let's say you live near a colleague who is also a translator/interpreter. Take a look at the organizations in your local region and pinpoint a few venues where you could propose a presentation together, including local conferences, chamber of commerce gatherings, local "lunch and learn" events, etc. Just like with the article idea in #2, split up the work involved: pitching, preparing the outline of the presentation, putting slides together, preparing and printing handouts or marketing materials, etc.

After your presentation, split up and talk to as many attendees as you can. Regroup after the presentation and Q&A portion to share notes and ideas for follow-up.

4. Join forces and pitch to similar clients.

Do you know someone who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s) as you? Consider becoming a translator/editor team and pitching to clients in the same industry. By embracing a collaboration over competition mentality, you can reach more potential clients and benefit from each other's legwork. When you pick up a new client from this process, hire your colleague to edit your work as part of the scope of the project, and vice versa.

Even if you don't have a close colleague who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s), you can still find a colleague who you can refer work to whenever a client inquires about a project you don't feel particularly qualified to handle. When you begin referring work to colleagues, they will remember your kindness and will often return the favor.

5. Volunteer together.

A lot of us meet colleagues who we become friends with simply from volunteering together. If you're a member of a local, regional or national association, consider volunteering a few hours a month with the goal of promoting the profession and meeting like-minded colleagues. I can tell you from my own experience that I have found so many colleagues to collaborate with over the years, and most of them are people I've met through professional volunteer activities.

Other ways to collaborate with T&I colleagues

  • Mentor one another. Let's say that you want to learn something new in your area of specialization, or you might want to establish yourself in a new one. You may have a colleague who could mentor you. In exchange, you could offer to pay this person for their time or mentor them in something you are particularly well skilled in. Another option is to find a mentor through your local, regional or national translators/interpreters association. Whatever you choose, try to find a mentoring program that is mutually beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.

  • Be each other's accountability partner. Is there something you'd like to do in your business this year? I'm guessing there are others who would like to reach certain professional or business goals as well. Look for someone in the same or a similar stage of their career and offer to be one another's accountability partner. Check in with and support one another on a regular basis. Brainstorm new ideas together, and continue to build your professional relationship with that person.

  • Host a social/learning event together for other colleagues. Is there a topic you'd like to learn about that would lend well to a one-day workshop style event? My guess is that if you want to learn about a topic, there are others in your region (or even virtually!) who would like to do the same. Partner with a colleague to organize an event, and invite others to join you to learn about this topic, share their professional experience and exchange advice on a given topic.

I recently heard about this idea from a colleague in France who attended an event hosted by another colleague as part of a larger T&I association. She told me that it was very well organized, and the topic (Machine Translation) drew several attendees in the area. If you're thinking of organizing an event like this on a specific topic, check out this Speaking of Translation podcast episode to hear about the event Eve Bodeux organized for her local translators association colleagues on technology for translators.

There are countless ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers. If you find yourself feeling stuck or on the verge of burnout, now might be the perfect time to get that extra boost of energy from joining forces with a colleague.

And if you're not sure who that person could be, put out a "call" on Twitter or elsewhere for another serious freelancer who has similar goals. It's doable! And you might just find that you'll meet new people in this process or become closer to a colleague you've already admired and respected for some time. Win-win!

Have you collaborated with other colleagues before? What was your experience, and would you recommend it to others?

How to Talk About Your Translation Services So People Get It

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What do you tell people when they ask you what you do for a living?

Do you just tell them you're a translator and then leave them to sit and think about it for a moment before they follow up with another question? Do you cringe a little when they ask you how many languages you speak, expecting you to say something like "5" or "10?"

The way we talk about the work we do helps to shape the way people see us as professionals. Not only is it important to get this right for your own business, but I'd argue that it's just as important for the entire market — all the professional translators out there who make a living at this!

So, how do you tell people about your translation services?

Do you also cringe at the thought of an "elevator speech?" I never liked that term... maybe because I always felt like what we do cannot be summed up in just a few sentences.

But truly… we should be able to sum up what we do in a few sentences. I don't mean we need to repeat the "bridging the language gap" cliché we've probably all used or heard some variation of at one point or another.

I'm talking about real, tangible stuff. The good stuff. The stuff our clients praise us for and want to receive in exchange for paying for our services. I'm talking about results.

So, when it comes time to talk about your translation services to someone who asks, pretend their question was really one of these questions below. It will make it much easier to explain what you do in a way that others can grasp so they can comprehend the enormous value you provide.

  1. What results do you help your translation clients obtain with the work you deliver?

  2. What problems or challenges do you solve for your translation clients?

  3. What goals do you help your translation clients reach?

What do translators do?

One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of people who don't really understand what translators do. You may even be the first translator they've ever met. This is why it's important to get it right. They'll remember what you tell them and will remember it the next time they hear someone mention or ask about a translator.

Remember, the last thing you want to do is confuse the person who asks you what you do for a living. After all, they may know someone they could refer to you for business. Do your best to avoid using translation industry jargon like "target language" and "CAT tools," for example. Break down more complex concepts into everyday language. Remove any formality from the conversation, and talk to the person as you would a friend. This also makes it easier to follow up with a question: "Do you know anyone who needs a [fill in your language pair/specialization] translator?" It can't hurt to ask, right?

Practice the way you talk about your work with friends or acquaintances who are not all that familiar with translation. Ask them if what you've told them is clear. Also ask them if they have more questions about what you do based on the explanation you gave. If they do, that means you might want to tweak what you've said a bit until it becomes clear the first time you say it.

By practicing your professional value statement (now, that's much better than "elevator speech," right?!), you see what others find most interesting or surprising about what you do and continue to hone your message over time.

Now, you tell me! How do you tell others about your work as a professional translator?

Translator Website Transformations: The Before and After - Part 2

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Last week I shared with you two amazing website transformations from a couple of students in the first session of my T&I Website Blueprint Course. And because I could not choose just two to share, I'm here again this week to share one more!

Since the first session of this course in 2018, I've received several messages from other translators expressing interest in taking the course as well. Stay tuned to the end of this post to find out how to receive updates about when I will teach this course again (June 2019).

This website transformation is the work of Emily Safrin (Saffron Translations). Like Veronika, Emily already had a site to work with and wanted to give it a good refresh. As you’re about to see, Emily did just that. And, if you don't mind my saying so… her site is drool-worthy right from the first image!

Emily’s previous Home page looked like this...

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The lines were clean, but like Molly, she didn't feel like her site had that extra oomph she wanted it to have.

Now, her Home page looks like this!

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Emily plays off of her business name, Saffron Translations, by using a gorgeous image of saffron above the fold of her Home page. And her headline is perfect to let you know from the start that she is going to solve a problem for her clients so that they can do what they do best.

Emily's original About page was clean, and she immediately shared a head shot of herself so customers could put a face with a professional.

But she completely updated her About page copy with clear and value-based headlines that her ideal clients will appreciate.

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She immediately follows with more reasons her ideal clients will want to work with her -- essentially, what sets her apart!

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Emily's previous Services page was mostly text-based, including a small font that made the copy feel less appealing than the new layout she created in the course. She divided her Services up into two main pages: one for her medical and life sciences clients and one for her culinary clients. She chose images that appeal to those in each of her niche markets. And check out those headlines in the "After" images!

Before:

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After:

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Her Services pages go on to share more about the kind of work she handles, but instead of long paragraphs, Emily uses bulleted lists to make it easy for her customers to find the information they need. The example below is from her medical and life sciences Services page.

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Finally, Emily took the time to create a more effective Contact page on her website. While her previous Contact page worked fine for most purposes...

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Emily has already reaped the benefits of having updated her website!

I just on-boarded with a new agency client and when I went into their portal to fill out my profile, I noticed that the vendor manager had copy-pasted text from my "Bio and Publications" page into my profile so PMs can quickly see my strengths and background. She hadn't even mentioned that she looked at my website, but she clearly poked around enough to find that detail on my "Bio & Pubs" page and found it worthwhile to include in my profile!  – Emily Safrin

Emily's new website is stunning. The images she chose are spot on with the types of clients she's looking to attract. Not only that, but Emily's experience brings up a point that all translators should consider. Whether you work for direct clients or translation agency project managers, your clients will look at your website to learn more about you and to get to know you better. Does your site reflect your best professional image?


If you, too, would like to update your website or create one from scratch, you can now register for the next session of the T&I Website Blueprint Course, starting June 17, 2019. Registration closes on June 10, 2019.

You can
read Part 1 of the "before and after" website transformations that resulted from this course here.