Simple Ways to Budget for That BIG-Ticket Professional T&I Conference or Course

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A vital part of growing in any profession is maintaining a certain level of continuing education. Whether to refine business or advanced skills, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to attend a large conference or fit in a specific course. However, once we do make the time commitment, we also need to budget for the financial one.

You know that large conference you go to every year or that big-ticket course you've been eyeing? We all have one that we tend to prefer, but how do we afford to commit to them every year, or at least frequently enough to keep up our knowledge and skills on a given topic? How do we budget for these without affecting our bottom line too much at the end of the day?

Here are my top tips for budgeting for those high-ticket professional translation/interpreting conferences or business courses.

● Plan ahead.

If you know that you plan to go to an annual conference every year, and you have an idea of what it will cost you, you have to plan ahead. Let's say that the annual conference you like to attend costs about $5,000 out of pocket. That means you have 12 months to put aside that $5,000.

You could take a proactive approach and earmark around $500 of your monthly income to set aside for the $5,000 conference. This means that you'll have paid it off in advance and you will not have any conference debt once you return home.

To read more about how to plan for T&I income and expenses, check out How to Plan and Track Sales Revenue in Your T&I Business and Start Earning More and How to Project and Track Expenses in Your T&I Business to Increase Your Profit Margins.

● Know that you will also need to budget for any income "lost" from the days you'll be attending the conference or taking off work to put time toward a course or workshop.

If you make an average of $500 a day, then you will need to plan to earn this money ahead of time to cover the days you'll be taking off. A full week off to attend a conference = $2,500. Add that to the hypothetical conference expenses mentioned above, and you may need to up your monthly earmarked savings to $625 to play it safe. This way, you can pay yourself while you're away from your desk. After all, you are still working, even if you're learning. So, you might as well be getting paid for it.

If you need to adjust your rates to factor in this cost in your business, this might be something to consider as well. Of course, give your clients plenty of notice if you plan to raise rates at any point in the year and make sure that you're providing better value when you do.

● Check to see if there's a payment plan of any sort.

A lot of online courses these days allow you to pay in installments. This can be a great option to afford something that otherwise would seem beyond your means, because it doesn't hit your bank account all at once.

Read the fine print first, though. I recently found one payment plan that seemed like a good deal until I realized that I would have to pay $250 more for a 9-week course than if I paid the full amount out of pocket. In the end, I opted to pay the full amount, knowing that I did not want to shell out an extra $250. What I learn from the course should help me to earn the money back if I use the knowledge I gain correctly.

● Consider working weekends and holidays so that you can pay for the conference or course "on the side".

If pulling the course or conference money out of your regular income bothers you, consider ways of earning the money outside your normal income. If you don't normally work on the weekends or on holidays for clients, this could be a great place to start. 

Once that "extra" money comes in, put it into a separate account and watch it grow. By the time the course comes up or conference week starts, you should hopefully have a sizeable amount to put toward it.

On a similar note, consider taking on more rush jobs. But do this carefully, as you don't want to let your desire to pay for continuing education opportunities to cause you to produce less than your best quality work.

● Remember that you can probably make this expense tax deductible.

In many countries, continuing education can be tax deductible. But talk to your tax preparer before you commit so that you know exactly what you can deduct.

Don't let the big-ticket aspect of continuing education scare you from attending the annual conference you've been eyeing or taking that course that you know will benefit you in your business in the long term. Just play it smart and budget for it.

Need a tool to help with that? Check out my Expense Planner for the T&I Professional.

How to Improve Your Marketing Mindset to Grow Your Translation or Interpreting Business

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I hear a lot of feedback from people who feel overwhelmed at the idea of marketing their translation or interpreting business. I won't deny that it can seem overwhelming if you are looking at it from a 30K-foot angle, but I'd like to encourage you to think about it in smaller portions or goals, if you will. After all, any good thing takes time.

You don't lose 10 lbs overnight, right? Well, you also don't grow your business or pick up new clients overnight with a marketing plan you just started implementing a few days ago. These things take time.

This is why it's important to have the right marketing mindset as a translator or interpreter. It is perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed. Everyone experiences overwhelm. But it is not okay to let this mindset result in stagnation.

Here are my top five strategies for giving your mindset related to marketing a good kick in the pants and taking the sense of overwhelm down a few notches.

1. Acknowledge and accept the feeling of overwhelm. Then move forward.

We all feel overwhelmed at some point. The most successful people in any given industry or area of business do as well. Does that make you feel better?

But what makes those people---the ones who actually make real progress with their marketing or business goals---different? The key difference is that they acknowledge the feeling of overwhelm. They accept that it's normal to feel this way sometimes and move past it. Knowing that they will, at some point, feel overwhelmed again, they find ways of dealing so that it's easier to move forward without allowing the overwhelm to result in stagnation.

Here are some great ways to nix the overwhelm surrounding your marketing efforts.

○ Hire things out. No one can do everything well. So, look at the tasks that keep you from getting started on your marketing efforts and try to find a way to get some hired help. I had a hard time with this one at first, because I personally don't like to ask for help. But once I did something about it, I felt an immediate sense of relief and a lot less stress and overwhelm. Consider paying someone to watch your child a few half days a week or look into a nearby preschool if your children are not yet of school age. Hire someone to clean your house if you work from home and the clutter keeps you from feeling productive or becomes a distraction. Contract an accountant to do your invoicing or to input your expenses a couple of times a month. Hire a freelance designer to design your new marketing materials or logo.

○ Write. Write down what it is that is holding you back from marketing your business or changing up your marketing efforts. Sometimes just the act of acknowledging the problem on paper can help you to figure out the reason you're procrastinating and what to do about it.

○ Talk to colleagues. Sometimes the best ideas and support come from those who are in the same boat as you are. Lean on those you trust when you feel overwhelmed. They may be able to help you find a solution.

○ Take a mental break. Get outside and take a walk. Go to an exercise class for an hour. Take a coffee break. Read a book that is totally unrelated to your work for 30 minutes. Practice a hobby for an hour. And then get back to the task at hand with a fresh mind and recharged batteries.

2. Exercise willpower regularly and make a mental note of how each time you do, you become stronger.

A colleague shared this article on willpower with me recently. I find the author's take on willpower, and how it must be regularly exercised, just like a muscle, to be a very effective way of thinking about this concept. We all have willpower. We just need to uncover it (and practice it) sometimes.

When you take some time to outline and check off steps towards marketing your business, you are practicing willpower. Lay out some clear tasks and goals. Then, give yourself a deadline (with an actual date). We translators and interpreters work well with deadlines. So, with this important deadline looming, you are much more inclined to get to work on marketing your business.

3. Determine which is worse for you: the pain of growth or the pain of stagnation.

I heard recently that if you're not uncomfortable doing something at first, then it might be time to change things up. If you feel uncomfortable about trying a new form of marketing, you are probably onto something!

Are your current marketing efforts not getting you very far? It might be time to try something that feels uncomfortable! Start a blog to gain more website traffic, send out a monthly email to your clients, spruce up your LinkedIn profile and reach out to make new connections with potential clients. Keep track of the efforts you make, and follow up with people regularly.

4. Start with slow growth or baby steps.

Know that slow growth is still growth. It is easy to feel a sense of societal overwhelm to grow, grow, grow, fast, fast, fast. All the time.

But slow growth is actually better and more sustainable in the long term.

That said, remember that standing still is not slow growth. Make something happen. Take 20 minutes a day to work toward your marketing goals. Keep moving forward. The more often you do, the easier this process becomes, because it will feel like more of a habit than a chore.

5. Don't use the excuse that you don't know where to start. Tap into the knowledge of others.

Make it your business (no pun intended) to start learning from others if you don't know how to do something. There are all kinds of resources out there to learn how to market well. Seek them out.

Start reading blogs, watching videos, reading books, taking courses, going to conferences, etc. with the goal of learning how to market your services more effectively.

When we use the excuse of never having done something or not knowing how to do something, we are simply staying the same. I don't know about you, but I'm not okay with that. I prefer to improve. To learn and to grow.

If there's something you don't know how to do or where to start, and you know someone could do it better for you, consider paying that person to handle the task and take it off your plate. Or, if it's something you want to learn how to do, pay them a small fee to teach you!

Overwhelm is nothing new. It's also not going anywhere. Once we take the time to acknowledge feelings of overwhelm and accept that it is fine to feel overwhelmed, then we can move forward. What's not fine is letting overwhelm hinder us from marketing and growing our businesses. Take the fear that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone and say, “Thanks, but I'll handle things from here.”

7 Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile and Gain More Leads

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LinkedIn has long been known as a tool and social media site for professionals. But a lot of us use LinkedIn with little thought to what we should actually put into our profiles. I was guilty of this myself! Some people hardly ever log on to the platform after setting up their profiles for the first time, unless they receive a request to connect or a message from a colleague.

But LinkedIn is a hugely powerful tool for professionals like us. I'll admit that I didn't used to think this way. And then I started learning more and more about how to make meaningful connections and optimize my profile for LinkedIn's search engine, which is ultimately what the platform is: a search engine for finding and connecting with professionals in a variety of industries.

So, how do you boost your LinkedIn profile in order to gain more leads? Here are my seven tips to do just that.

 1. Optimize your headline, summary and current experience.

Use keywords in these three areas of your profile so that potential clients can easily find you. How do you know which keywords to use? Think about the terms your client might use in a Google search if they were in the market to hire someone who provides your services. Make sure you use these words (keywords) in your headline, summary and current experience.

It's important not to be too generic. If you have a niche or specialized area you work in, highlight that. Use a headline that catches people's attention. And give a solid summary of what you do. This is like your elevator pitch, so make it count! For example, a translator who specializes in content marketing and communications might use the description:

I help clients refine their email campaigns, internal and external communications, brand identity and social media messaging by translating their content into English so that they can conduct business successfully in the American market and gain peace of mind in the process.

2. Publish native content.       

It's nice to repost other people's content or even to post short blurbs now and then linking to an article you read, but this type of interaction won't get you very far on LinkedIn. Why's that? Well, anytime you post or repost something (using the "Post" option), this content will show up in others' news feeds, but it will not remain in a prominent area of your profile for others to see when they are trying to learn more about you.

However, if you publish native content by choosing the "Write an article" option, these articles you share will remain in a prominent area of your profile as a thumbnail image. This is great for anyone who is looking at your profile, because they can easily see original content that you're sharing. Publishing native content allows you to show your expertise, writing skills and dedication to what you do. Remember to post regularly and consistently. If you would like to double up on your content, share a recent blog post from your website blog as an article on LinkedIn. You can always link the article back to your website to drive more traffic.

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3. Anytime you try to connect with someone, include a personalized message!

Trying to connect with others is a great way to grow your connections and potential pool of leads. However, when trying to connect with others on LinkedIn, make sure you don't send a request without a personalized message. If the person has never met you, they are less likely to accept your request without knowing why you're interested in connecting. Take the time to learn a little about them and how you can serve them before you send a request.

When you're ready to send a connection request, make sure you use the "Connect" button and not InMail, as the latter can sometimes seem salesy or spammy. Hit the "Connect" button and then "Add a note" so that you can write a brief message before you hit "Send".

4. Look for jobs, even if you're not looking for a job.

While you may not be looking for employment per se, a lot of freelance jobs are posted on LinkedIn. And even if you don't come across a lot of freelance job postings in your search, you can use this feature to see what keywords those who are posting the jobs are using in the job posts. This may help you to determine what keywords to put in your profile or even on your website!

Remember, those who post jobs on LinkedIn have to pay to do so (at least at the time of this blog post), so many of the postings are more legitimate or serious than a random job board that doesn't require those posting to put any skin in the game. If you’re interested in being contacted by recruiters, set your profile as visible by making sure you set the "Let recruiters know you're open to opportunities" toggle to "YES" in the Privacy settings.

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5. Hide the “People Also Viewed” box on your profile's sidebar.

You may not have noticed this little feature (I hadn't!), but there is an option for those who visit your profile to see a box that reads "People Also Viewed". It is located in the sidebar on your profile as a default setting. This is similar to when you're shopping for a product online and the site allows you to see similar products that might interest you. This feature is basically an invitation for those who visit your profile to leave and go elsewhere. So, take the time to turn it off by turning the "Viewers of this profile also viewed" toggle to "No" in your privacy settings.

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6. Don't pitch. Just share VALUE.

It is important to share value on a platform like LinkedIn. Let your profile speak for itself and simply try to share valuable content and information with others. This is not the place to make a sale. Rather, connect with others and get to know them as well. This is a great way to form relationships with other professionals, as well as to nurture potential leads who may later become paying clients.

7. Engage every day.

It is essential to engage with others on LinkedIn in order to get something out of it. In addition to posting, writing articles and reaching out to make connections, send a private message from time to time with a link to an article that might interest the recipient. Try to engage with a few people per day. If you are worried you won't have time or that this could take up a lot of your time, set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and see how many people you can connect and engage with. Try to do this five days a week and watch your connections, engagement (and hopefully your leads!) grow.

Bonus Tips:

● Avoid inconsistencies with your resume if you are someone who sends your resume out to new clients. Make sure that your resume and LinkedIn profile match up for anyone who might wish to view both.

● Use a high-resolution, current and professional headshot.

● Use your profile to show your work. Since we can't often share a portfolio of past work we've done for clients (hello, confidentiality clauses!), we can still provide information on our expertise by showing blog posts, articles we've written, testimonials or recommendations, etc.

Now that you know a few tricks to to optimize your LinkedIn profile, make sure you take the time to update it from frequently. Dust it off. Go ahead. I just did the same with mine, and I'm already seeing that more people are visiting my profile and trying to connect. If you don't have the time to completely update your profile all at once, schedule 20 minutes this week and 20 minutes the next two weeks. In a month, you'll have a more current, updated profile that is much more likely to generate leads for your T&I business. 

How to Stop Competing on Price as a Translator or Interpreter

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You know those emails you get from time to time with potential clients asking for your rates, or even giving just a little bit of information about their project--usually not nearly what you need--followed by a request for a "ballpark figure"? Yeah, you know the ones.

What is the one thing they really want to know? The cost. Most of these folks really just want to shop for your rates to see how much you'd charge them. Oh, and if you can turn it around "asap", that would be great, too. 

So, you do what they ask and you give them your general rates, knowing full well that since you don't have enough information, or perhaps even the source document to review, the rates you gave them might not even be what you'll really need to charge them in the end. You go to the trouble of explaining all of this to them, using valuable time you could be spending more productively in your business. And then... they balk, and they walk. Many times they don't even respond. Well, what did you expect? They simply wanted to price shop you.

So, how do you avoid these types of price shoppers and their inquiries? Sure, they're bound to pop up from time to time for all of us. But there are ways you can avoid dealing with them as often.

Here are my six tips to stop competing on price and avoid dealing with price shoppers. Essentially, it all comes down to changing the way you talk about yourself and your services.

● Stop advertising yourself as someone who does compete on price. In your emails, on your website, and in your marketing content. You might be doing it without even realizing it. Many of us are guilty of this, myself included! And I didn't even know it at the time. What do I mean?

Have you ever thought about offering a discount, even to friends? Do you advertise your services as "affordable" or "competitive"? Both of these terms are related to pricing. If you want to earn what you feel is appropriate, this is not the best way to go about it. Cut these words from your vocabulary, and offer your rates confidently. Those who appreciate what you do for the quality and value you provide will pay your rates in the end. Even your friends.

● Stop offering "free quotes". I used to be so guilty of this. I had no idea the vibe I was giving by mentioning "free quotes" on my website until a friend who owns her own small business brought it up.

Of course your quotes should be free. If you're able to charge for them, I tip my hat to you. But stop talking about them being free. Anytime you give something away for free and label it as such, you are devaluing what you do, even if you don't mean to be. 

To read more about this topic, check out Why You Should Never Offer a Free Quote on Your Website (or Elsewhere).

● Do some market research. Figure out a range of what colleagues charge for your same specialization and language pair. If you are below the range, it's time to raise your rates. After all, you don't want to be the one who's poisoning the proverbial market well, right? Stay away from open discussions in which others are trying to influence or set rates, but do your own research to make sure that you're at least charging a reasonable amount for your professional services.

● Or simply… raise your rates. Yep, I said it. Raise them and you will ensure that you can no longer compete on price. It may hurt for a little while, but you'll quickly realize that you do have clients who are willing to pay your rates, even if just a few in the beginning. Now, it's time to find more clients like those! They're out there. I promise.

● Prove yourself by showing your value so that your rate is ultimately the last thing people inquire about. People want to work with you because they like and trust you. They'll be happy to pay your rates as long as you have properly demonstrated your value and translated (sorry for the pun) that value into something they can easily understand, appreciate and want for themselves.

● Leave your rates off your resume and skip the price/rate sheet, too. If you've ever been to a restaurant that doesn't have prices on the menu next to the dishes, you might automatically think you have chosen an eatery that is either very chic or far above your means, right? When you leave your rates off your resume, you are doing two things: 1) you're allowing the person who reads your resume to focus on something else: your value! and 2) you give them a chance to actually ask for your rates. If they make it to step two, that means they've probably read your resume and have a real interest in working with you on their next project. Of course, this won't always be the case, but at least you can keep the conversation going a little longer and have the opportunity to discuss their project further to show that you're the right fit for them.

When you stop competing on price, you start to realize that you've essentially made all of your clients ideal clients. They'll be the ones who are willing to pay your rates and not ask you to lower them because they actually value what you do and consider you to be a part of their team.

If you feel that you're constantly getting price shopped, it's time to take a hard look at how you're advertising (or simply talking about) your services, whether on social media, your website, in your emails or in your directory listings. Figure out what your value proposition is and base your pricing on this. What value do you bring to a client beyond the services you provide?

Product Review: The CRM Tool That Simplified and Boosted My Translation Business

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When it comes to doing business, the tools we use for our trade can simplify (or complicate) our businesses. We've all fought with the finicky CAT tool now and again. Eventually most of us settle on one that does the job and that we can work in without pulling out all our hair.

But one area that I had yet to find a great solution for was a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool that fit the way I do business. As you know, I'm a freelance translator, as well as a small translation agency owner. And I can tell you that I wish I'd found this tool early on in my translation career, because it serves my business so well.

Like many translators and interpreters, I often kept track of my projects using my email for customer relationships and engagement, an Excel sheet for project tracking (I had quite a complex one going for many years!) and QuickBooks for accounting. Whew! That can be a lot to keep track of, and I was frustrated with what felt like a lot of redundant work on my part to make sure that I didn't drop the ball on any of my projects. I knew there had to be a better way. So, of course, the first place I looked was to see what our own industry has to offer. And I have to say, I ended up feeling even more frustrated. None of the tools I'd found or tested could do all that we wanted them to do in my business. And some were just downright too expensive for my budget.

If you're anything like me, you want to work with words and keep the administrative stuff to a minimum. You may even put off invoicing clients because you're so swamped with work. Or you may have a system that works for you, but you know there's room for improvement, just like I did.

After testing a variety of T&I-industry CRM tools, I finally decided to look elsewhere. This was at the same time that I started to look at how other freelancers and small businesses in other industries do things. And I have to say, I love the solution I found. In walked HoneyBook.

I'll admit that at first I was a bit skeptical. After all, this tool didn't seem made for a business (or industry) like mine. But I kept an open mind, and I quickly found that it actually works for just about any creative type of business, big or small.

Since I jumped on the HoneyBook bandwagon, I can tell you that the constant updates and improvements they make and the customer service they provide are some of the best I've seen. And I'm not that easy to please when it comes to the proper tools for my business. I want my clients to trust me and love doing business with me. So once I saw how HoneyBook works for a service-based business, I had to have it. After using it for over a year, I feel like I can give my honest review here with a big thumbs up.

Think, a CRM tool that allows you to:

○ Streamline processes in order to make sure clients have the same great experience every time they interact with you and save you time in the process

○ Keep track of each and every project from start to finish: client inquiry to invoicing

○ The option to create template emails so that you can respond to clients efficiently and give them a really positive (and attractive!) view of what you do in your business and how you can help them

○ The ability to see when and if a client has viewed your emails, contracts, invoices, etc. This saves SO much time and wondering "Did they read my email?"!

○ The option to add workspaces on specific projects so that you can include and/or interact with colleagues, contractors, the trusted colleague who edits your translations, etc. These workspaces are private and can only be seen by you and with those you share them

○ Track everything to do with your bookkeeping, recording and exporting to make the numbers side of your business a lot less painful for us "word people"

○ Import your own contract/proposal and collect clients' e-signatures AND (and this is a big one for many of us) digital payments. In fact, I've found that since using HoneyBook, clients often pay before the project starts or immediately after when they get the invoice. This is a huge plus for cash flow purposes.

○ Create a Contact/Inquiry Form for your website that integrates with HoneyBook so that each time a client or lead fills out the form, it automatically generates a new project/inquiry in HoneyBook. Genius!

○ Use the tool straight from your phone via the HoneyBook app! For now, I believe this option is only available to iPhone users, but one of the HoneyBook concierges told me that they are working on the app for Android users, too.

Want to see how I use HoneyBook in my business on a daily basis? Check out the video below.

Even if you didn't think you are in the market for a CRM tool and that your processes are running just fine, I urge you to take a look at HoneyBook. Just the sheer fact that you can actually see when a client has viewed your email and proposal/quote/invoice will give you some peace of mind and allow you to move on with your day. That alone is priceless. It allows me to waste less time following up with people and stick to what I like to do in my translation business. Let this be your virtual kick in the pants to see if a CRM tool can change your business, too.

And here are several more perks… just in case you are still on the fence.

● A personalized concierge service. These people get back to you fast and they are real people who will help you solve any issues you have. #humansovermachines

● A very user-friendly tool overall. Who doesn't appreciate that?!

● No more waiting on checks to come in the mail from your direct clients. They can pay you directly from the invoice you send, and payment is deposited into your bank account automatically.

● A way to stand out as a freelancer in our industry with customized files, attractive and customizable communications with clients and a professional, streamlined system that will let you get back to what you do best.

● The folks over at HoneyBook are always asking users for feedback and sending out updates to everyone so that you know what's available and when.

● You can try HoneyBook for free and receive 50% off your first year by using any of the links in this blog post.

Without a doubt, HoneyBook is the best $20/month I spend in my business. Hands down.

For the sake of transparency, I am a HoneyBook Educator. I will receive a small affiliate fee should you decide to try HoneyBook using my any of the links in this blog post. However, I only promote products I love and use in my business on a daily basis. And I can vouch for this one. It has truly changed my business for the better.