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 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 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.

Tips for Onboarding New T&I Clients

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The onboarding process for any type of business is a truly important one to carefully consider and refine. But what about for a translation or interpreting professional? The first impression you give a potential client is ultimately one of the main reasons people will choose to work with you or not. So, making sure that your onboarding process is well thought out can help clients remember you for your professionalism. Onboarding clients well is an great way to show that you have a real process and plan in place, which can reassure customers that they were right to reach out to you in the first place.

If you're like me and you have found that most of your clients have come to you by way of referrals, then this process is one that you can improve time and again when onboarding new clients. Here are my top three tips on how to onboard new translation or interpreting clients in your business.

Tip #1: Let your client know what it's like to work with you from the very beginning.

As professionals who tend to work mostly online with our clients in this digital age, it is even more important than ever to start with a great first impression. Once you know who your ideal client is, you can tailor the experience to fit those you'd like to work with, those you want to attract as clients. You could also think of this as a way to weed out those who would not make ideal clients.

 To read more about how to appeal to ideal clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Think of your onboarding experience as a storefront window. A lot of clients are interested, but they don't necessarily know exactly what they need. This is your time to shine. To show your expertise. To let your clients know what it will be like to work with you. When they ask you for a quote, give them a little more information with the quote. This allows you to focus less on a number (the quote) and more on yourself as the expert they need.

Include with your quote, what the client can expect from you with regard to questions you will need them to answer about the assignment(s) they send you. Fill them in on your working hours and how you prefer to be contacted (and ask how they like to be contacted, too). Include a questionnaire or preliminary questions you may have about their inquiry. Be creative and tailor this introduction to reflect your business and personality.

Tip #2: Create templates!

When you have a real process in place, you can truly utilize the power of well designed and well written templates. If you plan to respond to potential clients with an email, take some time to create several templates that outline everything in Tip #1.

To read more about creating email templates, check out How to Create Email Templates to Implement in Your T&I Business and Save Time.

If you prefer to have a face-to-face conversation, provide a response with a link to your calendar/schedule so that the client can choose a time to discuss their needs with you on a virtual call or over the phone. While this approach may seem more time consuming than shooting off an email, it is very effective in landing clients for service-based businesses. Give it a try!

Tip #3: Build a sales funnel.

This may sound daunting, but it truly doesn't have to be. Outline how you plan to talk to new clients from the time of inquiry until the time you deliver a project (and after). If you have a wait list or a delay in the time an inquiry comes in and the time you are able to start working on a client's project, make them aware of this right away. But make sure you show them why you're worth waiting for!

During the onboarding process, it is vital to discover a client's pain points, i.e. problems or challenges. Explain how you can help solve these problems with the service(s) you provide. Make your value proposition very clear so that the client is not riddled with more questions than when they reached out to you. Ideally, your sales funnel should always have a "next step", i.e. a follow-up of some sort so that you continue to be in touch with the client. This is something you'll make better over time, as you never want to come across as spammy or salesy, but you do want to come across as the perfect addition to their collaborative team.

Lastly, don't drop the ball after you deliver a service. Follow up with your client after delivery with a handwritten or typed (and signed by hand!) letter to let them know you value their business and look forward to working with them in the future. You might even do something extra, something unexpected. Again, the point is to set yourself apart from the rest. You could include an elegant bookmark, a gift card to a coffee shop in your client's local area or another fun surprise that leaves a lasting impression in addition to your outstanding work and service.

The client onboarding process should never be overlooked. It's how you give that meaningful first impression to a client. Again, this process can and should be refined over time. It can change. You will want to keep looking at what worked and what didn't, what you can do better or differently. For ideas on how you might be successful in onboarding new clients, take a look at how key professionals in other industries tend to do it. Or consider your most memorable experiences as a customer. What made you feel valued? What made you return? Take those ideas and start a list. Now, you have something to work with and you can customize it to fit your business, your personality, and most importantly, your clients.

More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List

More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List | | Translation and Interpreting

Everyone wants to grow their client list. After all, who wouldn't, right? It's part of being a business owner, no matter if you are a freelancer or if you manage several people who work for you. It's good to always have more clients coming in the door… but quantity over quality is often not a good idea, and that includes in business. When you have high quality clients (i.e., ideal clients), then you don't necessarily have to have an ever-growing client list. Once you have consistent work coming in from those ideal clients, you can shift your focus more to maintaining those client relationships by refining the client experience, and then a slower incoming trickle of new clients won't seem so much of a make-or-break issue.

To read more about finding that sweet spot with quality clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Just like most things in life, when you focus on quantity (i.e. how many new clients you can gain or how many clients you currently have), losing sight of quality can easily create more issues for you. If you are constantly striving for more, you will find yourself always wishing you had more. And frankly, you cannot possibly focus on sustainable growth or nurture client relationships with your best clients if the focus is always on when that next project will be coming down the pipeline.

By choosing to focus on attracting and maintaining lasting relationships with quality clients, you will find that you have more time to work on the things you want to within your business. You can take a vacation (and leave that laptop at home!), and you can take more time for yourself and the things and people you love outside of your business. With some care and time, you can grow your business into something that sustains the lifestyle you want, rather than working to sustain your business and income until that next payment arrives.

Rather than trying to convert every lead that comes your way, or take on every project that is offered to you, be more selective. Make some non-negotiables when it comes to the work and clients you take on. Do you want to avoid working after a certain hour of the day and on weekends? Quality clients mean that you can achieve this. Do you want to drop projects that you find absolutely tedious and draining? Seeking clients (and maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with them) whose work you value in terms of content will allow you to do this.

Don't get stuck in the "But what if next month is slow?" cycle or way of thinking. Decide to make an effort to attract those clients that will make you feel satisfied with your work, because the quality of the client and the quality of the service(s) that you can provide to them match up. After all, if you're always taking on quantity (volume), then the quality of what you produce will suffer as a result. It is impossible to keep up with quality if you are accepting every project that crosses your desk. It's okay to say "No."

When trying to determine whether a client is "high quality" or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you like to hear from them whenever they come knocking, or would their projects feel like tedious tasks that make you less than excited about sitting down at your computer to complete their projects?

  • Do you like to work with them because of the type of work you can do for them (subject matter, their mission lining up with your own values, etc.)? This may even be the case if the client doesn't have the budget to pay your higher translation or interpreting rate. As long as you feel good about the working relationship and the value you provide (as well as the value the projects provide to you as a professional), you may very well think of them as a high quality client.

  • Does the work you receive from the client allow you to be open to new opportunities later? For example, is the subject matter is something that will help you to pick up new (and high quality!) clients because of the experience you're gaining by working on their projects?

Be sure to reassess your client list from time to time. If there is a client you'd rather not work with in the long term, put your energy toward gaining more of those you do want to work with, and set a goal to let go of those that are less than ideal.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your client list, you will see that you are happier with the work you do and the value you provide. This satisfaction will carry over to other areas of your life. You will produce better content and output as a result. You will be able to spend more time on the things that you want to work on after you've met the deadlines set by these quality clients. And last, but definitely not least, you will simultaneously be refining your craft with the work you get from these clients. This alone is enough reason to take a hard look at how your clients shape up when it comes to quality vs. quantity.