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?