grow your freelance translation business

6 Simple Mindset Strategies to Help You Grow Your Translation Business

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

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

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

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

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

How do you know if you have a scarcity mindset?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 6 simple strategies to try.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Surround yourself with colleagues you deem successful and kind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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