Five Mindset Shifts Worth Making in Your Translation Business

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I talk to a lot of translators and interpreters in our industry. They are amazing colleagues, and the diversity is always so inspiring for me. But one thing we all tend to have in common is that we make excuses when it comes to the things we want to keep putting off in our businesses. What can we say? We're human! But why do we do this? I recently heard this explanation: our brains are wired to avoid the things that feel uncomfortable and to keep on doing what is most comfortable, even if it means we don't grow or improve in the process. But at what point does staying in our comfort zone result in stagnation? I had this discussion with a few translator friends recently, and the conclusion seems to be the same. Going outside of our comfort zone is totally worth it. The outcomes are often better than we expected, and once we've reached the other side, we realize that it wasn't actually all that hard. Most of the difficulty was created from the excuses we made!

These excuses we make for ourselves are not serving us in any way. In reality, we usually just need to make a mindset shift in order to stop making these excuses. We can easily switch these excuses to action items that are less painful by making them a habit--something we do daily or weekly. Here are five excuses I often hear from colleagues and my suggestions on mindset shifts that result in action items to help move the needle forward in our businesses.

1. Excuse: I'll start __________ (marketing, updating my website, etc.) when I'm less busy with client projects.

Action Item: I'll work on __________ (marketing, updating my website, etc.) one morning a week so that I can make progress in this area while still serving my clients and building revenue in my business.

2. Excuse: I'll sign up for that ___________ (webinar, course, conference, etc.) when I am making more money.

Action Item: I'll invest in my professional development now and work hard to pay for this ___________ (webinar, course, conference, etc.), because I know that it will allow me to sharpen my skills, make more money, etc.

3. Excuse: Even though I would prefer better clients, I don't have time to market my business, because I am so busy with the ones I have.

Action Item: I will spend 20 minutes a day marketing my business so that I can slowly replace the difficult-to-work-with or low-paying clients with better ones this year.

4. Excuse: There don't seem to be any direct clients in my area(s) of specialization. All of them prefer to work with large language services companies. So, I'll probably just work for agencies for the rest of my career, unless I change or add a specialization to my service offerings.

Action Item: I'll will brainstorm or talk to a colleague for 15 minutes a week to come up with some ideas of direct clients to whom I could market my translation services. And I will consider developing a second area of specialization that would allow me to market my services to more direct clients.

5. Excuse: I have to be in my email inbox at all times, because I might lose a project if I don't respond right away. (Side note: I had this mentality when I first started as a freelancer. It is not healthy! And it's not true if you have the right clients for you.)

Action Item: I will look at my email three times a day (once in the morning, once before lunch and once at the end of the day before I wrap things up for the evening). I will respond to all client requests at that time, and I will let my clients know what times I'll be in my inbox so that they know when to expect my replies. I will also look for more clients who respect these boundaries and do not expect me to always be available to them.

It's easy to make these and other excuses. I'm guilty of making excuses myself. We all do it in some area of our lives and businesses! It's human nature to take the more comfortable route if given the option. But we will only grow or improve when we decide to take that stroll outside our comfort zone.

What kind of excuses do you make in your business? What mindset shifts can you make to help you overcome the excuses and start taking action?

Five Productivity Hacks for Freelance Translators and Interpreters

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At this time of year, it seems that everyone is looking to better themselves in some way. Some people make resolutions, and some make a list of goals they want to achieve over the course of the year. I tend to fall into the latter category, but either way, I know that there is no way I can come close to achieving my goals if I don't take into account how I spend my days, i.e. my time.

Here is a short list of productivity hacks I have found useful in my freelance business. I hope that you, too, will find them helpful, and I'd love to hear about your own productivity hacks in the comments at the end of this post.

1. Check your email only two or three times a day maximum (!).

This is still something I am working on myself. But I have found that I am so much more productive when I set limits on how often I check my email. Not only is it better to spend more time on the tasks that actually make money in your business, but sometimes just checking our email can lead us down one rabbit hole after another that suck our time and keep us from giving more attention to the tasks that actually move the needle forward in our businesses.

My own plan for 2019 is to check my email three times each day: once first thing in the morning, since I have clients in Europe, once right before lunch and once at the end of the day before calling it quits. With so many commitments, I have found that I can spend endless amounts of time just responding to requests and producing information for others instead of tackling my own tasks. I'm not complaining by any means, but it is a reality I've become more aware of over the past year.

2. Batch similar tasks/projects/commitments.

If you have read articles or books about productivity, you've probably heard this one (and maybe some others on the list) before. There are a lot of studies that show the amount of time wasted when having to switch tasks is much higher than most of us even realize. Whether we are interrupted by notifications, emails, daily household occurrences, or even when shifting from one task to another, our minds do not immediately jump into the new task right away. These transition periods between tasks can truly add up if we are not cognizant of them. By batching similar tasks or projects on a given day or morning/afternoon, we allow ourselves to focus on one thing at a time, thereby making sure we finish it well before moving on to the next task or project.

For example, I try my best to schedule all calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes it doesn't work out due to scheduling conflicts, but it's something I strive to do as often as possible. I also work on blog posts and content creation the same day each week. This way, I know that when Wednesday comes, I have to write a blog post for the following month or an email to subscribers for the following Friday. Speaking of Fridays… this is the day I do all financial tasks: paying bills and those who work for me, invoicing clients, balancing the books and submitting payroll. If it helps, name the days of the week when you are going to batch certain tasks. I personally love "Finance Fridays" for the hour or so I spend on knocking out those money-related tasks.

3. Turn off all notifications during your scheduled work time.

I'll admit that this is another hard one for me. I really like to make myself available to others as much as possible. This can be both a good and a bad thing at times. I'm typically a very responsive person, but I realize that other people don't necessarily need (or expect!) to hear from me right away. If something is not urgent, then I can probably respond later in the day when I am answering my emails. I love to clean out my emails every single day, and admittedly, having pending emails gives me a bit of stress. The same goes for text messages or other requests. But slowly, I'm finding ways to set more boundaries, and turning off notifications has been a game changer.

I silence my cell phone all day, every day. There are only a few people who can reach me during the day, if absolutely necessary, when I'm working on an important task. If you want to give this a try, go ahead and set your phone to "do not disturb" mode each day during your working hours. Let others know that you'll be more than happy to respond to them once you're finished working for the day, just as you might do if you worked in a traditional office setting and answered to a boss or supervisor.

4. Set a timer for yourself for every type of task, and commit to getting that task done in that amount of time.

Again, this is not a new idea. You'll hear it again and again if you read about productivity and time management. But it is definitely another game changer in my mind, especially for those of us who are perfectionists. Make sure you turn off all distractions when you press "start" on the timer, and do your best to try to beat the clock. Some people like to reward themselves if they can finish a task before the timer goes off. Whatever works for you, do that.

5. Change your scenery from time to time (at least once a week), and especially for those "eat the frog" tasks!

I'm someone who doesn't mind a little bit of background noise while I work. In fact, I often welcome a bit of music or soft noise. It helps me to focus, but I realize this may not work for everyone. Whether you need to hear some noise or you prefer complete silence, changing your workspace or scenery at least once a week can be a really welcome change. You might even notice that you are more productive on the days when you choose to work at a local library or neighborhood coffee shop for a few hours.

Again, try to set a timer for tasks, batch similar items on that day and turn off notifications. All of these things, plus the change of environment could really help you to knock out a few items you've been putting off. If you have one of those "eat the frog" tasks (something tedious or just really unappealing) to do, it might be good to save it for your date with new surroundings so you can tackle it.

Whatever you choose to do to boost your productivity this year, make a mental note of what works best for you and try to be consistent with it. It isn't helpful to try something for a day before you write it off. Try to give a few of these tips a go, and seek out a few more if you are someone who has trouble focusing or avoiding distractions. And don't forget to share your own favorite productivity hacks with me below in the comments!

The Free Project Management Tool You Need for Your Translation or Interpreting Business

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Whether you are a freelancer or a small business owner, you always want to make sure you have systems in place that run efficiently in your business. When your systems work well, you have more time to focus on what you do best, and this means more time for billable hours, too. One of the most essential systems in running a translation or interpreting business is the one in which you manage all of your tasks and projects. I'm not talking only about client projects, but also those projects that don't necessarily bring in any revenue, like invoicing, planning a marketing strategy, preparing social media posts, writing blog posts, reaching out to prospective clients, planning days, you name it.

I first presented about this free tool at the American Translators Association annual conference in New Orleans (October 2018), and those who attended my session were very excited to learn about it. The audience was made up of a range of professionals, from freelancers to agency owners and committee volunteers to chapter presidents. I was blown away by the number of people who thanked me for suggesting this tool to them. Some of them even downloaded the Asana app right after the session!

Introducing… Asana.

Before I made the switch to Asana, I was using a few different tools to keep everything organized in my business. It didn't seem like a complicated system at the time. It did the job, but I didn't realize how much more organized we could be by keeping everything all in one place until we found Asana. I'd tried several of the project management tools that are meant for T&I businesses, but I found that none of them can do all that we need them to do. And as I don't have the budget to create a custom project management system at this time, I have found Asana to be a truly dynamic and easy-to-use tool both for myself and for my team. I also use Asana to organize my own freelance and volunteer projects. It's so dynamic!

And do you want to know the absolute best part?! It is free. That's right. I don't pay a dime to use it and I can add as many people as I would like to a project within my organization. It is free for them, too! Even if you are a solopreneur and have no plans to hire anyone for your business, this project management tool will change the way you do business for the better. It will keep you organized and planning things from start to finish. It will help you with your workflow and really give you the full picture when it comes to long-term goals and planning.

Here's a view of my Dashboard when I first open Asana in my web browser.

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All of your projects are organized however you like, but what I love is that you can color code them and move them around however you like whenever you need. Besides the Dashboard view, you can easily access all of your projects in the left-hand sidebar by scrolling down. Here's an example of how I organize my blog posts for the blog you're reading right now!

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We use Asana to keep track of our client projects, as well as inquiries we get from prospective clients who might not yet be ready to hire us for a project.

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You can set up a template for the projects you tend to have the same steps for over and over. We've done this with our prospective client and current client pipelines (like the one you see above), and it couldn't be easier. No reinventing the wheel for each inquiry you receive!

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Asana also integrates with so many programs that we already use to keep files organized, like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. We are able to email tasks to ourselves that will show up in Asana, use the app on our smartphones to add tasks and respond to items in the conversations feature, and so much more. And I just found out that I can also turn handwritten notes into tasks and get Siri to add tasks for me on my iPhone. What?!

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I've already told you that we organize the projects we have to do as teams, but I also have projects for which I am the only "team member" (things like administrative tasks, reminders about making tax payments, completing payroll, etc.). Here is a screenshot of a few tasks that would only show up in my own administrative projects view. I'm able to set deadlines and assign them to myself so that I receive a reminder notification on the day they're due.

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If you're someone who likes to be able to see a full calendar view of your tasks (as well as those of anyone you may add to your projects), you can switch to the Calendar View very easily.

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Or you can see everything in a List view, if you prefer.

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There is also an Asana app for Smartphone users, so I can access projects and files from my phone if I'm traveling, running errands or just out of the office. And I can even add tasks to projects straight from my email that will show up in this tool whenever I want.

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Now, I'll be honest and tell you that Asana isn't the most intuitive program to use at first. But! If you stick with it, you will find that it is worth learning how to use it properly. I personally didn't have a lot of time to learn how to use the tool through trial and error, so I did a little research and found an online course that breaks down exactly how to set up your Asana account for your business. This class is the best. I was able to set up my Asana account to be the workhorse for my business. My project managers are also in love with Asana now. And no, that's not an exaggeration.

If you are interested in setting up an organizational system like this for yourself and/or for a team you work with in your T&I business (even if it's just for you and your accountant!), I highly recommend you check out Megan Minns' course Asana HQ. Truly, it is worth taking the course so that you can see the full capacity of Asana and all of its free features. I learned so many things about how to use Asana that I would have had no idea about had it not been for this course. Megan gives tips and tricks that you likely wouldn't be able to figure out just from signing up with a free account and tinkering around in the program.

If you're not sure how Asana can work for you, I would suggest just watching this video and seeing if this type of organizational system would help you in your business. Even if you are a freelancer who usually works as a solopreneur, using Asana to get your operations and client management down pat will make you so much more efficient. Asana can get your processes and workflows so organized, you'll feel like a new person. Again, not an exaggeration. Besides, you may not work alone forever, and if you have everything set up this way already, it will be easy to bring on someone else in the future!

(I have no affiliation with Asana, and I use the free version! So, this is an honest review. I love it that much.)

Five Ways to Improve Your Web Presence Before the New Year

It's never too early to start planning for the new year, especially since the month of October basically flew by! That means there are only two months left of 2018! Have you already made up your mind about 2019? I'm hoping you've decided to make it a growth year in your T&I business. I have!

Need some ideas? Here are 5 ways to improve your web presence before the new year!

1. Refine your website to fit your target market.

Everything on your website, from the images to the copy and everything in between, should be created with your ideal clients in mind. If your ideal clients use certain terms and language, you should be, too. When a client clicks on your website, he should know immediately that you are the right fit for him and his goals.

Make updates to your website from time to time so that you can continue to speak directly to your target market. These could be things like the visuals you share, the language you use, the calls to action you create, etc.

I'm teaching a course about this in November, and today's the last day to sign up at the early bird rate! For more information, or to register, click here!

And to read more about how to create an ideal client profile, check out this post and this post!


2. Hang out online where your target market does.

I get a lot of questions on this one. The most common one I receive is, "But what if I don't know where my clients hang out online?" Well, I'd say you have some research to do, but it should be fun to look into this, because the more you understand your target market, the better you will be able to make a connection with them.

Start by doing some simple Google searches. You could also do some searching around LinkedIn for forums related to your target market. What groups or forums do they participate in? What kind of content are they searching for or commenting on?

Where do they hang out on social media? One great way to find this information is to look at the websites of potential clients in your target market and visit their social media pages. Follow them! Engage with them! If they are active on Twitter, make sure you are active and engaging with them on Twitter. If they tend to prefer another platform, create a profile and get to work. Provide value on the platforms where they hang out by sharing valuable content, commenting, and showing your expertise and generosity through the value and information you share. People pay attention to these things. The value and generosity will come back to you!

3. Consider your emails… yep, those things you write every single day.

When a client emails you and you hit "reply," are you really talking to your clients in a way that builds trust? Or are you just shooting back a response so you can move on to the next email or task at hand?

Consider providing value in every email you send. Whether you include a link to an article the client might find relevant (bonus points if it's to one of your articles or blog posts!), or if you throw in a freebie add-on when you deliver a translation. I don't like to give away work for free, as I feel that that devalues the work itself, but consider something "extra" you could do for a client that they aren't expecting. This helps you to build more of the like, know and trust factor with them at the same time.

4. Start producing original content.

It's fine to repost and share others' content online. In fact, it's necessary, as we cannot possibly produce new content all the time. But what are you producing that shows your professional skills and the value you provide?

Consider starting a blog or posting articles to LinkedIn on a regular basis. Make sure that what you write is relevant to your target market and that it is something that they would want to read and pass along to colleagues!

Once you've created the original content, share it with them. Don't expect others to follow your blog or be on the lookout for your next LinkedIn article. Let people know when you have provided value. No one will see this as being boastful or showy. They'll appreciate it, I promise!

5. Take 20 to 30 minutes a couple of times a week to find valuable content online for your target market, and share it!

Send it in an email to a client or a prospect. Tweet it or share it on LinkedIn. Post it in a LinkedIn group or forum where your target customers hang out. And please… when you share it, say something intelligent about it! Don't just paste the link. Mention what you find useful or valuable, too! This shows your expertise and knowledge on the subject. And perhaps even more importantly, it shows that you care.

There are a lot of ways to step up your web presence. Make a plan for yourself for the coming year. Commit to one hour a few days a week to really put time into improving your online marketing game. You will start to reap the rewards sooner than you think!

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.