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.


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!


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.


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!


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?!


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

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.