Doing freelance work has its high tide and low tide, it’s busy days and slow days. This post was inspired by a slow day. I think I did an hour of translation on said day, which isn’t much, as you might imagine. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have work to do. Being a freelancer means there’s always something to do, and it takes daily discipline if you want to be successful. Having a slow day? Below are 7 things you could be doing to improve your business:
- When was the last time you updated your resume? And what about your Internet profiles (LinkedIn, Proz.com, et al.)?
I try to update these things once a month, although I do admit that my LinkedIn profile languishes sometimes. I do keep my CV up to date though. There are many things that can change in one month: new address, new clients, new qualifications, etc. Be sure to stay on top of this!
- Are you on top of your accounting?
Everyone likes getting paid. I know I do! But that means I have to invoice my clients promptly. Very promptly because some of them pay over long periods (45, 60 days). That’s already a long enough delay in and of itself, so there’s no need to add more time on top of it. In addition to invoices, I also record my expenses in a computer program. I won’t say which because they aren’t currently paying me to advertise, but I can say that at least once a month, I record my expenses so that they are in order for my accountant at the end of the year.
- Do you have clients you haven’t heard from in a while? Drop them a line!
I’ve had some great experiences with clients, but they were very fleeting. In other words, the project that initiated our collaboration didn’t lead to regular work. This can happen. Every customer has different workflows, so not all of them are going to be churning out copious amount of work for the same thing all the time. And of course, project managers have their go-to translators, so it can be hard to break in and become one for them, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to write occasional correspondence to check back in with a client, especially if the collaborative process went smoothly. I keep it brief and upbeat while letting them know that I still exist. Even if it doesn’t bear immediate fruit, it may later. It bears keeping in mind, however, that this is something you need to use with discretion. You don’t want to be a nuisance.
- Have a website? Is it up to date?
Just as with your resume and profiles, if you have a website, you want it to have the latest you have to offer. Do you blog? When was the last time you posted something? Maybe you don’t have enough time to pump out a new post during one moment of down time, but I do suggest you get a draft started, even if it’s just basic brainstorming. You can come back to it whenever you get time again. When people visit your sight, even if it’s just a few people, if they see that the content is current, they’ll have a positive reaction.
- What’s your computer desktop look like?
If you’re busy like me, then your desktop on your computer can get really crowded fast. If you have down time, organize. The same goes for your download folder. If you’ve downloaded a lot of items, make sure they get filed and labeled correctly for later use. And speaking of desktops, what about your actual physical desktop? If it’s not a desktop but rather a table or a flat surface of some sort, how’s that looking? If you’re like me, it’s probably got lots of different things on there that need organizing. When I used to have a desk, I would make lists, but invariably I would save important paperwork and leave it on my workspace, right in front or my nose, so that I wouldn’t forget about it. Eventually, though, your space reaches capacity, and it becomes messy. If it’s been a few weeks since you went through this stuff, it might be time to do a bit of cleaning and organizing.
- How’s your online feedback looking? — WWAs for Proz.com translators
Do you have an account on Proz.com or other online work portals? Is there a feedback function? How is your feedback looking? Do you have enough? Ha! Trick question, you can never have enough good feedback. As with these other admin. tasks, you should keep on top of this as well. I add new clients here and there, or sometimes I happen to work with a different PM at a client I already serve. When I work with a new person, I eventually make sure to seek their feedback. In the case of my Proz.com profile, I send a WWA request. Keep in mind two things: 1. Don’t send the WWA right after you worked with them. By that I mean the same day or next day. Give them a few days. If you’re too on top of it, it looks a little rushed, and if you wait it appears as if you’ve been busy doing other good things for other good clients. It’s a small thing, but it gives the impression that you’re in demand, even if the truth is you’ve had a slow week. Clients like the feeling that their translator is a quality worker. 2. Don’t use the template text that comes in the WWA. It sounds like a robot wrote it. Instead, write a personalized, upbeat message that emphasizes the positive aspects of the working relationship with said client, which would at least include mention of the “recent project you collaborated on that was a great experience.”
- What do your translation samples look like? Are they organized? Are they the right length?
As a freelance translator, things don’t happen over night (except occasional rush jobs), so it may be that something you’ve taken time build, such as a portfolio of work, may eventually need revision. Such is the case of my translation examples. Be sure that your examples match your stated areas of specialization, and make sure they aren’t too long. You may find that it takes time to build a portfolio depending on your language pairs and topics, not to mention formatting your samples so that they look nice for potential readers. In building your portfolio, you may include a lot of text per sample, which was my case at the beginning. However, at a certain point you eventually have a good amount of samples, and you really don’t need super long text per sample because if it means a lot of scrolling for you reader. If you recall, your résumé should really only be a page or two. I’m not going to dictate how long your sample section should be, but you don’t want your reader to think, “Good grief, this translator’s sample section is a never-ending novel,” which might dissuade him/her from giving them the attention they deserve. I think for now, as a general rule for each sample translation, don’t make the reader scroll more than twice. For most samples, if the whole text fits on the screen, great, if you want to show a little more, that’s okay too, but if you make your reader scroll too much, you might lose their attention.
And there you have it. Next time you’re having a slow day, just remember there are things you can be doing behind the scenes to help your freelance business. These are obviously the less glamorous aspects to your business, but you need to stay on top of them. Over time, you’ll be glad you did, as you should see your business improve.