This month’s master class, How to prepare for (and pass!) an interpreting exam, is tomorrow! Registration ($75) includes the recording, and the live class runs from 12 noon to 1:30 PM New York time. We have a good group signed up, and there’s still room for you, or any other interpreters you know!
This week’s post topic comes from a reader:
“You talk a lot about how we should always be marketing our freelance businesses. But what do you really mean by this? Are you constantly applying to agencies and contacting direct clients? Or do you mean something else?”
It’s an excellent question, so let’s take a closer look.
“Always be marketing” isn’t an original idea. One of my favorite podcasting freelancers, Melanie Padgett Powers, says this on almost every episode of her podcast The Deliberate Freelancer. It’s a common notion, that a freelancer should always be doing something to market their freelance business. But, what does this mean in practice?
To answer this reader’s question, no, I am not constantly applying to agencies and contacting potential direct clients. I have enough work, and although right now I’d like to find some new translation clients, I actually don’t want a “2,500 words for tomorrow” type of client, because I have a lot of interpreting work and I don’t want to do five or six hours of translation on a typical day. For me, “always be marketing” really means “always be hustling and keeping the business juices flowing.” To me, this is how you avoid the peaks and valleys/feast or famine phenomenon, generate a steady flow of work, and make sure that you have enough work in the pipeline so that you’re working on what you enjoy and are good at, rather than what you grab out of desperation. In the past few weeks, here are some things I’ve done that I would consider as marketing or business development:
- Followed up with some speakers from the ATA conference with whom I wasn’t connected on LinkedIn
- Sent a paper thank-you card to a new client who paid me for the first project
- Worked on a Facebook page that I’m creating for my official document translation services
- Recorded a presentation on pricing your services in the age of AI, for the AI in Translation Summit (not an affiliate deal)
- Put a couple of college foreign language students in touch with one of my managing court interpreters, to observe a trial that will use interpreters
- Nudged two interpreting agencies from whom I’d like to get some work
- Started investigating the possibility of advertising my official document translation services in publications for French-speaking expats
- Submitted a couple of conference presentation proposals
- Contacted a couple of AIIC members for advice about finding sponsors for my AIIC membership application
- Set up a book translation profile on Reedsy and responded to two requests for samples
- Sent a couple of LinkedIn connection requests to immigration attorneys in Colorado
As you can see, these aren’t actions that are traditionally considered “marketing,” but they are things that get my name out into the translation and interpreting worlds, make people more likely to refer work to me, and position me as someone reliable and trustworthy. They plant seeds that may come to fruition tomorrow, or months to years down the road. I think that these are things that every established freelancer should be doing, to avoid the “wither and die” phenomenon that afflicts a lot of people who get complacent about their workflow.
Here’s another truth: If you don’t have enough work right now, you should really always be marketing, as in constantly applying to agencies and contacting direct clients. I made a lot of mistakes when I was a beginning freelancer, but here’s one thing I did right: every second that I didn’t have work, I marketed. If my goal was to have 10 hours a week of paying work and I only had one hour, I marketed for nine hours. That’s the strategy you should pursue if you’re looking for more work!
I hope these tips are helpful; if there’s anything you want to add, just post a comment below.
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!