If you translate for a living and have worked freelance for some time, the chances are that you are familiar with the ‘feast or famine’ nature of freelance work. It often seems to be the way that two long-term clients drop off almost as the same time, for purely circumstantial reasons, or that three loyal clients all have urgent projects that fall due in the same week.
While you often can’t control how your clients behave, you can take the time to ‘step outside’ your freelance career from time to time in order to review and improve the way that you work. Doing so can result in a happier and more profitable career in the professional translation industry.
There are a number of ways that you can do this, so we’ve shared some of them below in order to inspire you.
Whether you prefer to receive information from books, podcasts, blog posts or any other medium, it’s important to update your skills regularly. We’re not talking just about your translation skills here, but about the way that you work. Everything from The 4-Hour Work Week to the Freelancers Union blog can help in this respect.
It’s a case of using these resources to look critically at the processes that you use and then consider how you can change them in order to work more effectively and efficiently. By freeing up time, you can create more billable hours each day and drive up your income – or work fewer hours and enjoy more leisure time without seeing your income dip.
Of course, any upskilling that you do in relation to the document translation services that you provide will also help to ensure that you deliver an outstanding service and enjoy an excellent reputation.
How much time do you currently commit to undertaking financial admin work? Changing your invoicing software or the way you record how much work you’ve done for a particular client make a big difference. Ensure that your systems are slick and efficient so that the financial element of freelancing isn’t a drain on your time.
On the same note, are you happy with your accountant? A good accountant can save you money and free up some of the time that you spend working on financial tasks. A bad one can become a drain on both time and money. Don’t be afraid to shop around if your current arrangement isn’t working out as well as you would like it to.
It’s also worth reviewing your marketing activity from time to time. Even if you’re fully committed in terms of your working hours, it doesn’t hurt to have a marketing plan ready to activate in the background, just in case a client disappears at short notice.
Again, this is an area where there is plenty of information and advice available, so make sure your marketing skills are up to date, just in case.
The Balance reports that inflation in the US stood at 1.9% in 2018, while this article on US inflation rates year by year projects that it will increase to 2.0% by 2021. As such, if you’re not increasing your fees regularly and consistently, you will effectively be earning less and less with each year that passes.
Too often, freelancers are nervous about addressing the issue of how much they charge. Don’t be. You provide a professional service and deserve a fair rate of pay for it. That includes increasing that rate of pay at least in line with inflation. If you’re worried about doing so, read up on negotiation skills and how to ask for something and get it before you proceed. And if your clients say ‘no’ to your request for higher fees, it could be time to put your marketing plan into action and find new clients who will be happy to pay at the higher rate.
When you work freelance, the buck stops with you. Nobody is going to step in and help you make the way that you work more efficient. However, taking a proactive approach to doing so yourself can reap big rewards, from increased income to heightened job satisfaction. So what are you waiting for?
When did you last take the time to work on your freelance translation career, rather than in it? Leave a comment below to share inspirational ideas with your fellow translators about how to increase efficiency and productivity and ultimately be the best freelance that you can be.