Strategy: 5 keys for freelancers

You’re a freelancer. Being good at what you do and being thankful when you actually have work coming in every day is surely what it’s all about, no? Well, if you ever want to earn more, get more of the work you love or even employ other people, then unfortunately not. As with any business, someone really needs to be thinking ‘bigger picture’ (a.k.a. Strategy) and that someone is you!

Strategy isn’t something that comes easy to many freelancers, who often start out with knowledge of a product or a skill as their area of expertise. But whether you like it or not, you need to start formulating and implementing a business strategy as soon as possible if you want to do more than just get by.

Here’s a quick guide to how you can find the time as well as the information required to flex your strategy muscles:

1) Know your long- and short-term objectivesGoals

Why exactly are you working as a freelancer? So you can retire early and pursue your aspiration of becoming a golf pro or world traveller? Because you love your product/industry and want to innovate within it? Because you have issues with authority and working for someone else was never going to be an option?

Once you’ve identified this, a lot of other things will immediately become clear. For example: I need to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so that I’m freed up to do the other things I want to; I need to spend as much time as possible with other people in my industry, to enable me to be at the cutting edge of what I do; or simply, if I’m going to work with other people, I need to make sure I’m employing them so that I’m the boss!

Once you know your long-term objective, you can start to look at interim goals – anywhere from 1-5 years – to get there. To illustrate this point, my long-term goal has always been to move from being solely a freelance translator and lecturer to having more time to engage in philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Two of my key objectives over the last couple of years have been participation at an international book fair and the organisation of a worldwide social media event. I needed to free up time and money to dedicate to the preparation and planning of these activities. So my 2-year strategy has involved undertaking more proofreading work because I find it more lucrative. In 2018, when my 2-3 year targets change, so will my strategy.

Talking

2) Let people know you’re strategizing

Talk to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing. People love people with a vision and they will contribute their thoughts to the mix without you even having to ask. Whether friend, family member or employee, the most valuable ideas come from collaboration. Two heads (and preferably three or four) will always be better than one.

If possible, team up with other freelancers who also want to focus on strategy (preferably in a group which also has an overriding strategy itself – for example, Standing Out Mastermind for Translators and Interpreters). Sharing strategies with others is inspiring and motivating and keeps you accountable.

Learn3) Learn how successful strategists operate

Read about the topic. Investigate how other people – from other freelancers to business magnates – strategize. Where do those who do it well find the time to do so? What habits have they developed in this regard? Copy what others do or adapt what you learn to suit your own particular circumstances.

4) Create a strategic plan and regularly monitor itMonitoring

To establish a good strategic plan, it can be helpful to use strategic planning tools. Once you’ve done this, make sure you regularly evaluate how you and your business are performing in relation to this plan. Have you had a couple of months where firefighting immediate issues has taken priority over strategy and targets? No problem. But if it’s been a couple of years then either your strategy wasn’t the right one or you perhaps aren’t making enough of an effort to focus on it.

what are you best at?

5) Know your strengths

As a freelancer, it is extremely difficult to form a strategy which encompasses every single area of your operation simultaneously (sales and marketing, upskilling, networking, outsourcing, automating activities). So, know what you’re good at and start there.

Your strategy can of course change focus over time. However, if you’re not an IT guru then try and hand over any elements in your strategy which involve this area to someone who is! For example, if you’re a translator and want everything relating to your projects and invoices automated, then entrust those tasks to people whose entire business strategy focuses on making this happen – lsp.expert, for example.

As with anything, the more you practise strategizing, the better you get and the faster you’re able to do it. If you’re doing it properly, you should also find you have more time as the years go by to focus on this very area. So, start now, get stuck in and good luck!

We’d love to hear about any tips or tools you have to help with developing a freelance or small business strategy in the comments section below ūüôā¬†

Budget outsourcing for beginners [A fiverr is all you need!]

Have you ever wished you could be like the CEO of a mega-corporation and delegate all those tasks you don’t really enjoy/aren’t really good at to someone else? Do you envisage yourself as a bit of a Zuckerberg, or a Branson-in-waiting, only you seem to spend more of your time on admin than strategising and the stuff that really plays to your key skills? If the answer is ‘Yes’ on both counts, did you know that it’s never too soon to outsource and it need not cost a fortune – as little as¬†$5/¬£5/‚ā¨5 is all you need to get started? You didn’t? Then read on…

I run a business which centres around translation (I refer to it as a ‘business’ because whilst I’m a freelance translator, a solopreneur, I have a number of different income streams). When I talk to fellow small- and medium-sized business (SME) owners, they often say that one of the key issues holding them back from their dreams of rapid growth and success is getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of their business. We’ve all been there. Admin, accounting, marketing and advertising all eat into precious time which could be better spent on specialist tasks – whether a specific ‘artistic’ skill, dealing with potential clients/investors or creating a detailed business plan for subsequent years.

So, where do you start if outsourcing is something you’re keen to do as promptly and in as painless a way as possible? Here are the 3 questions I hear most often from people who haven’t tried outsourcing before, along with responses containing the information I wish I’d had when I first started out.

tasks-to-outsource

1) WHAT WORK SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE?

Despite knowing they should outsource something, it’s surprising how many SME owners aren’t really sure exactly what that something should be. Do you fall into this camp?

Ask different people and you’ll get different answers as to what you should outsource. To provide a useful starting point, however, www.business.com recommends that you outsource 5 key areas. In my experience, these make a lot of sense. They can act like vampires on your time and often detract from priority work. With just one small variation (number 4), I’d therefore recommend outsourcing the following tasks:

1. Appointments, Scheduling & Answering Phones

2. Graphic/Web Design

3. Bookkeeping

4. Marketing/Advertising

5. Customer or Technical Support

 who-and-what

2) WHO/WHAT SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE TO?

Solutions to help solve the issue of outsourcing business-related tasks (or¬†delegating¬†them – if you’re lucky enough to have actual employees!) generally come in two forms: those involving

1) people

or

2) software.

I focus purely on 1) here, as 2) would require a listing of so many different industry-specific tools that any sane reader would stop reading right about…now!

But please don’t. The great thing about 1) is that the related solutions apply to all industries, so there will definitely be something here for you.

The advent of¬†websites designed to offer specialist/professional services for a fee sometimes¬†involved¬†dubious service providers. A number of them hadn’t necessarily ever undertaken a given task before¬†you suddenly parted with good money to be their guinea pig. This isn’t the case anymore.

There are now a multitude of more reliable outsourcing options, (www.fiverr.com and www.peopleperhour.com¬†being two of the most renowned)¬†which enable you to¬†pay¬†someone to undertake tasks you feel you can’t, or don’t want to – everything from website design, to SEO optimisation, to data entry. Other great options are referred to here:

www.fiverrstuff.com

A simple Google search also brings up many other websites designed specifically for outsourcing work:

www.elance.com  and   www.mylittlejob.eu to name but two.

Suffice it to say that the new improved versions¬†of these websites include reviews from outsourcers’ previous customers and the option to purchase different combinations of skills for different periods of time. You can even define your own specific requirements, put them out into the e-sphere and then wait and see who wants the job.

budget-and-quality

3) CAN BUDGET = QUALITY?

I’m amazed when talking to fellow entrepreneurs that so many still seem to be unaware of cost-effective means of outsourcing work. When they do know about it, concerns are sometimes raised over ethics or quality. As with all things, business and money make the world go round. With these websites, you are paying someone, and that someones may sometimes live in a different country, who has an area of expertise they want to share and a desire to make a living, just like you or me. Arguably, paying someone to do work that involves them using a computer or technology (which most ‘gigs’ on these sites do) is markedly more ethical than the sweatshop practices¬†in which a number of well-known multinationals still engage.

There’s also the added benefit that you can end up dealing with people who work all over the world. This can heighten your cultural awareness and even increase your own levels of motivation and gratitude. I once worked¬†with a person who lived in the Philippines and his local area was flooded¬†overnight.¬†He was keen to continue collaborating despite access to basic electricity, let alone an internet connection, becoming an issue. I was extremely humbled to learn about the difficulties he was facing and yet inspired to see how resolute he was in the face of adversity. Completing and being paid for the great work he was producing was a priority for him. We even discussed how thankful we both were to be working with a fellow professional who was keen to see our collaboration through, no matter how difficult the circumstances got.

As far as quality is concerned, naturally, expectations are everything. It’s unlikely you’ll be outsourcing to someone with 20 years of experience working for multinationals if you’re paying $20 as a fixed or hourly rate. However, in my experience, there is huge talent out there just waiting to be discovered and everyone has to start somewhere. I’ve often¬†worked with students paying their way through a college course, as well as professionals starting out in an industry and looking to gain experience and good references. I’ve built great, mutually beneficial working relationships with¬†many of them. And the quality of their work has¬†been excellent. [Providing a comprehensive brief or set of instructions is of course vital to ensure this is the case!] I’ve also increased what I pay the people I outsource to, based on the quality of their work.¬†The question, after all, shouldn’t really be how ethical a given outsourcing website is, but rather how ethical you want to be in your own professional practice.

So, if your big vision sees your business expanding in the near future, but currently the only thing growing seems to be your to do list, why not give one of these sites a try? For just a small and very affordable investment, you can start creating a virtual team and get back to focusing on¬†what you do best! Good luck ūüôā

Claire Culliford (Owner of TransTeach)

Do you have experience outsourcing on a budget ? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below ūüôā¬†

 

 

 

 

How to find your professional ‘voice’

Finding your professional voice

A new year provides the opportunity for a new start. What better way than by identifying what it is that makes you professionally unique so you can truly make your mark on the world?

Every industry in¬†the world, translation included, is becoming more and more competitive each¬†day. Whether you work as a freelancer, an employee¬†or run your own show and employ¬†lots of other people, there is always someone or some other company out there vying for the work you’ve currently got. Complacency simply isn’t an option.

In light of this, it’s important to carve yourself out a niche, as early as possible. Delivering work of excellent quality and being someone that your colleagues actually want to work with has become something of a given. You now also need to ensure that you offer something unique; something that sets you apart from the rest. Here’s TransTeach’s¬†practical guide to identifying your professional ‘voice’ and using it to give you the X-Factor.

 

1) Don’t overlook the obvious

First thing’s first, don’t try to re-invent the wheel and don’t overthink things. Ironically, what comes extremely easy to you is often the very thing that sets you apart. If you love playing around with gadgets/IT, then the technology/apps side of things could well be where you shine. Small or large scale, these are vital tools for everyone from sole traders to business magnates, so if you’ve got the know-how, flaunt it!

If you’ve always had a head for figures, whether you’re working in an accountancy firm or for a wildlife charity, make those numbers count! Let people know what you like and what you feel you’re good at, so that you get the opportunity to do more of it.

2) Research, Research, Research!

Find out what niches other people have adopted to rule out or inspire you with ideas. You may be surprised at the¬†way in which your professional ‘voice’ permits you to marry your areas of professional expertise (Russian¬†language and online chess apps, for example; property law and sustainable tourism; adult literacy and fashion design; the permutations and combinations are almost endless!) The more bizarre your combination of skills sounds, the more unique your ‘voice’ is going to be.

To give an illustrative example, when I¬†decided to start the TransTeach blog, and as it has¬†developed, I’ve carried out extensive research on the other translation blogs/writers in the market.¬†This would seem like an opportune moment to thank individuals such as Andrew Morris (creator of Standing Out –https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup/ and Standing Out Island –¬†https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutisland), Corinne McKay (Thoughts on Translation http://thoughtsontranslation.com/), Claire Cox (Lines from a Linguist¬†https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/), ¬†Galina Green (http://britbitchberlin.com/), Lloyd Bingham (Capital Translations –http://capital-translations.co.uk/category/translation/) and countless others, for their ‘voice’, which has undoubtedly helped me to identify and carve out my¬†own. I currently like to refer to this as Translation and Diversification [Trans-] meets Education [-Teach] (but more about that¬†in point 4) below). Who knows what it will morph into in the future?

3) Try everything and anything

Your professional ‘voice’ changes over time, whether you think you can identify what it is straight away¬†or not. If you can’t, because nothing immediately springs to mind, then get experimenting. Only by trying lots of things do you ever know where you particular talents lie. So, take online courses (there are plenty of free ones covering every topic imaginable these days), expose yourself to social media (both professionally and personally) and if something tickles your fancy, have a go!
I never set out in life to street dance, subtitle foreign films or help run a charity. When the opportunity arose to try these things, however, I was always at the front of the queue ūüôā Over time¬†my professional voice has developed to include all of these unique facets.

4) Develop your social media presence

Nowadays, we’re constantly being told that an online presence is essential right from the off. Indeed it is. Social media provides opportunities that as a self-employed individual, employee or business owner you certainly shouldn’t miss out on. However, think carefully and research even more prudently before ever putting finger to keyboard. Why? Because a lot of people have done it before you and in the social media sphere too, you need to ‘shine’. You need to get known for what you and you alone can offer.

One way of developing your own virtual presence is to contribute to those of others. So, take your time, engage with those whose presence you admire and can relate to. Slowly but surely you’ll find your own ‘voice’ naturally emerges as a result.

As an example, since starting¬†TransTeach I’ve always been recognised by my¬†clients/colleagues for my¬†diversification and my desire to help and educate others on how to do the same. They’ve also commented on the fact that I’m pretty creative.¬†I¬†freelance as well as being the UK and US Director for a large international translation agency. I¬†also provide translator training and linguistic consultancy services. I’m the Development Director for¬†a charity. I love all forms of creative writing and I’ve authored a number of¬†children’s books. I invest¬†in¬†property as well¬†because having multiple streams of income is always¬†a good idea. As a result, I’ve personally followed, commented and retweeted lots of associated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn content, slowly finding the place that I can call my professional home in the world of social media along the way.

 

5) ¬†Whatever your ‘voice’, make it a positive one

No matter what you decide are your professional USPs, and how those change over time, make sure that what also makes you shine is your positivity. If there’s one thing people value above all else today, given the constant barrage of bad news and the pressure of the 21st Century workplace, it’s someone with a smile who motivates them, inspires them and makes their day seem just that little bit better. Whether it be by sharing your unique skills or using them productively to educate and support others, make sure you do so at every possible opportunity. Those with the loudest and most powerful professional ‘voices’ today are undoubtedly those who use their uniqueness to benefit as many other people as possible. So, find your own ‘voice’, sing loud with it and use¬†your song to helps lots of other people along the way. Good luck!

Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)

If you have any comments about or advice concerning¬†how you found your own professional voice, then feel free to share them here or contact me at info@transteach.com. This is a topic that’s always a work in progress, so the more contributors, the better!

 

 

Lessons in business (and life…)

It’s the end of another working week and as anyone running their own business knows, there’s always at least one nugget of new knowledge that’s been acquired, however big or small. This week, TransTeach’s learning curve has come on in leap and bounds and despite starting out over 7 years ago, we never stop being a student when it comes to finding out more about the (business) world at large.

So what key lessons have been on the timetable this week?

Firstly, resilience is probably the most underrated skill in business, and in life!¬†Without it, you don’t stand much of a chance. With it, you can conquer the world (at least metaphorically speaking.)

Once again, recent months have seen us face many challenges, from unexpected slumps in work requests to the usual stresses and strains of deadlines when trying to re-brand/launch a new website. The only thing that has got us through, as it always does, is a firm belief that all will eventually work out for the best. That’s easier to conjure up on some days than on others, naturally. However, it’s one trait/skill that is something we try to pass on to every single one of our students just starting out in the translation industry. See the positive in everything and believe – in yourself, in successful outcomes, in everything coming good in the end. It pretty much always works. The opposite view, one of pessimism and dreading the worst, generally only causes misery and makes dragging yourself through each day all the harder. Which leads us on to our next lesson…

Secondly, team/community/family, call it what you will, is vital, nay, ESSENTIAL, if you are to remain sane in business/life. When remaining optimistic is hard, having the right people around you can ensure you don’t succumb to the quagmire. Instead you can laugh, put things into a bit of perspective, and even come up with much better and more creative ways to overcome difficulties. When you’re a freelancer/sole trader, you need to seek out team/community/family wherever you can, so whether they’re physical, online (or evening imaginary!), locate them, share with them and watch how much easier it feels to face everything you’re going through.

When TransTeach relocated from London to Yorkshire this time last year, one of our biggest fears was leaving much of our support network behind. In reality, the wonder that is the Internet and the ease with which you meet people (when you’re walking the new canine member of the company!) has meant that there’s never been any dearth of help, assistance and downright championing of what we do. For that, we are immensely grateful. Over the year, we’ve extended our virtual and physical network considerably, by joining new groups, both locally and online. This week, when we actually had to call on people to show their support quite explicitly (Facebook likes and shares, Twitter retweets etc), every single person stepped up to the mark and made us realise how fortunate we are. So, on behalf of TransTeach:

THANK YOU, for being part of our virtual team, wherever you are…

Day 1 of “TransTeach – unleashing the new brand” – a success!

Rather excitingly in the space of the first day of TransTeach’s relaunch, we’ve been:

1) approached to give Swift (subtitling) software training by the mother of a recent graduate who’s just starting out in the industry and, like us, has a passion for subtitling.

2) carry out a Welsh translation (a task which we will of course pass on to a competent collaborator!)

3) asked to participate in a questionnaire by a former client who is now throwing their all in to creating a tool to make translators’ everyday lives much easier (from quote right through to invoice).

So, it would seem that the future is indeed positive…and purple! And that social media really is the way forward for business these days.

Now that the working day is over, it’s back to the creative writing we so love to undertake in our spare time (spare time, we hear you shout, what’s that??!), inspired, oh so inspired, by the beautiful Yorkshire countryside (and people!) where we’re based. It’s all great fodder for honing the language skills but lovely to be able to write exactly what we want instead of creating something for someone else’s purposes, for once. So, watch this space. News of our next writing projects will be winging their way to you soon!