As a freelancer, you can sometimes forget that you are in fact running a business. And as with any business, it is very important to review your progress and growth on a regular basis. Because of the flexibility associated with being a freelance professional, a unique approach is necessary for this kind of review, to take into account the personal aspect of the work we do. For the majority of freelance translators, their freelance business is essentially a projection of their personal professional self, and a business review should take into account this personal element. Each individual translator has their own unique personal and professional goals; however, it is important to have an all-round idea of your business so that you can make the right choices to achieve your desired goals.
I would like to suggest this four-step plan for an annual review of a freelance translator business.
Number-crunching – look at any statistics you have about your business. This will be easier or harder depending on how you organise your business records. In either case, try and identify who your best clients are, which clients bring you more money, which clients bring you the most rewarding and interesting jobs. How much money have you earned? How many hours have you worked?
Identify the positive and negative moments of your year. What have you learnt from these events? Are you happy with your work/life balance? Have you branched into any new areas of specialisation? Are there any events outside your work life which have impacted upon your job? Make notes about anything relevant from the last year which comes to mind.
Try and focus on the positive aspects. We all have ups and downs and this is a normal part of being a freelance translator. Focus on what the positive moments have been and think about what led to them. Try and think about what you can learn from negative moments rather than letting them get you down.
2 SWOT Analysis
This kind of analysis can be applied to many kinds of businesses and projects, but as a freelance translator you also need to reflect on your own character to get the most out of a SWOT analysis.
Make a list of any key points under the following headings: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strengths – what are your qualifications? What are your key skills? These could relate to translation itself, time management, research, anything at all which relates to your professional skills. What are your areas of specialisation? Why do clients come back to you? What makes you good at what you do? Don’t be modest.
Weaknesses – are there any aspects of your business which you tend to neglect? How do you cope when things don’t go swimmingly? How would you rate your negotiation skills? Are there any aspects of marketing, translating or negotiating which you would like to improve on? How good are you at making the most of technology?
Opportunities – are there any particular CPD opportunities coming up? Any relevant networking events? Do you feel ready to pursue any new areas of specialisation? Do you already have steady, on-going clients you can rely on? Is there any new technology you think you may benefit from?
Threats – Are your clients pushing for lower rates? How indispensable are you to your existing clients? Are there any negative market trends affecting your areas of specialisation or language pair?
3 DREAM BIG
Take a second to think about absolutely everything you would like to achieve. Because of the nature of freelance work, these aspirations can also relate to your non-work life. Would you like to have more time to spend with your family? What kind of projects would you like to work on? Who would be your ideal clients? What would be your ideal working hours? How much money would you like to earn? Don’t worry about how feasible these ideas are, but do be a little bit realistic. Would you really like to earn LOADS? Would you really be happy working minimal hours?
After dreaming big, now’s the time to come back down to earth for the next and final step.
4 ACTION PLAN
Set yourself some achievable goals, with clear do-able steps. So, if your target is to increase your income by 20%, you need to set down some steps towards this goal, things you can effectively tick off your list, for example, initiate contact with 10 potential clients who can afford your new rate.
Be realistic about the amount of time you have to target new goals and set yourself bite-size targets to get you on your way.
Find ways to motivate yourself. You could share your action plan with a peer and commit yourself to reporting back on it in a month’s time. You could reward yourself in some way for completing certain tasks. Be honest with yourself about which aspects you may neglect and tackle them head-on. You may find that you are more efficient when you do certain tasks, such as organising your accounts or marketing, at the beginning or end of your working day.
Look back over what you have written in steps 1-3 and see if there is anything which stands out which can contribute to your action plan, making the most of the strengths and opportunities you identified, and ways of recreating positive moments from the previous year.
There often seems to be a lot of focus amongst translators about getting bigger and better clients and rates. However, you may come to realise that you are really happy for things to continue as they are. That’s great news! Nevertheless, I’m a strong believer than we can always find ways to improve and develop, and one of the things I love about being a freelance translator is the many opportunities for learning new things which present themselves every day.
I’d love to hear what you think about this review plan. I wanted to share it because I found it useful myself. Is there anything you would add or change?