If you don’t have work, the most likely reason is not them, it’s you. Before you start raging at me through your computer, keep reading. That’s actually good news…no…it’s GREAT news. Think about it. If the reason you don’t have work is because of the state of the economy or the translation industry, then there’s not much you can do about it, right? All you can do is sit around and wait for whatever reason you’ve decided is the culprit to go away or improve. Can we at least agree that waiting for the industry to improve is not a solid business plan? Great. Glad we’re on the same page.
We freelancers know that there are peaks and valleys in the industry. We know that sometimes we are flooded with more work than we know what to do with, and other times we wonder if we’ve been fired by our clients and no one told us. If you’re relatively established in the industry, you start to enjoy the drop-offs in work because that’s when you actually have time to get caught up on the growing list of tasks you’ll complete “when you have time.”
However, this isn’t the case for many and often times when those valleys hit, so does panic. When will my next job come? Will I have enough money to make it until then? What if it doesn’t come? These are all questions that would run through my mind as a new, and even intermediate, freelancer. I remember sitting around blaming the industry for my financial worries and talking about how it’s always slow in X month (December, maybe?) and it was all true…it was indeed slow for everyone. But then I started thinking about it more. Someone is working, just not me. Yes, it’s slow but the translation industry doesn’t just grind to a complete halt…ever. This wasn’t the time to sit around eating ramen noodles and waiting for a better month. This was the time to hustle.
I have found this to be true over and over again. Even when the industry slows to a near halt, when I get determined, suddenly work appears. You might be thinking that your clients just don’t have work right now because if they did, they would contact you. Well, did you e-mail them and ask? Did you call them? Do they even know you are available? If you’re dealing with agencies, definitely let them know you have availability especially when you’ve been booked for a long time. I once had a project manager contact me and say “I know you’re booked, but is there any way you can squeeze this in.” I wasn’t booked. I had tons of availability at that time. It turns out that she just randomly assumed that because I delivered such high quality, I must be booked (oh, the irony). It might seem silly, but this just goes to show that you can’t assume anything, ever.
Still not sure what to do?
Here are 10 ways you can hustle…now!
1) Let your current clients know your availability. Don’t beg for work, just let them know that you have a good bit of availability and you’d like to work with them if they have any upcoming projects.
2) Check with clients you haven’t heard from in a while. The beginning of the year is a great time to send e-mails to those clients and let them know what you’ve been up to for the past year. Did you get a new website? Start a blog? Move? Reach out and let them know. This is your chance to get your name in front of them again.
3) Contact new clients and let them know you’ll follow up with them…and actually do it. I used to close my cover letters with something like “I’ll give you a call next week to discuss how I can meet your needs.” Then I really called them. Even a few minutes on the phone will get you a lot of information. If they tell you they aren’t interested right now, try to find out why. Maybe it’s something you can change/fix in your marketing materials.
4) If your marketing materials or resume and cover letter need some work, now is the time to do that and start getting more clients. Keep updating marketing materials throughout your career. You never know when you will lose a client and you don’t want to be in the position of starting from scratch.
5) If you prefer agencies, use job boards to find out who has work and no freelancers to do it and contact those agencies. (Please check the agencies out first to make sure they’re not a fly-by-night operation.)
6) If you prefer direct clients, now is the time to network. Use LinkedIn or go to in-person events in your industry (that means the medical, legal, or other industry, by the way).
7) Do you owe any potential clients any paperwork or did you complete paperwork for a client and never hear from them? This is the time to follow up.
8) Check your online presence. I can’t tell you how many translators I have googled and had almost zero hits. Be everywhere. When someone googles you, they should get the feeling that you are extremely active and known in the industry. Remember that when people hire us to translate, they have to trust us. Who wants to trust someone they are barely sure exists? If you’re uncomfortable posting your information all over the place, get a PO Box/UPS Box for your address and a Google phone number.
9) Make sure you are 100% caught up on your invoicing and other top priority things you’ve been putting off. You might be panicking for no reason, and when the work starts flooding in again, you’ll go back to your “I haven’t sent an invoice in 4 months” status and wish you hadn’t wasted your time. Get it done!
10) Find out what you need to do, and do it. If you’re not meeting your current clients’ needs, listen to them and figure out how to help them. I once asked a client why they were only hiring me for editing jobs and not translation (my preference). It turned out it was because I wasn’t using Studio. The funny thing was, I owned it but just never bothered to learn to use it. I spent about an hour learning it and translation jobs started rolling my way. A freelancer client of mine in California told me that he was so determined to be on stage interpreting for a client on the east coast of the US, he flew there to pitch that client in person. Guess what? He won the contract.
So, embrace the fact that not only is it more likely you are the reason you’re not working, remember that that’s wonderful news! You are in control of your business and you alone. Not the industry. Not your clients. Don’t let anyone determine your success but you.