Goal-setting is a critical element of running a freelance business, but many translators ignore it. Not surprisingly, this type of passive attitude can lead to job stress and low job satisfaction, because instead of feeling that you’re actively progressing toward your ideal freelance business, you feel like your clients are dictating how, when and at what rates you work. Here are some suggestions for active goal-setting:
Rank your clients. I think of my clients as A, B or C level, you can come up with your own categories. A clients are what you might call “drop everything” clients; they pay well, they’re easy to work with and they have interesting projects. The catch with A clients is that they normally don’t need your services regularly, so unless you have a lot of them, you need another income base. B clients are the foundation of your business. These clients pay fairly and on time and fill your inbox with work, which is sometimes interesting and sometimes tedious. In my case, my two biggest B clients provide about 60% of my income. C clients are clients with whom you work only when you have some external motivation; business has been slow, they offer an especially interesting project. etc.
Once you have ranked your clients, think about how you can find more clients at the A level. Identify specific characteristics of your A clients, and search around the web for more potential clients like them. This will also reveal some characteristics of your business, which is an additional benefit. For example, once a translator reaches a certain level in the profession, A level clients are increasingly going to be direct clients, because the translator will move beyond an agency’s maximum rates. A translator who has reached that level cannot increase his/her income without making the jump to working with more direct clients.
Inventory your likes and dislikes. Be honest with yourself about what you like and dislike about being a freelance translator. Do you enjoy the work but find your current specializations boring? Do you love the flexibility but hate the stress of rush projects? Then, find some ways to shift your work toward the aspects of it that you enjoy. This type of inventory is part of what led me to switch to a treadmill desk, once I realized that one of my main “dislikes” was sitting at a desk all day.
Set some specific, achievable goals. I think that these two characteristics, specific and achievable, are what make goals worthwhile. Instead of something amorphous like “make more money and be less stressed about work,” force yourself to come up with some measurable objectives that you feel you can reach. This could be finding two new direct clients that pay more than X cents per word within the next six months, or finding at least one new client that works in a specialization you want to pursue, or not working more than one night per week, or increasing your income by 25%, or any other concrete goal that you feel will help your business.