In the past few days, I have had several conversations with fellow (experienced) freelancers that went sort of like this:
“Until the past month, when I had a slow day or two, I actually enjoyed it. I would clean the house or catch up on my admin work or get together with friends. Now if I have a slow day I start to panic; I start thinking about what’s going to happen to my business if one of my major clients goes under…”
Unless you don’t read, listen to or watch the news, it’s impossible not to be a little on edge about the U.S. economic situation these days. While it seems that the bottom is unlikely to fall out of the translation market any time soon, some of us will surely see a major client declare bankruptcy or be bought out by a larger company. Here are some tips for eliminating that panicky feeling:
- Diversify. If there’s ever been a time to avoid having all of your eggs in one basket, it’s now. Mix it up: agencies, direct clients, revenue streams other than direct income from translation (i.e. teaching classes, writing articles, copy editing, etc.). If you earn a large percentage of your income from one or a few clients, think about branching out.
- Be a little more cautious than usual. I’ve started checking all of my clients on Payment Practices; I always did this for new clients, but now I do it for established clients too. As I wrote about last week, I’m now asking for some form of advance payment from all new clients who are not either ATA members or rated on Payment Practices; individuals must pay 100% in advance.
- Have a plan B in place. Don’t think of losing a major client as a catastrophe of unequaled proportions; strategize about what you’ll do if/when it happens.
- Spruce up your marketing materials. Now is the time that you want to be able to jump on a good opportunity when it arises. Update your résumé, cover letter, website, LinkedIn profile, ATA directory profile, etc.
- Widen the net. Amid news of financial bailouts, corporate bankruptcies and the plunging stock market, it’s easy to think that it’s gloom and doom all over the world. Not so, says the news. For example, a recent article in The Gazette highlighted the plight of Canadian textbook publishers, who can’t find enough French to English translators to get their books out on time.
- Market to industries that have to translate. Some industries may have the option of cutting or eliminating translation costs, but others (law, financial services and pharmaceuticals come to mind) don’t. Industries like this, especially if government regulations require them to provide their own translations, are excellent places to look for new clients.