So many people would love to make marketing a habit in their translation or interpreting freelance business, but it can be easier said than done.
Just like with any skill or habit, good marketing practices take time to develop. And when you find what works for you, what resonates with your clients, and what brings you more business, you’ll inevitably want to keep doing more of it. That said, it’s not unusual to experience a marketing slump from time to time. We all have them.
Perhaps you have enough work in the queue at the moment and stopped marketing altogether. I’ve been there! Or maybe you haven’t found what really works so it all just feels like a slog. Been there, too! The key to getting out of a rut and marketing your business consistently lies in two things most of us don’t think much about: what works for you and making marketing fun.
Yes, marketing can be fun. It doesn’t have to feel like you’re constantly pitching your services to clients. Marketing can be a routine part of your day and business operations just like any other task you regularly handle. And once you check it off the list, you can move on to other tasks and projects where you need or want to spend time.
Make Your Marketing Efforts Work for You
There are lots of things you can do to market your translation or interpreting business. Sometimes, too many! In fact, there are so many options, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a few ways to make your marketing efforts work for you.
Be clear about what you want from your marketing efforts. Identify what you want to achieve with your marketing and write it down. Own it. Maybe you want to earn more money or take a paid vacation from your freelance business. Maybe you want to try to avoid times of famine in your business and have a set monthly income. Or maybe you just want to work with more clients you really enjoy. Whatever you want from your business, make that the main reason to show up and check off marketing tasks every day. The more clarity you have around your marketing, the easier it will be to get it done and pull out of any marketing slumps you might experience. As Brendon Burchard, personal development trainer and author of the bestseller High Performance Habits, has said, “Momentum is always preceded by clarity.”1
Identify what you absolutely need and let go of what you don’t. Just because there are multiple ways to market your business doesn’t mean you have to do all of them. Know where your clients are hanging out online and focus on marketing your business there. For me, that’s Google, LinkedIn, and email. Of course, this might be different for you. Avoid spending time on any specific platform or tool that doesn’t serve your business. If your clients aren’t on Instagram or Facebook, give yourself permission to drop those platforms from your mental list of potential places to market your business.
Start small. Starting small sounds easy enough, but many of us can quickly become overwhelmed by the bigger picture of what we believe marketing to be. Think of your marketing as a long-term relationship-building process. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone out on a date after meeting them for the first time, you wouldn’t ask a client to sign a contract the first time you reach out to them. Commit to a few minutes of marketing every day and build from there. I believe a little bit every day versus once or a few times a week is a smarter (and faster) way to build habits. Personally, I commit to 20 minutes a day. It’s what works for me. Find and do what works for you.
Focus on one thing at a time. One reason people feel overwhelmed about marketing their businesses is that they make it such a large task that it feels unattainable. Focus on one thing at a time. If you struggle with confidence in marketing your business, start there. Make a list of all the successes you’ve had with clients and then think of who else might need your help. Now that you have a list, you can focus on the next thing: figuring out how you’ll start building a relationship with potential clients. After that, you can focus on your next step, and on and on until you feel like you’ve finally hit a groove. By focusing on one bite-sized task at a time, you’ll slowly make progress in the right direction. This is essential to sticking with it and avoiding those periods of time when you would otherwise feel scattered or spread too thin.
Make Your Marketing Efforts Fun
Okay, you may be thinking “How can marketing be fun?” I get it. I used to really dislike marketing. In fact, I was great at finding ways to postpone or avoid it altogether. But when I realized how rewarding regular marketing can be, I found more ways to make it fun, too. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Set goals and reward yourself when you achieve them. Do you want to hit a certain income goal this year? Do you have a goal to get three new clients in six months? Set some milestones and reward yourself when you achieve them. Whether it’s a day off, a new monitor for your workspace, or something even more luxurious, determine early on what you’ll do for yourself when you hit these goals so you can celebrate wins along the way. When you do, your marketing efforts will pay off in multiple ways.
Do it first thing (if that works for you) so you can’t talk yourself out of it. Now, you might be wondering how getting your marketing done first thing in the morning could possibly be fun. Well, if you’re anything like me, checking something off the to-do list early in the morning gives you a little boost of energy to move on with the day knowing that you already achieved something positive for your business. Just this morning, I reached out to two clients to check in with them about potential new freelance projects. By 8:30 a.m., I had confirmation of about $1,500 worth of new work. If that’s not a fun way to start your day, I don’t know what is! Whether doing marketing first thing works for you or not is a personal decision. But whatever you do, put it on your task list or schedule it so it gets done.
Get an accountability partner. If you work better with an accountability partner, someone you can check in with regularly to let them know you completed what you set out to do (and they do the same with you), put out an open call to colleagues on social media and ask if anyone would like to go on this marketing journey with you. Even if you only need accountability to get going, try checking in with each other for a few months to build your motivation and make your good marketing habits stick!
Marketing your business doesn’t have to be painful or tedious. If anything, once you get going, you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor in terms of income, job satisfaction, and stronger relationships with clients.
When you approach marketing this way, making it work for you and making it fun, your marketing efforts will feel more natural and less like a burden or chore. Not to mention the marketing slumps will be fewer and further between!
- Burchard, Brendon. High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way (Hay House, Inc., 2017), https://amzn.to/36sqExk.
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT serves as president of ATA. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Governance and Communications Committee (2019–2021), Membership Committee (2018–2020), and Public Relations Committee (2014–2018), and as administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog-home. firstname.lastname@example.org
“Business Practices” will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.