7 tips on how to survive your first freelancing month

You’ve always dreamed of becoming a freelancer translator. You’ve completed all the administrative papers and you’ve now officially set your own business. Congratulations! But wait a second, where is all the work you thought you would be getting from your first day of work? Well, facts are always much harder. But here are a few tips I learned this past month that I wanted to share with you:

  • Apply, apply, apply… : it’s no big secret. If you don’t send your CV to agencies and to potential clients, work will not fall into your lap out of thin air. Anthony just wrote a post about how to sell yourself to prospects over at Transbunko. Be prepared to send hundreds of application letters! The high number of potential contacts should not refrain you from personalizing (agencies love it) and polishing your letter (you’re a linguist – no typos, spelling or grammar mistakes!). Do not get discouraged by the lack of answer you get. Sometimes it can take weeks (if not months) for an agency to contact you.
  • Keep in touch : Also, if you’re in famine period, do not hesitate to let your clients that you are currently available for work – if done right, they will remember you next time something in your specialization and language combination comes up!)
  • Network: translators are not lonely creatures anymore! Set yourself a Twitter account and join the crowd (and the fun!). Also, don’t be impressed by your more experienced colleagues. They will undoubtedly make you feel welcome in their community!
  • Be an innovator: Translators love original initiatives that raise awareness about their profession – if you need proof, check out the project I organized for International Translation Day ’13. The number of participations and the enthusiastic feedback I got was overwhelming.
  • Be professional: you are not a mere freelance translator. You are an entrepreneur and you should see yourself and act as one. A professional website is almost compulsory nowadays – at least if you want to be taken seriously. Think about printing some personalized (and I mean it) business cards.
  • Blog: blogging is not for everyone, I’ll admit that. You have to have something interesting and original to say. But the great thing about blogging is that since it is YOUR blog, YOU decide how many times you should blog per week, or per month: once a week, twice a week? Or simply when an idea comes to mind! Nowadays, SEO is not simply based on links toward your website, but it takes into account so many other factors: most importantly, your online presence! Try googling your name and see what comes up – you’d be surprised… Also, having a blog and sharing your insights about your profession proves that you know your job inside out and gives you credit in the eyes of your clients.
  • Continue to learn: especially if you translate texts about fields that are evolving constantly (at the top of my head, IT and medical). Not only will it help you stay up-to-date with your specialization, it will also give you a break from work (even if it’s a work-related task). There are a lot of CPD opportunities are there, be it webinars from the translation industry or MOOCs organized by highly-regarded universities.

What about you, do you remember how you managed to survive your first freelancing month? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

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