The 4 Models for Your Translation Business: Which One Are You?
A big emphasis of mine is helping you treat your freelance translation business like a business.
Because this can make a huge difference in:
- The image you project to customers
- Your motivation to provide excellence and build your reputation
- The degree of professionalism you bring to the job
- Your ability to keep going despite setbacks
Having a clear business model can help you focus your services and get specific about what you offer.
Are you sure I need a business model?
I’m not saying that every freelancer suddenly become a freelance agency or become incorporated.
Instead, I’m just suggesting that, even if you are a freelancer, you don’t automatically have to promote yourself as such to clients.
You do have options.
For example, you can promote yourself as a solopreneur, a company, a “one-stop” service provider, a consultant, or anything else you can think of.
The idea is not to pigeonhole yourself simply because you work alone.
For example, I have always promoted myself as a freelancer and charged a top rate because my clients like the responsiveness, flexibility and personal touch associated with working with a freelancer.
But I’ve known other freelancers who have done much better by presenting themselves as a company because they feel it’s easier to market and promote a company instead of marketing themselves.
Below are some of the options. Which one would make sense for you?
The Lone-Wolf Freelancer
Setting yourself up as a lone shop isn’t always a bad thing. Many companies dream of having a single freelancer who is reliable because they don’t have to deal with the lag time of an agency.
They know and have an in-depth relationship with the person providing the service, and that’s a big plus for many organizations.
They can take you on and let you go at the drop of a hat, so there is less risk in working with you.
- You can sell your personalized knowledge and relationship.
- You don’t have to be on-call all the time; you can refer your clients to other people if you get busy
- People realize that you have a life, so work-life balance is easier
- Freelancers can have a reputation for being very unreliable, so you have to prove that you are the real deal.
- Clients can let you go at the drop of a hat, so they may not be too invested in your relationship.
- It can be hard to present yourself as a professional who can advise a client on their texts. You’re often an afterthought and someone who only comes in late in the documentation cycle.
The Solo agency or “Solopreneur”
This model is very similar to the freelancer model, but you simply create a name for your business that implies you are a company and not just a freelancer.
This involves more work in the branding department with:
- Marketing materials (website, business cards, etc.) with a good name and clear tagline that includes whom you serve and the benefit of your service for your client.
- An ability to project a professional image: i.e., you don’t work in your pyjamas, even if you work at home.
- You have an ability to work on complex projects compared to your average freelancer, such as large web projects or technical specifications, and you can go out and find the resources to get these jobs done.
- You have clear contracts and processes in place with clear expectations about the services involved, the milestones included, and the responsibilities of each party.
In theory, it would be great if a freelancer did all these things too, but I personally haven’t found them to be very necessary in my work in order to charge a lot of money.
Advantage: For many introverts, selling a “company” is crazy easy compared to selling “yourself.”
Disadvantage: You have a ton more moving pieces to keep track of and the pressure to be professional is much higher.
The Diverse Freelancer
Whether you promote yourself as a business or a freelancer, you can decide to provide more than just translation services for your clients.
Do you like graphic design? Do you think website coding is the bee’s knees? Maybe writing and editing services?
Many freelancers I know don’t just offer translation, simply because you can fall into a feast or famine cycle when you serve similar translation clients in a similar sector (as they tend to all have the same fiscal year end and deadlines for annual reports, etc.).
This is my business model, and I find that it solves the problems of getting too bored with one task or one type of client. I love it! (See www.amybcontent.com to check out my writing, editing and content marketing consulting services. You’ll notice I made a separate website for these services because my audience is different.)
Like diversity makes an ecosystem that much stronger, adding diverse services to your business can make it stronger as well.
Advantage: You’re always busy, no matter what the cycle your clients are in.
Disadvantage: It’s a lot of work to become an expert in something other than translation. It’s like starting school all over again.
The Audience Business or One-Stop Shop
This model builds on the idea of diversity, but here you focus on the needs of your client in a single sector, and preferably the clients in your source language who may need services other than translation. However, you may not be able to offer writing or editing services in the source language, so you may have to be selective about the services you add. But here, you can think about non-language based services:
However, you may not be able to offer writing or editing services in the source language, so you may have to be selective about the services you add. But here, you can think about non-language based services:
But here, you can think about non-language based services:
- Web design and development
- Graphic design
- Virtual assistant services
- Bookkeeping or organizational services
Advantage: You can use your connections with existing clients to get more work and add to your bottom line.
Disadvantage: It can be hard for existing clients to think of you as anything but a translator. You may have to hustle more than you think to promote these services.
Beat the fear, go with your gut
Many translators struggle with making a choice from a big Fear of Missing Out.
However, don’t make the choice more complicated than it is!
Personally, I have always promoted myself as a freelancer and never as a company because that option just never “felt right.”
I knew that if I tried to be an agency or a company, I wouldn’t be able to sustain it, even if that option made a lot of intellectual sense for me.
My advice is to therefore to listen to your gut.
If you get excited at one of these options, then that’s the one you should stick to.
Because excitement in your business is exactly what will attract the clients you want to work with.