|Bill Clinton meeting new people|
at a Las Vegas charity event
on October 12. Photo by J.Jenner.
After years of receiving long lists of questions, both personally and through our associations, and after answering hundreds of e-mails, we've decided to compile typical beginners' concerns into a few posts about how to enter the profession. Remember that building a business in the languages industry is a lot of work.
We'd like to start the series off with this exercise. If you don't like to do at least five out of the following, you should reconsider running your own business. While in-house positions are rare, they do exist, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to be an entrepreneur.
- Writing. If you don't enjoy writing, you probably shouldn't be a translator either in-house or freelance. Essentially, you are a writer. Since you will be writing for a living, you better love it.
- Marketing. If you don't like selling and promoting your services, then running a business is not for you. Sure, you can outsource some of that, but this will all cut into your profit. There are a variety of ways for introverts to market their services, but essentially, as a small business owner, you need to be comfortable with being in a sales position.
- Self-confidence. If you don't think you are good and that your services are valuable, then no one else will, either. No one wants an insecure linguist. You don't have to know everything, but you need to come across as competent and sure of yourself to customers. If you don't have that skill, work on it: take a public speaking course, an improv class, or head to the library for some reading materials....these skills can be acquired.
- IT/computer skills. Do you break out in nervous hives when you have to install new software? Are you generally uncomfortable with computer tasks? If you are used to calling the help desk when Outlook crashes and never learned how to map your own drives, it's time to pick up some of these skills before you start your own business. Again, you could outsource some tasks, but in order to make a living, especially in the beginning, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible.
- Organization. There are different levels of organization, and different things work for different people, but in general, if you spend more than a few minutes looking for what you need, you are not using your time effectively. This applies to both paper and electronic documents. Your time is the only resource you have, so use it smartly.
- Basic math and taxation. There's no need to do three-dimensional calculus, but you should have basic math proficiency (yes, even as a liberal arts person). Chances are that you are not familiar with taxation issues, so go to the library, get a book, or meet with the Small Business Administration. If you don't like number-related paperwork, you might need to rethink your strategy.
- Meeting new people. Growing a business, in essence, comes down to one thing: increasing the amount of people who know about you and your services. There are many ways to do this, but basically, you need to meet more people, either in person or online. Get your 30-second elevator speech ready, dress nicely, be ready to network, and don't be pushy. You don't have to perfect the art of meeting people like Bill Clinton has done (see picture), but if meeting new people makes you nervous, then perhaps you are better off working in-house.
- Procrastination and determination. You won't have a boss to check on your deadlines. No one will be telling you what to do -- except your clients. Hence, you have to be very disciplined and determined to run a business. If you are not, you will fail. The same is true for procrastination: we have yet to meet a successful entrepreneur who regularly procrastinates. Take an honest look at your personality: perhaps you need to work in a hierarchical structure to get motivated -- and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
This is just a short exercise to get us started. Experienced translators: is there anything you'd like to add to this list? Beginning linguists: we would love to know if this introduction was helpful to you.