Risks and Rewards

As the end of the year approaches (time flies, doesn't it?) we wanted to discuss, very briefly, something that is near and dear to every entrepreneur's heart: risk. You can't be an entrepreneur and move your business forward without taking any risks, but oftentimes we see ourselves as linguists first and entrepreneurs second, and we've always proposed doing it the other way around. Now, what kind of risks are we talking about here? Allow us to elaborate.

  • New clients. While keeping the status quo is always easier and a lot less work, sometimes you might have to take a risk to get better clients if you don't already have them. This might be risky because you'd invest time looking for better clients than taking work from, say, lower-paying clients (the safe bet), but in order to get better clients, this is a risk you need to take. You won't get better clients (and you can define "better" in a variety of ways) just by wishing for them. There's always a downside to risk, but there's also a downside to not taking it.
  • Investments. At some point in your career you will have to make relatively small investments to further your business. We are in the lucky position that we have no hard labor costs, no offices, no expensive capital investments, etc., but there will be some things you need, such as specialized software or perhaps a public relations service to increase your company's profile. You don't always know ahead of time if these small or large expenses will work out for you, because unfortunately you don't have a crystal ball, but there's only one way to find out.
  • Networking. This may seem like a small issue, but oftentimes we hear of linguists who don't want to take time away from a busy work schedule to carve out time for networking and meeting new people. It might seem counterintuitive to give up paid work to head to an event that might or might not result in new clients, but continuous client acquisition is something you always have to do. The risk here is relatively low, and all you'd be potentially giving up is a few hours of work, but thanks to the nature of our work, you might be able to make up those hours after you return home.
ONe of our main points here is: if you don't like something in your business, you need to work on changing it. Complaining to your colleagues about it might be therapeutic in the short run, but it doesn't change your situation. So go ahead, take baby steps and take a small risk today. We hope it works out -- but not all of it will, which is just the nature of risk. Best of luck!


Danielle Kerchmar on December 1, 2016 at 1:47 PM said...

Thanks for posting. My company is a nonprofit organization that uses its profits to increase language access. Half of our projects are targeted at supporting language professionals, as we believe they are the backbone of language access. As I learn more about how my agency can best support language professionals, I am more and more impressed by the individuals who reach out to us directly for potential translation jobs.

Jesse Tomlinson on December 1, 2016 at 7:16 PM said...

Excellent post, as per the usual! You are so right and I am glad I've taken your advice to heart for a number of years now ... I would say you should invest heavily in yourself and your business. You aren't going to get awesome clients unless you do. For direct clients excellent clothes are a must, you can't go wrong wearing a jacket on every occasion with clients. You have to go to expos even if you do not directly get clients from them because they teach you about the industry and the information is invaluable. Plus people there who don't directly become your clients will refer you to other people. And it's worth being on another level, so to speak, where you get access to a whole other set of people.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 27, 2016 at 11:02 AM said...

@Jesse: Many thanks! Completely agreed that you can never go wrong with wearing a jacket. Happy soon-to-be 2017 to you and see you soon.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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