After talking to my mentee recently, I realised that it was perhaps about time I wrote a post on how to transition from where you are now to the better paid direct client market. Because it is, of course, a process and doesn’t happen overnight. The journey won’t be the same for everyone, however, so my aim in this article is to provide a few tips to point you in the right direction and to help you stay on track:
- Keep your sights on your goal – but don’t get impatient and don’t rush it
If you have been working exclusively or mainly for agencies for some years, there is no sense whatsoever in waking up one day and deciding to ditch all of those agencies so that you can start working for direct clients – as tempting as this may be – because, unless you have a magic wand, it’s going to take time to build up a direct client base. The important thing is to note the status quo and to ascertain what it is that you want to change and why (perhaps you would like to work with more direct clients because you think the work will be more rewarding, perhaps you want to find better paying clients so that you can work less whilst earning the same amount). It is important that you know your “what” and your “why” so that you can keep yourself focussed and on track.
- Step by step – replace clients successively
If you have been freelancing for a while you probably have at least a handful of different clients. Make a list of them and rate them according to categories that are important to you (e.g. good communication, fast payers, interesting work, rates, etc.). Do you already have some clients that you consider to be category A clients? If you do, make a list of all of the qualities and characteristics of those clients so that you know what you are looking for in new clients. If not, use your imagination. What qualities would your ideal category A clients have? When potential clients come along who seem to have these qualities and characteristics, you can start to replace the less than ideal clients on your list with these new clients. Be sure to do it successively and not to cross off all of your less than ideal clients at once: you still have to ensure that you are earning at least the same amount as before and ideally more.
- Create time for marketing – and do it
If you are currently working flat out for agencies to make ends meet, then you will need to claw back some time from somewhere in your day for marketing activities. Although it can sometimes feel like marketing is futile because it is unusual to see immediate results, constant steady marketing will bring you a steady stream of new clients over time and allow you to build your business in a gradual and healthy manner.
- Accept where you are now – and that growth is a gradual process
It is tempting to get frustrated and impatient about business growth but the fact is that you are where you are at the moment and you can’t change that for the present. By constantly taking steps, however small, towards your goal you will get there – in time. Just stick with it.
- Face your fears – and move past them
Many people find that the reason they can’t move forward with their business in the direction they want to go is that they are standing in their own way. Somewhere there is a misalignment between what they want to achieve and what they think they can achieve. There can be all kinds of reasons for this, usually based on past experience or the limiting beliefs they have grown up with. As a freelance translator you are your business’ most important asset. Personal development is a key aspect of business development and well worth considering undertaking if you find that you are struggling to reach your goals – or even to take the action which you hope will take you there.
Photo credit: Steps to success © Celestine Chua, http://www.flickr.com