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On television, starting a business is often given a glamorous sheen, a snappy soundtrack, and spy-movie sensibilities. I’m reminded of the episode of Mad Men wherein the unhappy advertising executives plot to get themselves fired so they can legally jump ship and start their own company. The scenes where they manage the details are well-written, full of energy, and make business look very exciting. ... Continue

Aside from being a witty party guest and translation services guru, I am also a leading expert on marketing your small business. Okay, not really – I mean, I think I’m an expert in marketing, but certainly no one so far has asked me to write a book about it or to appear in a documentary on the subject. But I’ve run my own language translation business for a long time now, and I’ve managed to grow it annually and remain competitive, and through it all I’ve managed to avoid hitting the soup kitchen or borrowing from my family. ... Continue

People in all walks of life and all industries have some strange ideas of what marketing means or doesn’t mean. Most people assume marketing equates with advertising – that when you market yourself you buy some ads. This is a very limited idea of what marketing is, though; advertising is best and most accurately considered just one aspect of marketing. If all you’re doing to market your translation services or other business is buying some ads here and there, you’re doing just the smallest (and for most people, easiest) aspect of the work. ... Continue

Marketing is always a challenge to any business, from the largest multinational corporation to the smallest freelance translation services professional like myself. Marketing is frustrating and confusing because it’s almost impossible to truly master it, or even understand what works and what doesn’t in this world. Why is some marketing effective for some businesses, but the same template doesn’t work for you? Why did it work so well last year and fall so flat this year? Is it true that every single one of my competitors seems to be handling their marketing better than I am? ... Continue

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that although you’re putting so much effort into your business and the website that represents it your business is really part of the larger community around you. You’re a member of society, and your customers are too – and they are real people, not just conversions in your analytics and credit card numbers in your files. You have to approach your customers as human beings. You can’t rely on the robotic magic of keywords and SEO to close the deal for you. ... Continue

Let’s play a little mental game: Imagine you need some standard service. An accountant, or a plumber. Close your eyes – who do you call? Chances are you named someone. You thought ‘Bill’ or ‘Mary’ or ‘Uncle Rico’ or something. The point is, you thought of someone specific, and you more than likely thought their name, even if they aren’t exactly good friends of yours (after all, who’s good friends with their plumber?). You personalised it immediately. ... Continue

Sometimes I wake up on Mondays, survey the To-Do list I’ve compiled for my freelance business, and have the strong urge to take my coffee back upstairs and get back into bed. I love my work very much – but let’s face it, in any job your work is only a percentage of your actual efforts. For myself, I think I spend only about 60% of my time on actual language translation – work that I enjoy and which inspired me to establish my freelance business in the first place – and the rest is spent on all the other activities that go into running a business, especially hunting down new clients. ... Continue

Ah, marketing. Some people – confused souls – actually enjoy marketing, and view it as a challenge. Most of these folks go into marketing as a profession, of course, but a small number pursue other business, and spend more time marketing themselves than anything else. Succeed or fail, at least they enjoy that work. ... Continue

No matter how you’re online business is doing, there’s always the nagging sense that you could be doing more, isn’t there? The feeling that if you just buckled down a bit and really got organised, you could be pulling in a lot more visitors than you currently are. And if you just perfected your pitch and web copy, you’d be converting a lot more of those visitors. And if you could just crack the problem of needing to sleep a little every night, you could be a millionaire! Even stipulating that being a millionaire is not what it used to be. ... Continue

Sometimes, I feel like a lot of the business advice given out to freelancers and sole proprietors needs to come with a lot of background materials. In other words, a lot of it is very breezy and superficial, and leaves you feeling like you just learned a lot without actually telling you how to do anything – it’s almost like the advice was run through some awful automatic language translation widget that produced text that seems to make sense while actually being more or less meaningless (a particular talent of automated translation, in my experience!). Your website is a perfect example: Newly founded businesses are told, with great excitement, to have a website. They may even be told the rudiments of how to accomplish this task. But what makes a good website? A successful website? After all, everyone has a website these days. ... Continue