Most translators would actively choose laundry over marketing our translation business. I’ve got a few ideas as to why we fall into the life essentials versus business essentials trap and what to do about it.
Day 71, Kaikoura, New Zealand.
A walk along the coast with a freshwater river on one side and a turquoise ocean on the other against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The sun was shining, my friend Julia and I had found a hostel for the next few days and it was a delight. Spacious rooms, free bike hire, fresh bread and end-of-day cream cakes from the bakery next door. And what an inspiring view! Nature as far as the eye could see in every direction, invigorating ocean air, and a resident seal colony just a gentle stroll away along the coastal path. I couldn’t wait to choose my next adventure.
But I still had to do laundry. Living out of a backpack for months on end made that a necessary evil, and it got no more enjoyable with a spectacular view. Especially when severely sleep deprived from my roommates’ night-time shenanigans and an early start that morning driving to that very destination.
You’ve got to pay the bills
The practicalities of life can suck, irritate, and leave you more frustrated than a backpacker whose mini-adventure left them with excruciating earache and a doctor’s bill. Been there, got the antibiotics, still worth the adventure. The necessities get done and life goes on.
When it comes to business, however, it’s easy to focus on the next exciting translation project and fill your time pleasing clients. You’ve got to pay the bills, after all. But if you want to reach higher-paying clients for greater job satisfaction and an easier route to your income goals, marketing your translation business is also a necessity. Logically, you know this. Yet instead of accepting your fate and knuckling down to some strategic outreach, that laundry pile starts to look desperately urgent.
I’ve fallen for the appeal of life’s essentials over business essentials too. After the initial excitement of starting a new business or marketing project, you can bet your most prized holiday souvenir that I’ll find a home renovation project that needs doing right that very week.
Obstacles in our path to easier marketing
Why do we do this and what stops us before we even start marketing our translation business? Here are three huge obstacles in our path:
1. You view marketing as a mountainous megabeast that you have to psych yourself up to do battle with. Marketing encompasses so many different activities and the act of engaging with a potential client on LinkedIn gets lumped together with a long-term project or strategy.
2. Lack of clarity. When you’re not clear about what you need to do and why you’re doing it in the first place, it’s hard to know where to start. This also makes it difficult to fit outreach activities into your daily schedule because you don’t know how long they will take. Get clear, save time!
3. Overreliance on motivation. If you’ve ever pushed marketing aside because you haven’t got the energy or aren’t feeling the vibe, you’re relying on motivation. The problem is, motivation is unreliable and will show up only if the conditions are perfect.
You can’t be motivated if you’re not clear about what you need to do, or even what you want to avoid. Perhaps something is holding you back, but you haven’t uncovered exactly what that something is and you can’t jump over a hurdle you can’t see. Sometimes the problem is not understanding the connection between your current actions and the ultimate goal. If that’s the case then you might convince yourself that your current task is a pointless exercise and waste of time – especially when your energy is low.
Acknowledge the obstacles and market your translation business anyway
Create a list of short marketing activities that take 15 minutes. There will always be something you can tick off the list if you’re restricted to short pockets of time. For example, send a connection request on LinkedIn to an interesting person in your target audience, send an email to a client you haven’t worked with for a while.
Microsteps: I see your big lofty goals and I raise you projects that have been broken down into low-effort microsteps. Even if you have multiple demands on your time, you can still transform your business and achieve great things if you take them one step at a time. Write out everything you need to do and make each task super simple.
Bonus tool: I’ve recently discovered a tool called Magic To Do, which suggests sub-tasks for any project you enter. Keep clicking ‘break down item’ on individual sub-tasks until they’re small enough for you to complete in a regular timeslot.
Get curious: Sometimes you’re bogged down in the details of what you need to learn before taking action. A detailed focus is important for translation but it ruins your marketing mindset. Get curious and take your research out in the field like an Explorer in Business. You could also ask a colleague or marketing guide (hi!) for a fresh perspective on your business or marketing strategy and to help explore what might be holding you back from taking action. Let’s get you unstuck so all those wonderful clients can benefit from your translation service!
Delve deeper into the dastardly detours that prevent you making progress
Other obstacles in your path may include: a fear of not meeting expectations, rusty language skills that won’t impress potential clients, a need to learn more, gain more skills, concerns that you’ll take a wrong turn in your marketing etc. Read more about these and how best to tackle your concerns in my book Your Ticket To Explore – Essential Preparation For Your Translator Marketing Adventures.
My wish for you is to breathe new life into your business and have your pick of amazing translation adventures. The laundry will still get done.
And yes, when writing my book, I did succumb to procrastination. At some point between the final edits and all the publishing-related tasks, I repainted my office and completely reorganised my son’s bedroom. Once I found myself ordering paint to redecorate yet another room I gave myself a stern talking to! Catch yourself doing it and redirect to move closer to your destination of new clients.