I’ve said it before that while it’s fine to be an introvert, you’re never going to be a successful translator if you are afraid to talk to people.
At the least, you have to learn how to speak with your clients.
You can’t do everything over email or instant messenger. There are just some things that are easier to explain, faster to communicate, and more understandable when done either in person or over the phone.
And that’s just speaking with clients.
As a freelance translator (with the emphasis on the word freelance), you will most likely have to learn how to communicate with those that are not yet your customers.
Marketing your business is important if you actually want to have any business.
And you can’t just send out emails or fill out online applications forever.
At some point you’re going to have to talk to a real person and tell them about your business. It might not be that you’re trying to get their particular business. But what you should always be trying to do is implant in people’s minds that you are the person either they should go to when they need a translation problem solved, or you should be the person they recommend to their friends and associates when they need a translation problem solved.
Unfortunately, most of us are not natural communicators.
It’s not something that we necessarily learn how to do growing up. Unless our parents made it a point for us to talk to people, we never learned how. Instead, we were always told how dangerous it was to “talk to strangers.” That same thought stays in our subconscious as we get older.
We don’t learn it in school, either. We’re told to sit down and be quiet. We only talk to our friend during short breaks or during lunch time. We never talk to adults and we never ever talk to kids we don’t know.
And then, when we finally graduate high school or college, we’re told to go out into the world and find a job which requires talking to people, and we don’t know how.
So it takes practice.
But it is something that can be improved. Like nearly everything else.
But you’ll have to want to improve. And improvement naturally has periods of uncomfortableness. Recognize now that those feelings will go away as you become more confident in your ability to engage with others.
And speaking of confidence… it is a good place to start. Because when you have confidence, it can be applied to every other aspect of your life. But the thing about confidence is that it doesn’t come all of a sudden.
You don’t just wake up one day to the next all of a sudden having confidence. It is something that gradually builds up and on itself.
But you have to start with a grain of confidence for it to have something to build on.
You can’t build a giant snowball if you don’t have any snow to begin with. You have to start with a snowflake that gradually becomes bigger and bigger. Without that beginning, though, you won’t get anything.
So the first step is to recognize that you will need to start with at least pretending to have even a speck of confidence about yourself and your abilities.
And one way to do that is to write down a list of 5 to 10 traits that make you qualified to be a freelance translator. Start with that. Use that to tell yourself that you can be a successful translator and that it starts with being able to talk to people.
Our actions are shaped first by our thoughts and second, by our words.
This is a powerful truth that you might not realize.
Or you might have heard it before but not really believed it.
Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
You might think that this only has implications for the words you use and thoughts you have as they relate to other people. That’s not the case.
Even more so are the thoughts you have and words you use to describe yourself.
Do you think you’re not worthy of success?
Do you think you are inferior to other translators and that you really don’t deserve the success they have because you don’t have X, Y, or Z?
What about the words you use (whether verbalized or not) to describe yourself? Do you tell yourself that you’re shy? Do you tell yourself that it’s hard for you to be confident?
If so, you speak and think the truth.
You are what you think and say.
So start by changing your thoughts. Start by changing what you think about yourself and your abilities. Then start vocalizing those thoughts to yourself. Tell yourself that you’re the greatest translator there ever was.
Tel yourself that you are the greatest communicator known to man. Tell yourself that you love talking to people, and especially strangers, about your business.
If you do it enough, you’ll start to believe it, and your confidence level in yourself will begin to skyrocket.
You’ll notice it, and so will other people.
Write It Down
Once you start building your confidence, you next need to start practicing what you will say in different situations.
But before you practice, even, you need to know what to say.
Get out a pen and piece of paper.
I prefer this over writing it on a computer because I feel more connected to what I’m writing and I avoid unnecessary distractions.
But really either one will work as long as you can write it down.
And what are you writing down?
First, the different types of opportunities you’ll have to talk to other about your business.
Most of these will be responses to question:
- What do you do?
- How long have you been a translator?
- What do you translate?
- What got you into translation?
- What kind of translation do you do?
- How can you help my business using your translation skills?
- Does translation really have that much of an effect on business?
- Do you work for yourself?
- What is it like to be a freelancer?
- Where do you work?
These are just a sample of questions you might get from different people about your business. Come up with answers to these questions and any other ones you might come across. But don’t just think of the answers; actually write them down.
What are some other situations when you’ll have to talk about yourself?
What about when you meet people at a translation conference or talk to other translation colleagues about your work?
What about when you talk to actual clients about your work?
Come up with answers to questions or “canned statements” you can use that describe who you are and what you do.
Once you’ve written down on paper what you’re going to say in certain situations, practice saying those things. Memorize what you’re going to say and then stand in front of a mirror and practice saying them out loud.
Good comedians aren’t good because they are just naturally funny. They might be, but what makes them great is that they practice. Constantly. Until they get the joke just right. And not just the telling of the joke.
The voice they use.
The cadence they use when telling the joke.
Their body language.
They practice every aspect of that joke to make sure it hits.
That’s what you need to with your answers you wrote down. Practice saying them in front of a mirror so that you can see your facial expression, hear your voice, and see what your body is doing while your mouth is talking.
If you find yourself unimpressed with what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, or what your body is saying that your words are not, you’ll be able to tell in the mirror.
Revise Your Message
Practicing is one thing, but to take your skills to the next level, you need to revise your approach based on what works and what doesn’t.
And the only way to do that is by networking in real life.
And by the way, I hate the term networking.
It has this connotation of you trying to get to know people for the sole purpose of them giving you something.
Instead of networking, let’s just call it getting to know people.
Go out in the real world and talk to people. And when the situation comes up, tell them what you do.
But don’t apologize for it and don’t make it sound super lame.
When someone asks, “hey, so what do you do for a living?” give them your 15-second routine that you’ve practiced about you being a translator.
And then the important part.
Gauge their reaction.
This is super critical.
Because the words you use (among other things) can have a huge effect on the way that the other person perceives your or your business.
What’s the difference between telling someone, “Oh, I’m just a translator.” versus telling them, “I work with clients all over the world refining their communications for foreign markets.”
They’re both true.
They both describe what you do.
But one of the descriptions describes your business as something insignificant that nobody cares about. The other one will get people to listen.
So revise your method until you get the response you want.
Remember, though, that to do that you need to actually talk to real people.
P.S. Want 40 other ways to improve your business? Read my book.