Lesson 129: How to apply business knowledge to your actual translation business?

Lesson 129: How to apply business knowledge to your actual translation business?

Surrounded with a variety of sources (including this blog), we’re exposed to tips and pieces of advice on how to run a translation business on a day to day basis. Add several books and a couple of translation conferences a year and you’ll end up with a great collection of useful bits… on paper. I know from my own experience both on the receiving end and as a business trainer that hearing and learning about business theories, skills and solutions and applying them are two completely different worlds. The problem these days isn’t in limited sources but rather in our limitations in applying what we’ve learned.

How many times have you felt that you came across a really useful suggestion that could work for you but then you get swamped with work and all these ideas just drift away? Or how many times have you attended a workshop, left inspired, but then struggled to put any of it in practice to improve your actual translation business? Maybe even reading an article , you note down a couple of interesting bits, but you never make them work?

I think that business skills, tips and knowledge especially need mechanisms in place to put them in practice. Of course it’s important to find time and make space to learn, but it’s equally or even more important to design implementation. Based on experience, I wanted to share my 5-step guide to applying business knowledge to your translation business.

1. Answer this question: why did I want to learn about it in the first place?

From being attracted to an article headline to jumping and signing up to an interesting workshop, there’s always something that attracts us to this particular new bit of knowledge. Why did you read it in the first place? What made you register? Thinking about and focusing on our motivations helps us discover the pain we’re trying to “heal” in our business. Acknowledging this pain or shortcoming or need is the first step to defining what’s missing or what needs fixing in your translation business. Accepting that something needs a mend or improvement is the first step to changing it.

2. Review what you’re doing now and reflect on it.

If I see I’m reading many articles about time management or that when I see a workshop on improving time management for busy business people, I acknowledge that the area I need to work on is obviously time management. The next step after this realisation is to review your current situation and actions in this area. I need help with time management because I’m accepting too many commitments, I can’t prioritise and I end up being overworked. I work with a detailed calendar but I often consciously overbook myself and expect to do two things at the same time or work on a plane after a very short night. I know what I’m doing right, but I’m aware of what I’m doing wrong as well.

3. Formulate the new approach.

This was exactly the reason why I spoke to Marie Jackson from Looking-glass Translations who kindly offered productivity consultancy sessions to her blog readers. We had a great conversation via Skype and then Marie sent loads of follow-up documents. I also read up on the topic. And of course it all could’ve ended here, with me being painfully aware of my problem and knowing what to do to fix it but never doing it. Instead, I decided to use all of this knowledge to formulate my new approach. I even narrowed it down to one sentence: ‘ignore shiny objects’. This was my new attitude to managing my own time and I created a set of rules that came attached to this approach. I knew that from then on, this was how I was going to manage my time.

4. Set a SMART goal.

Of course, formulating your new approach to a problem, challenge or business area is crucial but not enough. Setting clear SMART goals is what really forces you to use this approach. My ‘ignore shiny objects’ approach manifested itself in me:

  • Specific: ignoring all events, conferences and blog articles that didn’t meet the criteria developed within my new approach and creating a 3-month calendar of events.
  • Measurable: limiting the number of events I attend to two a month and using the time saved on more scalable promotional efforts.
  • Achievable: I respected all previous commitments but declined all new ones or unconfirmed ones.
  • Relevant: I knew that my goal was to save time.
  • Time-bound: Until the end of 2015.

5. Measure your results.

It’s easy for me to measure my results with the time management example: I can look at my calendar to see if I’m keeping up. It may be a bit more tricky with other tips or business skills, but measuring your success or return on investment is crucial. You may want to decide to measure it in terms of time, money, relationships built, your own satisfaction… As long as you’re measuring results and then can review by the end of your SMART period.

Any tricks on applying what you’ve learned to your translation business?