Lesson 65: 4 steps to market research for freelance translators or interpreters

Lesson 65: 4 steps to market research for freelance translators or interpreters

To wrap up the market research for freelance translators or interpreters month, following a series of posts on the importance of market research in translation to market research resources, let’s look at how to conduct market research if you are a freelance translator or interpreter and cannot really pay thousands of pounds to a market research company. We’ll also discuss how to act on your findings.

Step one: determine the scope of your research

When we start conducting market research, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the wealth of resources and simply start feeling lost rather than in the know. The first step to market research is to define your own objectives, i.e. what do you want to find out? I suggest brainstorming some market research questions and writing them down on a piece of paper. This may include anything you’d like to know about your industry, areas of specialisation, clients, competition, etc. When all the questions are written down, group them under similar headlines.

Step two: gather existing information

Once you’ve determined what you want to find out, start by digging and discovering existing market information (also called “secondary resources”). Some examples of resources you may want to look at are included in my previous blog post. You’ll be amazed how many resources and publications are available out there for free, and they should be your first bet.

When researching, you’ll surely come across paid-for secondary resources, either about our own industry (such as market reports or surveys) or about your fields of specialisation. Paid-for resources may be a good investment, but often are more expensive than a freelancer can afford. However, the majority of market reports start with executive summaries, often available for free.

Step three: your own research

The third step in conducting your market research is looking at primary market research resources, in other words market research that you gather yourself from people. Primary market research is usually associated with costly telephone or in-person interviews or even focus groups, but you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands on it.

One of the ways of conducting your own primary research is running surveys among your existing or potential clients. eCPD Webinars is offering a webinar with Michael Farrell on “creating a client satisfaction survey for your translation business” in December and I think it’s an excellent idea to learn about surveys on a budget. If you conduct a survey among your existing clients, you’ll surely gain eye-opening insights, while asking the right questions to your potential clients can help you understand their needs better.

Mystery shopping is another way of doing your own research. The idea is to shop around for quotes for translation services to assess what others are charging, how they are selling their services, or how their customer service is like. While sometimes debatable or questionable, this exercise will surely help you benchmark your offer against others, especially agencies. This may be a real eye-opener.

As a freelancer, you can also invest a bit of time and money into organising a focus group. It’s just a matter of getting people who could be your potential clients together and ask the right questions. In a focus group, you also get to listen to the language your potential clients use and the way they behave. There are many advantages to that!

Observing people and asking questions on LinkedIn groups related to your areas of expertise is a cost-effective half-measure when you can’t run a survey or set up a focus group.

Step four: action!

Insight without action doesn’t do much difference, so after you’ve gathered your business intelligence, it’s time to turn information into action. The best way to go about taking action is to go back to the questions you’ve asked in step one and answer them based on the data you found. These answers will help you determine your SMART objectives and goals. SMART stands for goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. In other words, each market research question that you asked should be followed by a SMART goal that will change or improve the way you run your own business.
I’m an enthusiast of SMART goals and they’re something I’m encouraging my Business School students to do. SMART goals motivate me to act because I can see specific, measurable and time-bound objectives that I have to reach to improve my business. It’s much easier to “obtain 5 new SME direct clients by the end of year 2013” rather than “gain new clients”.

What do you think?

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