This month we looked at how freelancers can make the most of business planning through SMART goals, writing everything down and carefully selecting how and when to write. In the last post under this topic, I’d like to discuss what sections you may want to include in your translator’s business plan – of course if you decide you need one – and how to come up with a good structure.
Even though this section is usually in the beginning of your business plan, you should write it last. Executive summary should contain a summary of what does your business do, what do you want to achieve with your translation business, what is the reason why you’re translating and what’s your vision for the future.
In here, you want to write as if you were presenting your company to outsiders. I found this exercise very useful because it forced me to think about big questions about my business and then I could use some of the ideas or even sentences in my marketing copy. This section should contain your mission statement (what is the reason for existing of your business?), your goals and objectives, and business philosophy. Apart from these statements, summarise your client segments, the translation industry and your strengths and competencies. Of course, you’re very unlikely to have to show this document to anybody, but it will help you clarify these points for yourself.
Because you’re a freelance translator or interpreter, it’s very important that you outline your key competencies and background, rather than talking about staff, operations and management (as often present in traditional business plans). Use this section for your own benefit: write down everything that acts in your favour, turn features into benefits, do a SWOT analysis.
Describe in depth what you’re offering as if you were talking to somebody who knows nothing about translation or interpreting. Doing that will give you ready-made answers to some of your potential clients’ questions. Look at factors that will give you competitive advantage and think about the best way of showcasing them in your services. What is your pricing strategy?
For the purposes of your business, not only your business plan, identify main segments of your customers, their demographics, geographic locations, and as many characteristics as you can find. If you’re translating or interpreting for individuals, try to find out their age, location, income level, occupation, education, etc. If you’re working mostly with businesses, describe their industry, locations, size, quality, etc.
The way I went about this section is as follows. I prepared a simple table where I listed my main competitors (or, as I prefer to call them, other players on the market), added their website addresses and noted the main things I think they’re doing right. You may also compare yourself against competition according to the following criteria: services offered, price, quality, customer service, reliability, expertise, reputation, location, or image. Is there anything they’re doing that you could be doing better? This section of a business plan will help you identify that.
In this section, analyse how you’re going to let your prospective customers know you’re here. Start by identifying low-cost methods you can use to promote your business. When comes to expenses, try to justify every investment and estimate how much business it has to bring you to make it worthwhile. Plan your marketing for the whole year.
This is perhaps the most challenging section of a business plan that many freelance translators struggle with. I suggest you go about it in the following way. Estimate the worst case scenario for the whole year, writing down all the expenses and minimum income you have to bring in to make sure you stay afloat. It will give you a feeling of security, so much needed for freelancers. By estimating what is the lowest amount of money you have to make a month, you’re going to feel much more confident and you’ll sleep better. Then make the desirable financial prognosis where you actually see how much money you’d like to be making. In turn, this may act as a motivator and you’re quite likely to start thinking how you can reach this goal.