Lessons learned: the power of networking
An increasingly important aspect of a freelancer's work has to do with self-promotion and marketing, essential in order to secure the right clients, projects and level of income. In my experience as a translator, it is useful to make use of as wide a range of channels as possible when working to develop your client base, going beyond social media so as to target specific audiences.
Before you start, it is important to establish exactly who your audience is. If, like me, you work in translation, you probably have particular areas of specialisation that you can, and should, promote when marketing your services. It can be useful to get yourself a website (there are many free platforms such as Wix if budget is a concern, particularly when starting out) or even some business cards or flyers for physical distribution. You could also consider listing your services in a targeted publication or local/regional newsletter for what can be cost-effective publicity.
I have explored various digital solutions but one thing I've learned is that you should never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Much of my work, particularly in the specialist motorsport and automotive fields, has come thanks to referrals from present or previous clients, or even mutual acquaintances for whom I've never actually worked directly. Aside from the quality of the actual texts and materials you deliver (essential!), it is also very important to ensure that 'service with a smile'. When working with new clients, be sure to leave a positive impression by also delivering in terms of your reliability, efficiency, trustworthiness, accuracy, promptness, friendliness, etc. etc.
In the fairly niche motorsport field, the fact that I can offer a quick turnaround and am available to work at weekends (during race events) when required is definitely appreciated by clients. Having a solid knowledge of the field, and therefore the related terminology, is also important of course. This has meant that although I started working for just one team, my collaborations have multiplied to include additional teams, individual athletes and manufacturers. Many of these projects have been thanks to the power of word of mouth, clients contacting me on the back of another client's referral at the racetrack.
Another very useful networking location is the trade show. Depending on your specialist areas, targeting relevant exhibitions and taking a day to visit and chat with companies in person can bear fruit in terms of new projects. Similarly, it might be worth reaching out to local businesses and institutions with details of your services, particularly if you live in the country of your source language. And word of mouth even extends to your personal relationships, your friends and relatives. You never know who might be in need of your services, or indeed when, so be sure to ask your nearest and dearest to put in a good word and advertise your business whenever the opportunity arises.
And once business is secured, wherever possible I invite new clients to provide feedback or a very short reference for use across my profiles. The more positive reviews you have, the better of course, the feedback serving to enhance your online 'shop window'. Depending on your fields of specialisation and thus your target audience, there are a range of ways to connect with people and expand your client base as a result. Although digital platforms are increasingly valuable, try not to rely solely on these when marketing your services. After all, an in-person meeting has the potential to leave the kind of impression that a (faceless) online profile never can.