This article was originally published in the May 2013 edition of the ATA Chronicle.

shutterstock_1953143So, you have chosen to be a translator? You have finished school, compiled your transcripts, and joined ATA. You consider yourself to be highly skilled and quality conscious. You are motivated, energized, and excited to be a part of connecting the world through translation. Sounds great, now what? It is time to build your business.

Without experience, referrals, or clients, how do you market yourself? First, there is not a secret sauce or silver bullet, there are not any short cuts, or easy ways to fast-track your business. One proven way to being a successful translator can be found in this formula:

Proficiency x Activity = Success

It may sound simple, but it is anything but simple. If it were, every translator would have a thriving, successful business. Always remember, before you can be a great translator you have to be proficient at getting clients.

Let’s look at how to become proficient. As the world of translation becomes more and more competitive you have to be able to stand out from the crowd. Companies find value in specialists. For example, do not just focus on an industry. Specialize! Find an industry niche and become an expert! Show value! Because there is NO value (or money) in being a jack of-all-trades. Once you have identified your niche, then you have to get active. Be creative with your marketing activities. Here are some ideas: submit articles to your target industry’s publications on how translation affects their business; blog about how translations are used in your target niche; or find an association to join and volunteer to contribute to its newsletter. And do not wait for the phone to ring—reach out to your target customers and share your passion for helping them solve a problem. Finally, you will have to submit lots of samples (and, being a newbie, probably unpaid samples).

But being an expert in your niche will help prospects overlook your lack of experience. Just remember, if it were easy, everyone would be successful.