Two months already since I last wrote a piece apologies for my silence but it has been a busy summer. Not that I was engrossed working on my first big project or away on an exotic holiday. I just moved house and country as well, leaving Wales for Scotland. It all happened very quickly: in less than two months really. Needless to say, the research I did about the different business support agencies throughout the UK is definitely going to prove handy.
Although I chose this career path with mobility in mind, I never expected I will be moving at the time of starting up. My business cards arrived on our last day in Wales. All these great professional-looking cards, and no one except friends to give them to. How frustrating!
Even if, despite the flat hunting and packing, I tried to stick to what I had planned to do over the summer, I was not able to contact the businesses on my list. By the time my website was up and running and I had been officially granted membership of the IOL, it was already mid-August: most of the small businesses were closed for the holidays. Besides, I was worried introducing my services to businesses a week before moving 300 miles away would be useless and even counterproductive. And it proved to be wise as I am going to be without a landline or an Internet connection for more than two weeks! Although I can do my job from wherever in the world, I felt it was important in order to target customers to make them feel I was not only close (at least in the first instance) but also in a stable position to fully concentrate on my work.
As to how I selected businesses, I first had a random look at Ceredigion’s flagship companies. My business advisor then mentioned I contacted International Trade Wales as she remembered they had a translator database for the Welsh companies wishing to export their goods. Unfortunately, the database has now disappeared and they have a website where all jobs are tendered out. I registered with that website and have enquired at my Businesseye centre about training to tendering but it has so far remained unanswered.
At the time, what I was just looking for was an organisation telling me which companies in the area were exporting. As there is no Chamber of Commerce in my area, I did not know whom to turn to. Then I heard about the Manufacturing Group and managed to get a copy of their yearly directory: this small booklet gives a detailed profile of all its members, specifying the number of employees, activities, turnover, targeted market and a name to contact. To start with, I selected the ones in my field of specialisation and dealing with a European or International market. Then, I went on to browse their website, to see if it already offered a translation into French or any other language.
Being torn between the desire to take the plunge and the knowledge that I was not in a strong position yet, I decided to contact one company, just to see what would result of it. The business I contacted offered three advantages: first, I knew the director which allowed me to resort to a less formal approach; second I had an interest in its trade and the necessary skills; third, its website was translated into German, Spanish, Polish and Welsh but not in French at all, although it boasted having done business in France. I then decided to send an email highlighting the striking absence of a French version. The answer I got was definitely positive, although I have to wait first for them to redesign their site.
One difficulty of jumping into the big world of self-employment that I had so far overlooked is managing the time between promises and their realisations (if they ever do so). I guess it is like fishing: you throw the bait, wait for a while (sometimes to no avail), then feel you have a bite but sometimes, by the time you pull it up, the fish have gone! Well, I have got the impression I am about to embark on a long fishing trip with its share of waiting, false hopes but hopefully big catches too!
Selling my services is definitely the thing I dread most How should I go about it? By letter? Cold calling? Face to face (but you need to get an appointment first)? What I know is that I need to target the right person first, one with decision-making powers. Easier said than done Fortunately enough my business advisor offered to check my list and suggest possible suitable contacts. As for meetings, I think role-play might help me to gain confidence and learn how to impress prospective clients.
What I am planning to do in the next few weeks is to try and reap what I sow in Wales while starting the same process again in Scotland. I will also start sending my CV (what do you recommend: should I do it online or with a cover letter?) to translation agencies, first locally and then nationally. Some of you might think I should have started with them. There are several reasons why I waited: the first one is that on top of the DipTrans I needed my IOL membership, which I only got three weeks ago. Secondly, most agencies require at least five years of full-time experience (a criteria I obviously do not meet). Finally, I did not want to feel my future career was in the sole hands of translation agencies. My strategy so far is to target two different clienteles: on one hand, businesses through canvassing and my website and on the other hand, translation agencies.
Yet before contacting the latter, I want to finish the project I am working on hoping it will give me some credentials. After applying several times on the UN Volunteering website, I got finally selected although I do not know if I should owe this to everyone else being on holiday or to the link to my professional website.
Part 4 of my diary will be devoted to the promotion of my website and the handling of my first big project. In the meantime, your comments and advice are more than welcome.
To be continued.
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