How to turn dry spells into opportunities

Let’s face it: we all go through dry spells. Even those who’ll never admit it. Depending on the specializations and customer base, some of us get less requests at the beginning of the year, when for instance companies haven’t made up their mind yet about their marketing plans, for others it will be the summer months and so on.

When telephone and email go silent, panic is set to kick in. With experience, you learn to take these moments a bit more philosophically, as a respite from your busiest days, and to turn them into opportunities: to improve your skills, to clean up your computer which is about to explode into space, to put your accounting in shape. Or maybe, just to relax and enjoy your hobbies.

Here are a few tips to turn dry spells to your advantage:

  • Invest in your ongoing professional development: improve your knowledge of a specific industry, learn how to use new IT tools, explore terminology, or take a course on how to overcome dry spells! Today there is virtually no end to online resources, webinars and free MOOC’s. Just maybe check them out beforehand with your colleagues or translators groups, to see if someone can vouch for the trainer/training company or if they already completed the course and found it useful or not.
  • Read, read, read: it seems like an awkward tip to give translators, but sometimes we forget there are lots of good books out there which can help us learn new things, improve skills we already have or give us an insight of what’s new or coming in our profession. (Not to mention reading in both source and target language is essential to improving writing skills). At the moment, I am reading a marketing book for translators, a book on content curation and a book on Italian copy-writing and editing techniques (but I’ve already put in the next order!). Besides books, there are also many interesting websites, online blogs, translators groups and the like: I keep learning a lot online from fellow translators as well as from experts in marketing or digital media, for instance.
  • Go over your accounting, and from time to time check costs vs. revenues (or ask your accountant to do that for you): I’m no finance expert, but by simply putting down all costs related to my profession and my daily life vs. what I make as a freelance professional, helps me get a better picture of the situation. It is also a good exercise to re-evaluate/update your rates.
  • Search for new clients/contacts in an area you would like to expand or a new one altogether, and approach each one with a customized presentation. Research the industry and the client, learn what, how and where they do it, try and find a contact name which makes sense for you and personalize your standard presentation. Quality always wins over quantity, at least in my experience. And it pays out, maybe not today but tomorrow, maybe not directly but by referrals.
  • Apart from contacting clients directly, you can have them contact you. If you don’t have one, consider creating a website to market your services, or maybe update the one you have: if you don’t have the budget, there are platforms which offer free templates and hosting, very easy to customize. Consider opening a professional page on Facebook and/or a Twitter account to use for your work. Open an account on LinkedIn and use it as your online resume, but also to collect testimonials from happy customers, which you can then use to promote yourself to new ones. If you have the time, participate in job-related discussions and groups on the main social networks. Or other ways you can think of to build and promote your online presence.
  • Cultivate the relationship with your colleagues: if they know who you are and what you do, they might contact you when they are in overload, or they can refer you. Networking and words of mouth are still up there among the best ways to get jobs.
  • Try something new or to overcome something you don’t understand or find worrying. For instance, for me historically January has always been a slow month, for various reasons linked to my customer base. So besides taking a few trainings, finalizing and publishing my new website, pestering the graphic designer I work with with a few ideas such as an e-brochure I want to send my hospitality customers, writing new blog posts, I decided the time had come to overcome my aversion of Twitter. So I embraced the challenge: I read inspiring tips from other translators and marketers on how making it work professionally, I created an account and started twitting about subjects I know about and I am interested in from a professional point of view, such as translating, language, marketing, advertising, digital, social media, hospitality etc. Plus I started following profiles I found interesting and agencies specialized in transcreation and marketing translation: some of these I researched, one immediately responded to my contact, one thing led to another and they asked me to take on transcreation and marketing translation for a new account. And in the end I discovered I even like Twitter, quite a lot actually!
  • Try to keep a positive mind: I hear you, I do. I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, as I do think it myself sometimes. It’s not easy, when you’re faced with silence. But a pessimistic view can only involve us in a downward spiral. Just don’t sit there and do nothing. That’s the only thing you can’t, or shouldn’t do.

Of course we should strive to do all of the above also when we are busy, but then days should have 48 hours and we all should have a personal assistant, virtual or otherwise, to assist with accounting, invoicing, research and day-to-day activities. Jokes aside, marketing/self-promoting and ongoing development activities should be a constant part of our job and we should be so forward-thinking as to put aside a few hours a week to do just that. Not easy, but advisable. So the next dry spell won’t be so dry or scary.

About the author
Laura Cattaneo is an Italian solo entrepreneur in the field of marketing, creative and legal translation and editing, specialist in hospitality, luxury and digital. She puts her many years of experience to the advantage of her clients by creating texts resonating with the Italian-speaking audience and making brands locally relevant. Connect with her on LinkedIn or visit her website.