As a language professional, you help the world communicate effectively and that’s something you should be proud of. Still, even the best language professionals might experience interference in their communication with clients in times of crisis.
If the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on your language business, here are 9 strategies that can help you through these tough times.
1. Enquire about unpaid invoices
Although many companies are struggling with their finances right now, it’s more than fair that you get the money for work you’ve done.
Don’t just assume your company clients are going through a tough time money-wise and that it’s best not to bother them. Send a warm email or call them to make things clear.
If things are bad at their end, you can always negotiate payment by instalments or agree on other terms that don’t affect your business.
2. Stay connected with your professional community
Blessed be the internet in times of physical isolation! Take this precious chance to keep socialising. And we don’t mean just with family and friends, but with colleagues, too.
Some people are actually experiencing a work overload and could use a hand. Or who knows? Maybe there’s a colleague looking for someone with your profile to refer to a client. So stay active within professional communities and social media groups by commenting on posts and sharing valuable information.
You could also consider publishing a post where you introduce yourself (if you haven’t done so before) and specify your services, fields of work, target clients or other information that makes you unique and easily identifiable.
And why not send a friendly email asking colleagues if they can share work with you?
3. Reach out to old clients
Just as your regular clients might still need you in these times, who knows if your old ones couldn’t also use your services? Send them a warm email asking how things are and explaining how your services can help their business during a pandemic.
You might also want to think about offering them a discount for COVID-19 related projects, considering they’re old clients. That way, you make sure they can afford the services they need while you keep money coming in.
Even if their projects don’t fall within your fields of work, you can always recommend them a trusted colleague from your network that will be able to help. These small gestures will certainly be appreciated and keep you in their thoughts for future projects.
4. Adapt your business to your clients’ needs
Freelancers are usually creative and resourceful people. Well, the COVID-19 era is the time to be even more creative than usual and perhaps try a different approach. These are the two questions you should ask yourself:
How can you continue to support your clients with your services in the current situation?
If you’re a language teacher, mentor, or interpreter, you can use Skype, YouTube videos or online training platforms to keep offering your services.
If you’re a copywriter, suggest that a company client write a series of blog or social media posts on how to preserve mental health during the COVID-19 crisis or on working from home with kids around.
If you’re a translator, why not propose to your ‘big fish’ clients translating a newsletter, informing foreign employees and partners about new measures and good practices?
Are there any other services your clients would find interesting?
Think about the challenges your clients are facing now and adjust your skills accordingly. Look through their website, social media profiles or other communication channels to understand how you can help.
Alternatively, simply send them a nice email to let them know you’re there to help with your extra skillset. Perhaps that client you’ve been translating for needs some fresh content written from scratch or the company you’ve been providing copywriting services to could use a language consultant.
5. Assess your business
If work has slowed down, this is also a great time to reassess your business and think about where you are in your freelance career.
Here’s the most important question of all: how happy are you as a language business owner?
To help you answer this question, grab a piece of paper and write down anything and everything that makes you unhappy in your professional life.
Planning your marketing?
Not working with your ideal clients?
Doing too many administrative tasks?
There are always different ways of doing things and now is a good time to come up with solutions.
Should you consider hiring a part-time assistant (i.e. a language student who needs some extra cash)? Is there a CDP course or mentoring programme that can help you achieve your goals?
6. Market your business
You might think this isn’t the right time to market your services. Well, think again. Remember that you are still a valuable asset. After all, content is still being written, students and mentees still want to learn, and foreign audiences still need to be reached.
If you’re a language professional working in the tourism field, you’re certainly feeling the pandemic’s strong negative impact on your business. Try to think outside the box, though.
Where can you find new clients in a different – yet similar enough – field? What about online businesses and digital brands? With everyone staying home, this type of business is growing fast.
Which are the brands you love or buy from? Offer them your language services and tell them about how you’re a fan of their products. The creative skills you used in tourism projects will surely be useful in marketing jobs, and being a client is always a plus because you already know the brand.
Have you also thought about contacting bodies from your local community? Maybe they need COVID-19 related materials proofread, translated, or even written.
7. Invest in training
One of the best things you can do with your extra time is investing in online courses. All it takes is a quick internet search to find both free and paid courses that will suit your needs.
Choose a specific course that will add value to your services or invest in marketing training to grow your business.
There are also several universities around the world offering free online courses across a wide range of areas, from creative writing to SEO.
8. Create content for your audience
Another thing you can invest your time in is creating valuable content for your clients. If you’re still working with them, this is a way of helping them through a difficult time; if you’ve stopped being contacted because of the COVID-19 situation, it’s a smart way to keep in touch.
What type of information do you think they need and what would be the best medium for sharing your content? Maybe they will appreciate a weekly newsletter with language tips or a blog series about working from home.
9. Invest in your marketing materials
It may sound like the worst time to invest in your business, but consider two things: first, if work has slowed down at your end, now you have the time to think carefully about your marketing; second, this pandemic will end eventually and a strong marketing strategy will help you get back on your feet again.
Remember that you don’t need to make a big investment to have a compelling business. Think about the things you can improve to make your target audience trust and hire your services.
Would a professional logo and email signature make an impact?
Does your CV need a good makeover?
What about an appealing website or digital brochure?
If you already have some of these marketing materials, think about how they can be improved.
Are they up-to-date?
Do they reflect your business persona?
Are they still relevant to the kind of clients you want to attract?
Above all, stay positive and look at the present moment as an opportunity to reassess your business and change what’s not working for you, be it your methods, your clients, or your marketing strategy. All important decisions need time – and that’s your most precious gift right now.
Any advice from your end? Don’t be shy: share your insights with us!