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business development


view from the booth

Summer is usually a good time to catch up with our CPD goals, which normally include a lot of work on our languages and trade skills but very little on our business ones.

Now, with so much uncertainty on the horizon, it would not be a bad idea to revise our business setup or, if necessary, start thinking of creating a more formal structure for our work.

Business skills do not necessarily come naturally to translators and interpreters – if you are anything like me, you would rather spend your time surrounded by words than by numbers.

However, not having a business-minded approach to our work can truly hamper our progress and keep us from developing the wonderful career I am certain we are all capable of.

So, how should we go about putting together a business CPD plan that works and does not drive us nuts?

The first step is to conduct a brief but thorough assessment of our nonlinguistic


A good way to do this is to conduct a simple five-star test: block 30 minutes in your calendar to sit down and reflect on the following business areas. Then give yourself a star for every ‘yes’.


  • Do you have a business plan in place
  • Do you know what your key activities (service and product offering) are
  • What about your value propositions (what you bring to the table)?
  • How about your cost structure and rates?
  • And your key resources and partners?


  • Do you have a system for keeping track of your business expenses (a spreadsheet would do)?
  • Do you have an invoicing system in place (a Word template would do)?
  • Have you created a draft of your preferred terms and conditions?
  • Do you have a basic questionnaire/template for producing your quotations?
  • Have you set up a dedicated bank account for your business?


  • Do you have a professional email address with your own domain?
  • Have you recorded a proper welcome message for your voicemail?
  • Do you have a business name?
  • How about a colour scheme?
  • Have you had professional-looking business cards printed?


  • Have you created a LinkedIn profile and kept it up-to-date?
  • Do you have a professional profile on any other social-media channels?
  • Do you have a tagline that identifies you and your business?
  • Have you drafted your three main key messages?
  • Do you have a list of keywords to use when describing your work?


  • Do you keep an updated list of active contacts?
  • Do you have a follow-up strategy?
  • Have you reflected on your ideal prospect profile?
  • Do you keep up with key events in your sector?
  • Have you defined your pitch (what you will say when you introduce yourself and your work)?

These are some of the key areas that turn a gig-landing freelance practice into a freelance business with a mission and a solid foundation to grow on.

Now that you know where you stand, you can take your current status as your baseline and start building from there.

A good place to start is the British Library’s Business & IP Centre (https://http://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre). The Centre offers entry-level workshops, support resources, and guidance covering all matters related to starting and running a business.

Their resources, which are available online and in different libraries across the UK, are often free or relatively inexpensive compared with most of the business ‘gurus’ out there.

Their ‘Innovating for Growth: Start-ups’ programme is particularly interesting for those just getting started – I know because I joined it about three years ago and saw my freelance business’s value more than double.

I never joke about linguists getting proper business training and I do think it should be part of the curriculum at school.

Still, graduating is just the beginning of a wonderful journey, and we know we should never stop learning along the way – even if it is about business.


** Article originally published in the LRG Newsletter, August 2020

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