Is Coaching Worth the Investment for Freelance Translators?

Coaching is an investment in yourself and your growth, which, as a freelancer, is an investment in your business and its growth.

Entrepreneurship comes with many inherent challenges. As freelancers, we tend to think we have to figure it all out on our own. When we get stuck in some area, we may take it as evidence that we’re just not capable, rather than seeing it as one of the normal trials of running a business.

It’s for just those times that having a second brain on hand can do wonders. Studies have shown that “two or more people are always better than an individual for solving problems, finishing off difficult tasks, and increasing creativity.”1 There’s a lot you can do on your own, but at some point you’ll probably need to look outside yourself for new ideas and solutions.

Continuing education and training courses are one way to do that. Coaching is a more laser-focused solution that’s customized to your business and your needs.

What Is Coaching?

You’ve probably heard of some form of coaching (e.g., business, life, health, etc.), as the industry has expanded dramatically in the past 30–40 years. So, what are we talking about, exactly?

One of the simplest definitions of coaching is “to help a person change in the way they wish and help them go in the direction they want to go.”2 Another definition is “a collaborative relationship between a business owner or chief executive officer and a professional coach, aimed at strategically developing a successful business.”3

Having outside perspective and insight on the workings of your business can be invaluable. Yes, you’re the expert on your business, but we all have blind spots, and we only know what we know. A coach is someone you can bounce ideas off, who can provide support while you take a scary leap, and who can help you see alternate routes when you feel stuck. They can also teach you new strategies and techniques and guide you in developing or working around your weaker areas.

The Coaching Package

Many coaches sell their services in “packages.” A coaching package will likely include a set number of meetings over a period of time (these days, probably via videoconference or over the phone, but potentially in person), which may be one-on-one or in a group depending on the option you choose. Some coaches also offer additional support between calls through email, text, or voice memo. (This in-the-moment support is invaluable, and I highly recommend this option to troubleshoot problems as they come up.)

Working with your coach may involve going through their curriculum to learn a concrete method or strategy (e.g., to identify your target market, get more direct clients, rebrand your online presence, etc.), or your meetings may be more open-ended, where you can discuss areas where you need support at that time. Other packages include video modules you can work through at your own pace, memberships in online communities with similar professionals, or specialized services such as help with your marketing copy, branding, etc. Look around to find what you need that falls within your budget.

While you don’t need a coach to run a successful business, there are many ways that working with one can help you overcome obstacles that arise and achieve your goals in less time. The following are just a few areas where coaching can be useful.

What Problems Can Coaching Help Freelancers Solve?

Marketing/Finding Clients

Marketing and finding new clients on an ongoing basis are some of the most common challenges freelancers face. Many freelancers say they’re terrible at marketing, that they hate marketing, or, and I hear this often, that they do no marketing for their business.

The truth is that selling your services is simply another skill that can be learned. Getting support in this area can mean thousands of dollars of new revenue for your business. If you find marketing to be intimidating, working with a strategist can ease the process of a) figuring out what you need to do, and b) taking action.

A business or marketing coach will help develop a marketing strategy that makes sense for your target market and for your personality, because the best marketing is the kind you’ll actually do. While it can be easy to let these tasks slide when it’s just you, working with a coach helps you stay accountable to your commitments, even when you’re busy with current clients.

Goal Setting and Achievement

Dreaming is easy, but how do you then bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be? This is where a coach can come in, guiding you to set goals that are ambitious enough but still within reach, and to break them down into actionable steps to get there.

A skilled mentor or coach will also be able to help you identify what has prevented you from achieving your goals thus far. Maybe you’re trying to work on too many things at once, so you need to work on getting your priorities clear and focusing on one thing at a time. It could be that you have an unconscious fear that keeps you from taking action (e.g., of success, of failure, of being seen—it could be anything). Or maybe you’re setting goals based on what you think you should want, rather than what you actually want (it’s hard to put in the work for something we’re not excited about). We often cannot see these things in ourselves until someone else points them out.

This type of problem solving is where coaches can help us do the inner work that’s a less obvious component of success in business. Strategy and discipline are key, but so is personal growth and getting to know ourselves better.

Addressing Fears and Limiting Beliefs

This sounds like one of the more dubious parts of coaching, but it can also be the most impactful. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. It can involve facing many fears, which will vary for each person. Family and friends with so-called “normal” jobs may not understand, and it can take someone on the outside to see what’s really going on.

Identifying and working through your fears and limiting beliefs can allow you to make huge strides in your business. (According to former BBC producer and bestselling author Mark Mason, “limiting beliefs are false beliefs that prevent us from pursuing our goals and desires.”4) It’s really quite practical. Certain fears and beliefs we have about ourselves and the world can keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our dreams, and then this lack of action causes us to fail to achieve our dreams.

Here’s an example of what this might look like. Say you’re not having success with marketing to direct clients. You’ve halfheartedly tried a few methods but find it hard to follow through because you always prioritize pending deadlines. In working with a coach, you may discover that the real issue is that you’re unsure about working with direct clients. You’ve always worked with agencies and you don’t know what will be expected of you in working directly with a corporate client. This fear has led you to unconsciously avoid implementing the strategies that would lead to direct client work. Once you identify this fear, there are many ways to work through it (e.g., talking to other translators who work with direct clients), but without awareness it will continue to trip you up.

This is just one example of how the stories and fears we’ve picked up throughout our lives can get in our way. Your own fears and limiting beliefs will be unique to you, but a coach can help you identify and work through them.

Time Management and Systems

Another major element of freelance life is how to manage our time effectively and find a better work-life balance. A coach can help shine a light on what isn’t working and where you could be more efficient with your time. For example, maybe you’re multitasking instead of dropping into deep focus mode and thus taking more time than necessary on your work. Or perhaps you’re not taking advantage of the time of day when your brain is at its sharpest to accomplish the most critical tasks. These little tweaks can have a significant impact on your productivity.

Developing systems in your business is a core component of time management and another way to increase your efficiency and organization. In James Clear’s New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, he recommends focusing on systems rather than goals. “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”5 For instance, if your goal is to get three new direct clients, your system would be how you find potential leads and make them aware of your services. Likewise, if your goal is to stay up to date with invoicing to maintain a steadier cash flow, your system would be how you track incoming purchase orders and when and how you generate the corresponding invoice.

Taking the time to set up good systems will save you time in the long run, tipping the scale in that elusive work-life balance. If systems and organization don’t happen to be a strong suit of yours, a coach can help.

Is It Worth the Cost?

The investment for coaching can vary widely, and there may be some sticker shock at the higher end. I see coaching as an investment in yourself and your growth, which, as a freelancer, is an investment in your business and its growth. The more you develop your business skills, emotional intelligence, and knowledge of what works for you and what doesn’t, the more you’ll improve as a businessperson. These improvements will then pay dividends for the rest of your life.

If everything is going great in your T&I business—you have as much work and time off as you want, with clients you love who pay the rates you ask—then you probably don’t need a coach. Consider getting coaching if there’s a problem you need assistance solving or if you’re ready to take your business to the next level and are unsure how to proceed.

I’ve worked with many coaches over the past five years, and some of the returns I’ve gotten on my investment are higher rates, better boundaries around work, extensive marketing skills, an improved money mindset, and a greater understanding of myself and my strengths and weaknesses. In retrospect, I think if I had found coaching earlier in my career, it would have accelerated the evolution of my business and my income.

So, is it worth it? Personally, I think the answer is yes. Ultimately, whether it’s worth it to you will depend on what’s going on in your business and if you’re ready for some extra support.

Notes
  1. Cehajic, Dino. “Teamwork vs. Individual Work,” inMotion (January 6, 2020).
  2. “What Is Coaching?” (International Coaching Community).
  3. Huebner, Tricia. “What Is Business Coaching?” (EMyth, January 25, 2022).
  4. Manson, Mark. “How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs” (MM.Net, January 21, 2021).
  5. Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones (Avery, 2018).

Ingrid Holm, CT is an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator in Houston, Texas, specializing in medical and marketing translation with over 15 years of experience. She is also a business coach focused on practical, personalized solutions for online business strategy, marketing, and mindset issues. She writes about freelance translation, entrepreneurship, and other topics. iholm@ingridholmtranslation.com

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