How to Plan for Big Changes in Your Freelance Business

Do you ever feel like you need to make a change in your business, but you’re not sure when to pull the trigger? Or maybe you know you’ve needed to make a change for some time but just keep putting it off.

If you aren’t sure when the best time is to make a change in your business, or if you’re unsure if you should make one at all, you might first try considering the reason you even think making a change is necessary.

Is something in your business no longer working as you had hoped? Are you feeling burned out in your business and that you ought to pivot to do something else or offer a new service?

Unless something sudden causes us to react quickly, most of us prefer to plan for the changes we make. And for many of us, the planning might take place at the beginning of the year. After all, isn’t that when most people set out to make a change?

I would argue, however, that the fall (or spring, depending on where you live in the world) is the best time to plan. The new year is just around the corner. This can be the best time to reassess your business, ask yourself some hard questions, and get the ball rolling on making changes that impact your business in a positive way.

How to Plan for Changes this Fall

You might start the change-making process by asking yourself some key questions.

    • What’s going well in my business?
    • What’s not going well?
    • What clients do I like to work with?
    • What clients would I rather not continue working with (and can I afford to let them go)?
    • If I do want to let go of a client but can’t afford to yet, can I look for one or two better clients so that I can eventually replace this less-than-ideal client?
    • What new skills would I like to learn?
    • What can I do to improve my skills so that I can add more value to my clients, and perhaps even raise my rates?
    • If I could change anything in my business, what would it be?
      • Work fewer hours, but make more money?
      • Work with only direct clients?
      • Work on building up my portfolio in a new specialization?

After you’ve taken some time to answer these questions, it’s time to make some decisions about how you’ll implement these changes.

  • Do you need to inform clients about these changes?
  • Do you need to “fire” a client?
  • Do you need to start asking for more referrals or letting certain clients know you have more capacity now to be more available to them?
  • Do you need to take a special course, get a specific certificate or certification, etc.?

Next, establish a timeline or plan to implement the changes based on your decisions. This is an important step so that you don’t let unexpected events derail your plans.

  • What are the individual steps you need to take to implement your new plans?
  • How can you break these steps down into smaller, more manageable (and less overwhelming!) tasks?
  • When will you get these tasks done?

Tip! Put this important work on your calendar, and make it just as important as you would an appointment with a client or your best friend.

Finally, put a date on your calendar now to reassess your situation in a few months.

  • Are you happy with the outcome of your decisions and changes?
  • If you had to make these decisions again, would you change anything, or do you feel like you made the right move?
  • What parts of your plan worked well and what could you do differently when planning and implementing your decisions in the future?
  • Are there any pending tasks or projects left in your plan? If so, schedule time to reassess the changes you’re making in three to six months.

It can be overwhelming to make big changes in your freelance business. But planning for changes by breaking them down into manageable steps and reassessing your progress and decisions can remove a lot of this stress. And less time worrying means more time implementing!


Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is ATA president-elect and chairs the Membership Committee and Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee (2014–2018) and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: madalena@accessibletranslations.com.

Business Practices will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.

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