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A simple guide to business plans for freelance translators

Updated: Mar 6

It's quite common that if you mention a business plan to a freelance linguist, they will run a mile. What do I need that for? I'm just a small business owner, I don't need to get all serious with a business plan surely? I wouldn't know where to start!

These are pretty common responses that I hear when speaking to colleagues in the freelance industry. But in my view, business plans enable you to approach your work in more structured manner. They enable you to know when to turn a project down and when to raise your rates. In my view, most freelance linguists need a business plan.


So what would a freelance linguist include on a business plan?

Company Summary & Aims

  • Target Market/Audience

  • Your Services

  • Competitor Differentiation

  • Finding & Managing Clients

  • Sales & Marketing Plan

  • Goals & Timelines

  • Financial Plan

Business plans should be manageable. Make sure you focus your business plan by quarter, so that it does not feel unmanageable. You could take just one day to create the bare bones of your business plan and to update it every 3 months.


How are these sections of the business plan relevant to freelance linguists?

Company Summary & Aims

This section is also termed an ‘Executive Summary’.

Being able to summarise what your business is about establishes the priorities for your business and determines the rest of the business plan. That’s why this section is often the hardest part to nail down.

Business name

Strapline – e.g. Nike: ‘Just do it’

Company Values

Mission Statement - e.g. Tesla: 'Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.'

Target Market / Audience

If you don’t know who your target market or audience is, start thinking about potential clients, dream projects, or jobs you have completed that you particularly enjoyed/were successful.

Are all of these clients in a specific industry or set of industries?

Do they have similar characteristics? Are they individuals or businesses (B2B or B2C)?

Where are they based?

Why do your customers buy your services?

What made people come back for repeat business?

This is where creating a buyer persona can really help. (HubSpot Buyer Persona Templates)

Once you know who you are selling to, carry out a PESTLE analysis for a further deep dive. I've written a blog post about PESTLE for freelance linguists.

Your Services

This is where you define what you are going to offer. There's many options a freelance linguist might include - translation, transcreation, subtitling, voiceover, subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing, conference interpreting, live subtitling, proofreading, editing… you get the picture!

If there are things that you do not wish to offer, make sure you quantify why not and if there is a potential to move on to these in the future.

It can be useful to include how you will offer your services – will you have packages, will you only work on a per-project basis, rush fees, free revisions, minimum order charges.

Competitor Differentiation

If you don’t know the market and what colleagues (or competitors, depending on how you would like to think about this) offer, start by making an analysis of the market and then think about how you fit.

Why would someone choose to work with you when compared to your colleagues?

What specific/niche background or training do you have that others don’t?

How can you add extra value?

What do you do better than others you know?

What do others charge and how do my rates stack up?

Include direct competition from other freelancers, but also agencies, so you know how you fit in and what options your customers have to choose from.

This is a good time to carry out a SWOT analysis of your business. See my blog post about a SWOT analysis for a freelance linguist for how to do this.

Finding & Managing Clients

This is the part of the business plan where you detail where you will find clients and how you can manage this to give you a steady income. It may be a daunting section, but this part is key, as no clients means no business!

Seeing as you know who your target clients are (see the previous section Target Market/Audience), now you need to put yourself in their shoes.

What are the problems they face in their work?

What solutions can you offer to their problems?

What evidence do you have that shows clients you can help them (qualifications, testimonials, references)?

Places you could consider when finding and connecting with potential clients:

Website, Blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Email Marketing

Traditional Advertising – TV, Radio, Print

Digital & Search Ads (PPC)

Groups: NWTN, Regional ITI/CIOL Groups, ETN, Local Chambers of Commerce, Cumbria Growth Hub, Inspire networking, BNI

Job Directories: Pro-Z, SmartCat

Hashtags: #xl8 #t9n #l10n #il8n #g11n #litranslators

Marketing & Sales Plan

Here comes the part where you plan your marketing and sales strategy. It’s good to do this on a 3-month basis, so things stay relevant, focussed and manageable. For sales and marketing templates, please see the Useful Links section at the end.

Sales plans are usually revenue or volume based e.g. £30,000/year, or 5 new direct clients. You need to take into account

Seasonal trends


Different pricing for different customers

Will prices change over time?

Marketing plans will determine how you are going to attract potential clients to your business or keep existing clients.

How do people know you exist?

What online presence do you have?

Do you attend any in-person conferences?

Will you network with other freelancers?

Goals & Timelines

Any goals you set yourself need to be attainable. It is wise to work with goals on a 3-month basis so that they remain relevant, you are focussed and you can track any results more easily.

For this reason, I find that setting SMART goals are the way to go.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based

See my blog post on SMART goals to find out how to set these for your freelance business.

Financial Plan

As a freelancer – especially as a freelancer – you must think of yourself as a business right from the get-go.

Financial planning will help you create a list of expenses, determine your budget, help you understand the foundations for your rates, tell you if your marketing budget is successful, apply for grants, plan your pension.

What to include:

•Profit and loss


•Historical data

•Sales forecast

Things you should consider:

•Plan for the unexpected – What happens if you are unavailable for a week? Do you have a network who can help you? What safeguards/backups do you have in place?

•Startup expenses you might have

•Time tracking


•Emergency fund


•Using a finance management tool (e.g. LSP Expert)


So that's a small rundown on how to get started on a business plan for a freelance linguist. It may seem daunting at first, but like most things, once you break it down into manageable chunks, it makes a lot more sense.

My advice is - little and often! If you allow your business plan to become out of date, you will essentially face the challenge of rewriting it when you come back to it. So devote half a day a month for a quick roundup and one day every quarter to set new objectives for the next quarter and you'll be away!


To read more of this kind of material or if you would like to speak to me about translation (Russian, German, or Dutch), localisation, or proofreading, please click here to see a list of my services and get in touch today.

Thanks for reading!

Marjolein, The Native Crowd

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