So let's start with the basics, what is a SWOT analysis and why would a freelance linguist need one?
The term SWOT stands for Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T). It is a planning tool that helps you evaluate the challenges your business might face and how you could overcome them. A SWOT analysis could be applied to a freelance linguist's business as a whole, or a particular area of the business, such as a particular area of speicalisation.
Although this is a tool that you might commonly associate with a large corporation or a language service provider, I believe that these same business tools can be very useful for freelance linguists too.
What benefits could a SWOT analysis bring to my business, then?
Understand your business better
Get an overview of how you measure up against competitors
Ensure that you capitalise on your strengths
Improve on areas of weakness, or direct focus away from these areas
Develop appropriate business goals and strategies
What would a SWOT analysis look like for a freelance linguist?
Specialised credentials/certifications - SEO, content marketing, proofreading, Trados certified
Personality traits - attention to detail, determination, patience, etc.
Time spent abroad - living/working. What did you do? What knowledge did you gain?
Proximity to clients - are you in the same city/the same time zone?
Flexibility - are you very responsive? Do you work evenings/weekends?
Areas of personal interest – are you a certified sailing instructor? Do you have a keen interest in sustainability and are you active in your local community?
Lack of experience – straight out of school/university/career change
Lack of training/certification – for Trados or proofreading or SEO
Geographic location – are you in a different time zone? Are your prices higher because you live in the UK, but your client is in Russia, for example?
Daily schedule – do you work part-time?
Contacts – no network of colleagues
Lack of/poor online presence – website, social media
Lack of professional affiliation – Chartered Institute Of Linguists/Institute of Translation and Interpreting
Market growth in your industry – is the gaming industry growing, are more self help/development books being sold?
Increasing demand for a particular service – is subtitling on the increase thanks to the rise of Netflix?
Seasonal – is there a pre-Christmas rush that you are available for or do you have summer holiday availability that others might not?
Do you have a particular language combination that is unusual/seeing increasing demand? – e.g. German is being phased out in schools across the UK
Do you have some particularly useful contacts from a previous job or place you have lived?
The effects of the pandemic – more business is conducted online, working from home is supported/'the norm'
Is there increasing competition in your language pair?
What are the effects of the pandemic – reduced demand, more freelancers?
Lack of business budget - for CPD or conference attendance
Software costs – was there an unexpected requirement for a new computer, do you have connectivity issues?
Skills training – are you being left behind by technology? Do you need to increase your knowledge to stay relevant?
If you can answer most of these questions, then you have a pretty good idea of how your business is performing and what areas you might like to grow. The answers to these questions can help you understand the direction for your business and what CPD goals you should have on your to-do list for the year ahead.
Now that you know more about how this business tool could be of use to you as a freelance linguist, why don't you create one for your business? I'd love to hear how you got on, so feel free to drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send me a message on LinkedIn!
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