Running a business (or several!) from the viewpoint of a Freelanceprenuer
Post by Audra de Falco
Translator, Small Business Owner, Certified Court Interpreter Member: NYCT, IAPTI, MET
I’d like to consider myself a ‘freelancepreneur’. I’m a little bit of a mixture between freelancer and small business owner, and it’s exactly where I want to be. Not having a boss, being fully independent, and (most importantly) loving what I do is everything I imagined and more.
Born and raised bilingual in New York City, I’ve always had a love of languages. Because of this, I worked in some capacity within the translation industry and did part-time work for the odd client or two since high school. Simply put, I was a word nerd. But it never occurred to me that my love of language could be transformed into a full-time career.
All that changed when I picked up my bags at 19 and moved to Italy. There was little work to be had and so I had to think fast—I created work.
The first thing I thought of was translation and interpreting: “Go with what you know,” my father said. And so I did.
At first, things were really rough. It seemed like my savings were disappearing before my very eyes while my earnings were slowly plodding along at a snail’s pace. I was constantly panicking, thinking for sure that I had ruined my life and that no employer would ever want me again one day. I cursed myself for making so many horrid life choices. Many a day was spent wracked in fear of spending too much money on the necessities and not being able to make rent; at a certain point, I was eating one tiny meal a day. I counted every single Euro cent that left my cold, clammy palms. I never flicked the lights on during the day and always lit candles at night. Heating in winter? Fat chance. I’d just put on 3 sweaters.
And then came every freelancer’s worst nightmare: the late or non-paying clients. I learned really quickly how to get lawyer friends on speed dial and discovered that shelling out for an official-sounding letter often meant getting paid the money I was owed. You win some, you lose some.
In short, times were rough. Really rough. But I truthfully loved the work. Despite it all, I had never felt as fulfilled in my life. It seemed like I was becoming a different person—stronger, sharper and happier. I toughed it out, and things got much better.
I hustled and played my youth to my advantage. I enlisted a friend to help me with a website, got active on social media and carved a presence for myself in targeted online communities. Most importantly: I delivered a fantastic service that my clients loved and told their friends about. I began to see a pattern with most of my early translation clients which would later help in opening up a second business. Due to research into my own background, I knew that Italy’s citizenship laws favorable to Italian-Americans worked in my favor. So I set out to expand my services: translation and Italian dual citizenship consulting.
Many more clients started to come to me, this time not only for translations but also for help in finding their relatives’ Italian birth, marriage, and death certificates in order to complete their petitions for citizenship. Soon enough I was able to offer a package deal: document collection, translation and citizenship application compilation. Because I was knowledgeable about the process, (being a dual citizen myself) and had very little overhead, my services were convenient and affordable. And so my second business, Get Italian Citizenship, was born.
After a few years, I moved back to the United States and really started putting more money into my business. They say that if you want to grow, you have to invest (or something like that). I am still tweaking and fine-tuning, finding the right balance between freelancing and entrepreneur-ing, but I’ve been significantly successful and have finally found my stride. I’m earning more now than I ever thought I could and—the cherry on top—I don’t have a boss. How cool is that?
Make no mistake, though: running your own business isn’t easy. Discipline, professionalism and a sense of self-starting are the order of the day. Being a small business owner is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those seeking work to be handed them on a silver platter.
It may not always roses, but I absolutely love what I do. I genuinely love interacting with clients and I relish in the satisfaction of fostering long-term relationships with people who love my work. And, of course, I love providing stellar translations and personalized consulting.
My suggestions for those who are seeking to freelance, become an entrepreneur, or to open a small business (or become all three as a Freelancepreneur!) would be to choose something they feel passionate about, be diligent with their record-keeping, use the Internet to their advantage, continue learning and never stop getting to know your client. Also (and I cannot stress this enough)… rejection and hard times are usually part and parcel of what it means to be in business for yourself. You might fall, but I promise you that you can get back up again. I’m living proof!
My next step? Opening a boutique creative translation agency for clients seeking a little extra “oomph.”
Are you a ‘Freelancepreneur’? Or do you have an opinion on the concept of Freelancepreneurs? Share your thoughts!