The Translator’s Business Plan

Are you considering setting up as a freelance translator/interpreter? Are you planning to expand your translation/interpreting business? If you answered Yes to one of these questions, you will need a Business Plan.

By Business Plan I don’t mean the sort of document business people write in order to secure a loan from a bank or funding from investors. I simply mean a document that will help you turn your strategies and ideas into concrete plans that cover all aspects of your translation/interpreting business.

A business plan is a document which describes your goals and objectives, states why you’re pursuing them, and explains why you believe you can achieve them. It details how you will reach your goals and how you will measure your success (e.g. in terms of revenue, number of clients or volume of work). In coaching terms, it’s the plan which will turn your Exit Plan into reality.

Step 1: How well have you thought through your goal?

Before I can take you through the various sections of your business plan, you will need to define a clear goal for your translation/interpreting business. The following questions will help you do that. Take a moment to answer them on paper (or in an electronic document).


Who needs to be consulted in the development of this plan? (Will you be working on your own as a sole trader, in a partnership with other translators/interpreters or as the owner of a translation company employing one or more people?)

Who should be involved in its implementation?

Who needs to know about your business goal? (E.g. your family, your current employer, your landlord…)


What is the business planning to do? What services do you intend to offer?

What is the business currently doing?

What is the gap between where your business is right now and where you want it to be? What challenges may this present to you?


When do you need to complete your business plan by?

When will work begin?

How long will it take for you to reach your goal?


Where will your translation/interpreting business be based?

Where will your clients be based?

Where will you be working? (Fixed location, on site, remote work over the internet…)


How will you know you have achieved your goal? How will you measure success? (Revenue, sales target, number/type of clients, volume/type of work…)

How do you know it will work?

Step 2: The Five Why’s

Originally developed in Japan for manufacturing firms such as Toyota, the Five Why’s Model is very simple to use and can help you link your business goals with your Exit Plan.

To begin with, write your business idea/goal on a piece of paper (or in an electronic document) in one clear sentence (e.g. My business goal is to make a profit of xxx over the next 12 months).

Now, tell me why. (E.g. Because I want to grow my translation/interpreting business)

Why? (E.g. Because I want it to be a viable business)

Why? (E.g. Because I want to continue to translate/interpret for many years to come)

Why? (E.g. Because I want to continue to earn a living doing a job I love until I retire)

Why? (E.g. Because it makes me feel happy and fulfilled)

Questions beginning with “Why” are generally avoided in coaching because they tend to trigger a negative or defensive response (think of a time when you were little and an adult asked you “Why did you do that?” What defensive excuses did you come up with?). Questions such as “What made you decide to…?” tend to lead to more constructive discussion. In this case, however, the use of the word “Why” makes the model very easy to use and invites the person responding to dig deeper and deeper, until the reason why they want to achieve their goal becomes very clear.

Step 3: What to include in your business plan

Now that you have clearly defined your goal and clearly identified what motivates you to achieve it, let’s consider each aspect of your translation/interpreting business, and the part it will play in the implementation of your business plan. Each area of your business should be included in your plan: Marketing, Sales, Operations, People, Storage and Logistics (Delivery), Administration and Finance. The more thorough your plan, the less likely you will be to encounter obstacles in the future. The following questions will help you consider the various aspects of your business you will need to focus on.


How do you intend to promote your services? To whom?

How do you know it’s the right strategy? What research have you undertaken to support this?


How will you sell your services? Where will this take place?

What sales do you need to make to make a profit? What sales do you need to make to reach your revenue target?


What core functions does your business need to run effectively? (E.g. Project management, translation, interpreting, editing, desktop publishing…)

What systems will you need to have in place? (I.e. telephone system, IT, software, equipment, etc.)


Who will be in charge of these activities?

What specialist skills or competencies are required to do this?

What is the right number of people to have in place?

Storage and Logistics (Delivery)

What will you need to store and where? (E.g. translated files, glossaries, reference material… on a computer, on an external drive, in the Cloud, in a filing cabinet…)

What system(s) will you use? (E.g. filing system)

How will you deliver your services to your clients?


Who will be in charge of administrative tasks?

What systems and/or equipment are needed to support your administrative requirements?


How will your plan be financed? If this is a new business, how will you support yourself/your family until you reach a suitable level of income?

How have you assessed the viability of your business plan?

How will payment be made to you and how will you monitor and control this?

Use these starter questions to organise your thoughts and begin to see more clearly how you’re going to reach your business goal. Your answers will most likely raise more questions. Take the time to answer these too.

How is your business plan shaping up?

Step 4: The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

Coaching is about exploring and taking action. Now that you have explored the various aspects of your business, what first step do you need to take in order to reach your business goal? In which area of your business do you need to make progress first? The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel is a useful tool that will help you identify a specific objective. Simply label the segments of your wheel after the various sections of your business plan.

Step 5: Create an action plan

Once you have identified your first objective, create an action plan using the 30-minute coaching session I recorded for you. This basic coaching session will take you through an established coaching model (GROW), which was designed to help you set clear goals, brainstorm options and get motivated to move forward thanks to an action plan that works for you. The mp3 recording is available here.


I hope you have found this post useful. To keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on this page to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!


You may also like

The Translator’s Exit Plan

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

FREE Coaching Session For Translators And Interpreters (mp3 recording)

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation


Photo by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: