The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Do you grin hysterically every time someone asks for your resume? Are you stuck with a lame shopping list-style layout that screams for vengeance every time you look at it?
Preparation (up to 1 hour)
Before you start tweaking your resume, make sure it is focused, truthful, and relevant.
If your document is seriously outdated (or a patchwork of last minute changes made over 5 years) align the content to your current role, and the needs of your target markets.
... and now for the hacks.
#1 Create a letterhead (5 minutes)
Letterheads are a great way to personalise a resume.
Plus, they make your name and contact information stand out on the page.
To maximise the impact, add your logo and slogan.
Also, make sure that colours and fonts are consistent with your brand image.
Need some inspiration? Browse this massive collection of 300+ free templates.
#2 Increase font size (2 minutes)
This isn't just about improved readability - even though it is important.
Whether you're using a 1 or 2 page layout, it will also force you to be more concise.
#3 Craft an eye-catching introduction (30 minutes)
When you're a freelancer, you're looking for customers - not employers.
Hence, your resume should be the opening act of a conversation with your prospect.
A good way to achieve this is crafting a brief introduction (no bullet points!) to highlight the skills and talents your customer looks for, and suggest why you'd be a good fit for their projects and needs.
Write it in first person, singular. Also, keep it brief: a couple of paragraphs would do.
#4 Cut 10% off (up to 1 hour)
I already mentioned this trick in a post about effective business writing - and stick to it.
Even though cutting 100 words off a 1,000 resume might not sound as a "big deal", it usually is. It helps you focus on what's important, and get rid of typical "fillers".
Need some help? Read 5 ways to trim the fat from your writing on PR Daily.
#5 Revise one section at a time (10 minutes)
Yet another trick from my copywriter's toolbox. This hack is especially useful because it forces you to assess its effectiveness and clarity as a stand-alone item.
#6 Tweak the layout (20 minutes)
Here's the thing: your freelance resume is a marketing tool.
If it looks like any other resume on earth, standing out becomes more difficult.
Have fun exploring layout options. You can e.g
Make it shine ... with a pinch of salt. Your resume look needs to be professional and sober.
#7 Use numbers and real-life examples (10 minutes)
Numbers are a great way to showcase your skills and experience. Not only they stand out from the sea of words; they also support claims with quantifiable (and verifiable) results.
Need some examples?
What are the most challenging aspects of working on your resume?
Got any good tips to share? Join the conversation in the comments below!
It's inevitable. When birthdays strike, memories follow ... and today is a big one here on the MTM Translations' side of life, as I usually call it.
Fifteen years as an independent translator and copywriter.
Way more than the average life of a pop band. And 41.6% of my life so far.
The best thing? I still love every minute of it. Ups and downs.
The occasion calls for proper celebrations ... but I don't want to end up with a neverending list of lessons learned and bla bla bla. So here's my take on the classic "top five".
By the way: I know this is technically an anniversary rather than a birthday ...
... but why on earth shouldn't I celebrate with some cake?
1 piece of advice I'd give to young freelancers
Want to be excellent at what you do? Nurture your hard skills. Dig deeper.
Reading a blog post or two won't make you an expert translator or copywriter.
Webinars are good for theory, but what about practice? Find relevant in-person courses where you can get feedback on how you are doing.
Get your hands dirty and put some money in it. The info and tips you can find in free stuff (webinars, blog posts, guides or else) are only the tip of the iceberg.
1 photo that wouldn't have been
That's me at the XIII FINA World Championships (Rome, 2009).
Behind the camera, alas.
This is probably the best sports shot I will ever take ... and it wouldn't have been without MTM Translations. In fact, I was working at the championships as a translator for the international press room - and took this picture one sunny morning over a coffee break.
I still have fond memories of that project. Live coverage of press releases is hectic and exhausting, with crazy working hours in a crowded room - but you definitely learn something about time management.
Plus, I saw the best swimmers, divers, and synchronettes in the world in action.
Two weeks of pure bliss.
1 flaw that became a valuable helper
When I find a name, a professional title, a date ... I just have to double-check.
I lost count of the times this has been useful, so I think I'll just stick to it.
1 bold move that paid off
Attending my first conference, in 2009.
It looks kind of absurd now, but that was a scary thing for my younger self.
Guess what? I loved it - and still do.
It wasn't just an effective cure for shyness. Making contacts with fellow professionals also brought me precious collaborations, and solid friendships as a cherished extra.
1 bold move that didn't pay off
A snail-mail campaign, in 2011.
You can't always win, right?
When it comes to business tips and strategies, everybody looks up to 'big names' and 'influencers' ... but the fundamentals lie in common sense rather than schoolbooks.
#1 No lies
"Why are you so late for dinner, kid?"
"Sorry grandma. I was at Paul's and just forgot about the time"
You smiled and hugged her. Grandma nodded, and you thought you got away with your tiny 'white lie'. Two days later, granny met Paul's mother at the street market and found out you were playing in the woods instead.
No candy bars, and no afternoon walks, for a week.
Doing business online is like managing a stall in a huge street market.
Spotting a lie is easier than you think.
If you fake your background and experience, sooner or later you'll be caught. And your customers will even more upset than grandma was that day. All in all, it's a matter of trust - and transparency is key in all business settings.
#2 Keep your promises
"You said you would have walked the dog today, but you didn't.
Go straight to bed, no TV tonight!"
All of those affected by these twisted kinds of Biblical punishments should have learned the drawbacks of breaking a promise ... but as we grow older, we tend to forget all summer nights we spent whining "it's not fair" and "I will never talk to her any more, she's sooooo mean!".
Solid business relationships start with honesty. From your website copy to estimates and e-mail communication, you should never make promises you can't keep.
If you can't handle a request properly, refer the prospect to a trusted professional.
If the customer asks for a quick turnaround you can't cater for, suggest an alternative.
Offer professionalism and a positive user experience, and everything will be fine.
#3 Easy does it
Remember your very first bike? All the excitement, spirit of adventure ...
... and bleeding knees three minutes later?
"Easy does it, kid", grandma said.
But you were too excited to listen.
Managing a solo business is like riding a bike: you can't race if you can barely stand.
Take your time to learn the basics, and nurture your hard skills consistently.
Don't jump on the next social media train just because "everybody's doing it".
Forget about instant expertise, and focus on a solid progression of baby steps.
You'll be much more successful in the long run.
And grandma will be very, very proud of her kid.
Last update: 25/08/2016
When I sketched my 2016 plans black on white last January, I couldn't know that things would have been pretty different in a couple months' time. As I wrote in my post about performing effective mid-year reviews, situations change - and the goals you initially set might need adjustments to reflect the new reality.
That was the case for me earlier this year: when The Alexandria Library suddenly closed in March, all the goals and plans related to the e-learning project suddenly vanished - not to mention the human side of the matter.
It wasn't the best time in history. Yet, it was also one of those 'teachable moments' where you reconsider your priorities, and refocus.
Instead of setting new objectives to fill the gap, I decided to invest more time on my professional development goals. I attended two courses on cancer treatment, a medical technology conference, and two expert roundups on personalised medicine.
By the way: learning about new technologies right from their inventors and developers is fascinating, and mind-blowing. It makes you look at things from a different perspective, and broadens your horizons in unexpected ways.
The website redesign, completed in May, was another "thumbs up" moment. After months of struggling with a mobile-unfriendly architecture, everything is now sorted. I'm slowly fixing all the bugs on older blog posts, so hang in there.
All in all, things are shaping up nicely.
What will come next?
The road ahead
In September, my solo business will turn 15. To celebrate, I'm publishing the second edition of 21 free tools for translators. The exact date is still a 'secret' - but you can sign up to be notified when the eBook becomes available.
For professional development, in the second half of 2016 I will focus on copywriting. Workshops and masterclasses are an unlimited source of inspiration - even after 15 years of experience. Also, it's great to meet with fellow copywriters from around the globe, and discuss the differences and similarities of local trends.
With autumn and winter packed with training to attend, I put teaching on hold for the semester. Doing things right requires time, and I'm not a Time Lord (Lady) yet.
There will be new in-person workshops and conference talks in 2017 ... but let's keep this for another time, shall we?
What about you?
How is your freelance year shaping up?
Got any achievements to celebrate, or struggles to share?
Looking forward to reading your comments!
Mid-year reviews help businesses see how they are doing, and make adjustments to achieve their business goals. An objective assessment makes for a vigorous reality check – and can help you improve the performance of your freelance business over the second half of the year.
When thinking of mid-year reviews, many solopreneurs and small business owners get the shivers. At times, they believe their business is just too unpredictable. In other cases, they think such practices are only valuable for bigger companies and organisations.
If you’re along the same lines, think again. A business check-up is a great way to:
… but how does it work? Here’s a quick overview to get you started.
Planning for your mid-year review
Let's be realistic: if you want to conduct a valuable assessment, you'll need time.
So, schedule your review just like you’d schedule a meeting with a customer.
To me, the best time to conduct my check-up right after my summer break. In fact, creating some "distance" between daily business chores and the review itself helps me looking at facts and figures more objectively.
Also, remember to have all relevant documents/data at hand. These could be your editorial calendar, your sales summary, your marketing plan etcetera. Oh, and the business plan you created for the current year.
If you didn’t, don’t panic. Think about what goals you envisioned for your business (customer acquisition, target income, product launches, …), your “new year’s resolutions”, the business-related promises you made to yourself.
Jot them down: these will be the starting point for your assessment.
Key points to review
Business goals are more than elements of a bulleted list. They also reflect the life stage your business was in when you set them, and might need adjustments from time to time.
It happens, you know? Your business changes, for tons of reasons. Could well be a great collaboration contract for a new customer. Or that one-of-a-lifetime opportunity you just couldn't miss. Or the end of a chapter, which opens to the beginning of new ones.
So, make sure to take that into account. Ask yourself:
#2 Strategies and methods
Once you reviewed your goals, focus on the strategies and methods in place.
What is working well, and what isn't?
There are many things that can hold you back in your business. Maybe you focused too much on a marketing channel that isn't converting. Or you invested in a productivity software, but haven't been using it to its full potential. Or started a collaboration that is draining lots of energy, but delivering little value.
One of the main perks of mid-year reviews?
If something is working against you, you still have time to change it.
#3 Money matters
How's the year shaping up in your bank account? If you don't do this more often, now it's time to double-check your books.
I know, looking at hard figures can be scary. Still, if you develop a habit for this it becomes less frightening, and really helps with keeping your business on track.
The bottom line
Conducting a mid-year review for your small business can help you achieve great things over the second half of the year. The steps and questions above are a good checklist to start with your assessment.
Depending on your needs and situation, you might also want to look at other aspects of your business. These could be e.g. your client list (to gauge for any hidden opportunities, or improvements to make), your long-term projects (such as writing a book, or your professional development plans), or else.
Preparing for the mid-year check-up, and approaching the task as a natural part of your business chores will help you keep your focus during the assessment. Also, the process will be less stressful, and more productive.