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Our January 2021 Event: Let’s Talk Money. A panel discussion on passion and profit within the language industry

On Friday 29th January, we addressed a theme that usually comes up in some shape or form during the course of our monthly meetings: money and finance in language related professions.

In our industry, the passion is palpable. We love what we do but it is not a secret that many of us struggle to make a living out of it.

The number tickets that have been reserved for this event was record-breaking, and this proved the importance and the need to tackle this challenging subject.

With the help of 4 panelists, we had an informal, open and honest conversation about this delicate matter, which is on everyone’s mind, yet difficult to discuss.

Introducing the panelists:

Madalena Xanthopoulou launched We Live Languages (formerly known as The Alma Collective) in 2016 after graduating from Google Campus’ Start Up School for Mums.

Her background in design and her insights as a native trilingual child & mother allow her to turn academic findings into practical solutions.

She creates our concepts and is the face of We Live Languages.

Eloise Leeson is a trained linguist and communications specialist. She founded her own company, Olim, after cutting her teeth working with brands like Deliveroo, Edinburgh Gin, and BrewDog. Eloise works to help businesses close the gap between what they think they’re saying, and what’s actually being received by their customers. 

Passionate about empowering people through language, Eloise works to ensure that every single word communicated delivers increased engagement, real value, and visible results.

Bryn Bonino is a branding consultant at Backstory First, where she guides microbusiness leaders to use their own personal backstory as a branding tool.  She’s also a former language specialist and runs Make A Leap, a website where she interviews language educators who made the leap from teacher to entrepreneur. 

Check out Bryn’s free guide, Soar To New Heights: Build Your Language Teacher Entrepreneurship.

Make sure you have a look at Bryn’s no-nonsense pricing course. Use the code LPNE at the checkout to get a whopping 75% discount!

Gabriella Ferenczi is a German and Hungarian language coach, founder of ProLingua Global, a boutique language training company.

Gabriella is the host of our events.

She just launched Thrive Online, a place for language professionals who don’t like tech. It’s a place where they can find practical marketing guidance and step by step help to turn more online browsers into buyers.

Our host Gabriella Ferenczi started the conversation by revealing the results of the survey about money that we conducted with Madalena, in anticipation of the event.

Sadly, but probably not unexpectedly, the findings showed that the numbers are just not acceptable.

Too often we see people giving out their advice for rock-bottom prices. It is so common and easy nowadays to find courses, books, e-books and videos online – totally for free. It is great to help people and share our knowledge, but the question is: why don’t we think we can actually charge for that? Why is it so hard to put a price tag on something that reflects our own actual value? What is it about languages that it is somehow not perceived as valuable?

“Generally speaking, with languages there is something that kind of blocks people from actually perceiving it as something valuable and something businessy. Passion is kind of contradictory to profit, it is not something we can perceive as being the same” – Madalena.

Eloise stressed that talking about money is closely linked to how we perceive our own value:

“The crucial missing piece of the puzzle is that we don’t think we add value. We think we offer a service, but we don’t think about it as a benefit we are delivering for someone else in the long run. We separate the two things but it should be one, and that reflects in our price.”

So how to set our prices? Is there a right way to do that? And what to say when a client starts to negotiate?

Bryn is resolute in this point:

“Don’t even go there, you don’t negotiate about your services. You have to focus on the value you deliver to your clients. Talk to them about the outcome. Get them excited about what you offer, and then speak about the price.”

Gabriella, talking about her experience as a language teacher, explained how the breakthrough for her was finding a niche.

“Coming up with an idea of who you actually really enjoy working with, feeling you can really make a difference in their lives and feeling that your service is appreciated is what made the difference for me. Finding the specific niche and owning it, it makes me so confident.”

Finding a niche allows you to speak from a place of authority, as Eloise pointed out, and from there you can command a higher price. But we also need to be really confident about our own worth.

Bryn recommends thinking about our own business brand as a character in literature. How would you as a character speak to that character?

“You might have people that are not the kind of literature character who’ll want to work with you, but that’s ok. When you speak your way, you get inquiries from people who want to work with you. They will come to you and they will pay your prices because they see the value in what you offer.”

Finding a niche, having a business strategy and a plan in place, is something that comes on top of our job as freelance language professionals. 

Gabriella explains more here:

“Just being a good language teacher and having a website doesn’t mean that clients will flock to me. I realised that there is so much more to do if I want my calendar to be full. Business education is invaluable for freelancers.”

One last round with the all important question: how can we improve our situation? What can we do?

“Let’s make subjectivity our superpower. You need to get people excited about the benefit of working with you from an emotional perspective. We need to raise the bars in this industry from a self esteem perspective. This is going to have an incredible impact on the rest of our life” – points out Eloise.

Avoiding to talk about this taboo certainly won’t help to make things better.

Madalena talked about the stigma associated with it. We don’t want to talk about money because we feel ashamed or we don’t want to admit that we are in a difficult situation.

But the fact that 80% of language professionals have an income below the bare minimum is not normal and we should talk more about this.

After all, what is it that we need to be ashamed of?

“Don’t be ashamed of wanting to make money. The more money you have the better choices you can make. Money is an energy, it is a fuel and we need to use that for as much good as we possibly can. Don’t be ashamed about wanting to make bank.” -Eloise.

Many thanks to the panelists who helped us open a conversation around this challenging topic. And thanks to all the language professionals who attended and actively contributed to this conversation, regardless of the time zone. The money we have raised goes to support Moorfields Eye Charity.

Stay tuned for our next event, which will be on the 26th of February! We’ll share the details soon. Until then, stay safe.


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