Starting Your Own Business as a Language Specialist

I’ve been in the language business since 1998. At first part-time using an auxiliary business name, later through establishing my own limited company. It’s a long story, during which I’ve found that the best strategy is to specialize while staying open to partnerships and various other opportunities. This post was published for the first time 2 April 2017.

Choosing a specialty

When choosing a specialty, you’ll need to consider which languages to work with. The obvious choice is to work towards the mother tongue; yet there may be more demand for other language pairs or towards English, which is often the case in Finland. A bilingual education is a good basis for working in a second or third language and expanding one’s offering of language services. The more specialized you are in a subject matter, the easier it is to manage the topic in all of your working languages.

We all have our special interests and talents, often since young age. Never underestimate the power and potential of your passion and expertise combined with your language skills. At first there may not be a huge demand for a specialist of, say, Fenno-Italian philately, but once that need arises, you’ll be the person to go to. Don’t be afraid to highlight your unique combination of expertise because that can be your niche on the market and hard for others to master.

Form of business

There are several questions to consider when choosing the form of business, including the number of founders, the capital available, decision-making process, risks and liabilities, continuation of business, withdrawal of money, taxes, accounting and possible start-up funding.

The options in Finland include freelancing (tax card to client/employer company); “light entrepreneurship” (e.g. UKKO); your own tradename(toiminimi registered at PRH all in your own name); commercial partnership (avoin yhtiö, where two or more agree to do business with a common purpose), limited partnership (Ky, written contract signed by all partners, extra regulation about silent partner and their profit); limited company (Oy, written contract by shareholders, number of shares to be defined); cooperative (osuuskunta, founded by one or several natural persons, a community, foundation, or other legal entity as members of the coop); and franchising (an independent unit of a shared commercial concept).

Trade name or limited company?

Pros and cons of a trade name:
+ Single-entry accrual accounting
+ Simpler personal taxes
+ Registration only ca. 100 €
– Owner is liable
– Increasing business means more taxes

Pros and cons of a limited company:
+ Less risk because company is liable
+ Tax planning opportunities
+ More credible marketing
– More paper work (board, minutes etc.)
– Registration ca. 350 €
– Double-entry accounting (need for accounting services)

Getting started

There are certain steps you need to consider before getting started. For example, make a business plan, establish a unique domain name for a website, contact local business support services, find a reliable accountant, apply and report business license at the Trade Register, bid for banking, insurance and IT services. There’s lots of help available, you just need to find and use it.

The benefits of self-employment

As a private business or a self-employed professional, you’ll accept plenty of responsibility while receiving lots of freedom, too. The good stuff includes being able to stand out on the market, saying out loud what you know and think on your website and social media and at preferred events and associations. Joining the most relevant organizations and cooperating with colleagues is indeed essential to establish a network for partnerships and joint marketing. You’re on your own but never alone.

Sources for information in Finland:

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