How To Use Facebook To Promote Translator Services

I believe a freelance translator’s first and easiest step to creating online visibility is to set up a business page on Facebook. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Facebook is free;
  • it gives you a huge opportunity to reach a lot of people;
  • search engines index Facebook pages, therefore people can find your translation services through Google search results;
  • you can build a custom page and implement additional features to stand out from the crowd.

Unfortunately, many freelance translators do not use Facebook pages to their full potential. Worse, some use them poorly and actually hurt their online credibility. In this post, I will tell you how to overcome the obstacles and promote your translation services with Facebook.

Define the Strategy of Your Freelance Translator Business

Strategy is the foundation of a freelance translator’s success. This involves building a brilliant roadmap. Start by defining who your customers are and how you can help them. Let’s say your area of expertise is website translation. In this case, your customers are, of course, website owners and marketing and SEO managers.

To get these professionals to notice your translation business, you will have to tell them how your services can help them solve their problems. For this reason, the design as well as the content of your Facebook page should focus on this.

One resource I’ve found particularly helpful in terms of freelance translator business strategy is Jenae Spry’s blog: Success by Rx.

Choose the Best Name for Your Translation Business

When it comes to translation business success, the right name can make your language services the talk of the town. The wrong name can doom them to obscurity. Ideally, your name should convey expertise, value, and the uniqueness of your translation services.

Some experts believe that the best names are the keywords people use when searching for your services on the web. For example, see my Facebook page, “Best Russian Translator.” Others think that names should contain specific proper nouns, as in the examples of “Foxdocs Translation and Editing” and “lingocode.com – The Translator’s Teacup by Rose Newell.” Some assert that names indicating one’s expertise are more memorable than the translator’s real name: “Video Game Translator,” “Online Legal Translations.” In reality, any name can be effective if it is backed by the appropriate freelance translator marketing strategy.

My lifehack #1: Use the same username across your profiles on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Specify the Colors of Your Online Visibility

Establishing a solid brand identity as a freelance translator is vitally important. By doing so, you build trust, make your clients feel comfortable, and create long-term brand awareness. For this, you need to determine the set of colors you are going to use. At this point it is also necessary to look back at your freelance translator marketing strategy and do some research on color psychology and web color matching. People tend to click, scan, and engage with the content that appeals to them and meets their intent. For example,the color blue is associated with trust, loyalty, and wisdom, while pink represents friendship, affection, and appreciation. If your target audience is looking for legal translation, you might consider blue as the main color.

My lifehack #2: Check the websites of freelance translators and translation companies and note what colors they are using. For example, I have chosen two colors for my brand: red and blue.

Create a Profile Photo and Cover Image

According to Facebook, the size of a profile photo should be 180×180 pixels, and the cover photo should be 820×312 pixels. Both the cover image and your profile photo are the first point of contact you have with potential followers. Therefore, they should give insight into your translation business as much as possible.

Most often, your profile photo will be your translation business logo. If you have a limited budget, you can easily create a professional logo from scratch on your own. For a step-by-step video guide, see my post on how to design a freelance translator logo for free.

Designing a cover image might look like a real challenge. But in reality, thanks to online tools, you can create professional cover images based on templates. Just remember to implement your business strategy and main colors. My favorite tool for this purpose is Canva.

“About” Section

This section of your Facebook business page will help you tell the world who you are and what services you offer. Indicate in “Category” (“General” section) that you are a “Translator.” Make sure your name and username are the same. This is very important for marketing and SEO purposes. This means the link name and the page name will be the same.

In the “Story” section (in the main menu from the left: “About” > “Story”), make sure to add more details. Explain how your services can help your clients and what problems you can solve for them.

Start Growing Your Community

Once your Facebook page is set up following the steps above, you can start building your community. Here are some highlights based on the strategies that have helped me come a long way on social media:

  • publish different posts on your timeline: links to articles related to your company or industry, inspirational quotes, funny memes, questions, calls to action;
  • always tag people or companies that you mention in your posts;
  • always use hashtags; they will attract a new audience;
  • join groups where yourtarget audience is active;
  • engage with people by leaving comments;
  • publish stories.

And lifehack #3: Keeping up with the right Facebook pages can help you improve your business model, better serve your customers, and boost your online presence. For suggestions on who to follow for more inspiration, see my post about the 12 best freelance translators worth subscribing to on Facebook.

Header image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Hanna Sles is a Russian and Ukrainian translator with a master’s degree in linguistics (English and German). Since 2014, her main area of expertise is website translation and localization. By combining her linguistic knowledge and SEO expertise, she helps companies increase organic traffic, reach their target audience, and increase online sales in the Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking markets.

Translation Commons: A Community for Language Professionals

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Translation Commons is a nonprofit, volunteer-based online community designed to facilitate collaboration among diverse sectors and stakeholders of the language industry and encourage transparency, trust, and free knowledge sharing. It was established with the idea that translated data and memories truly belong to the translators who create them and that they should be the ones to benefit from their work. By offering free access to open source tools and other resources, Translation Commons facilitates community-driven projects, aims to help empower linguists, and allows the sharing of educational and language assets.

A Brief History

Translation Commons didn’t happen in a vacuum. I first heard the catch phrase “collaborative commons” in 2014, and the concept of collaboration within the language community struck a very deep chord. How could that become a reality and how would everyone benefit? Would the platform for this collaboration offer collective translation memories and data, or perhaps merely serve as a means of talking to each other? Maybe it could serve both functions?

I discussed the idea at many conferences and networking events with language professionals, mostly in Silicon Valley, but I also had many online conversations through various LinkedIn groups. In December 2014, I created a LinkedIn group to determine the interest level for an online community serving all language professionals. I was very surprised by the positive response: just 20 days after starting the LinkedIn group, there were already 1,000 members. I felt that as far as feasibility studies go, this was a runaway success and demonstrated that there was a need for such a community waiting to be fulfilled.

I’ve always been in the language business with my husband, so after just a brief discussion we were both committed to take Translation Commons to the next level. We started a corporation and applied for nonprofit status. A few months later, to our surprise, the IRS not only granted us nonprofit status, but also determined that we could be categorized as a public charity benefiting the larger community, not just our linguistic members.

After many discussions, we managed to pin down and crystalize our objectives. In a nutshell, Translation Commons is concerned with helping all language professionals achieve due recognition for their work. More specifically, Translation Commons’ vision is to help the language industry by building an infrastructure to:

  • Help our language students by bridging the gap between academia and industry.
  • Facilitate collaboration and mentoring.
  • Organize language resources from around the world.
  • Grow the visibility and importance of our community and gain recognition.

Designing the Platform

Our first task was to create an advisory board consisting of high-profile professionals from many diverse sectors who could represent their interests and guide the community. We’ve been able to assemble an amazing group that’s still growing.

The next step was to move on from LinkedIn and start building our own online platform. Thankfully, we teamed up with Prompsit, an amazing engineering company in Spain that understood and shared our vision. We’ve been working with them for nearly two years now and have managed to expand the offerings on the website.

I would like to clarify that building such a platform is a vast undertaking. Although we now have a fully functional website, there’s still a lot to do. So far, the site architecture consists of Linux and Windows servers, 10 language applications (both proprietary and open source), docker containers (allowing applications to run virtually anywhere), MySQL, wikis, application programming interfaces, G Suite apps, and single sign-on integration.

To address all the issues in our mission, we’ve divided the Translation Commons online platform into three modules: Translate, Share, and Learn.

Translate: The Translate module offers translation tools and applications, both open source and proprietary, most of them on our servers with a few cloud applications integrated with our single sign-on integration. The goal is to create a seamless platform with all available applications. This is an extremely important endeavor as it helps students and those beginning their professional careers familiarize themselves with tools that they might not normally be able to access. We’ve found that quite a few of our members who are recent graduates are unfamiliar with the variety of tools available to help them work more effectively. By offering open source tools and free trials to proprietary applications, we hope to increase their skill set and knowledge of technology.

Share: The Share module is the main portal for all community sharing activities, including think tanks, language industry initiatives, group discussions, and working groups. This is also where any member of the community can start a new project or group and ask people to join. Because we know how difficult it is for small project groups to develop an online platform for collaboration, we offer them the tools to do exactly that: a website, mailing list, calendar, task page, and a drive and document uploader to gather their volunteers and work effectively. We also offer members the entire Google G Suite, which was donated to Translation Commons due to its nonprofit status. Currently, there are around 60 apps available to all members.

Learn: The Learn module offers a Learning Center, tutorials, skill development programs, online courses, and group webinars. Links to our free resources (both online and offline) are available in the Translation Hub. These resources include terminology databases and glossaries. Of course, this is a work in progress and we ask for everybody’s help to upload links to any free online resources to which they have access (e.g., tips, insights, and guides). We’re also talking with proprietary automation toolmakers that offer free trials and asking them to add their links in the Translation Hub. Finally, we’ve inherited and are hosting the eCoLo Project (electronic content localization), which provides useful training materials for both students and teachers to help improve skills in different areas of computer-assisted translation (e.g., translation memory, software localization, project management, and terminology). You’ll also find multilingual material, training kits, training scenarios, and full courses on various translation and localization techniques.

Working Groups

The working groups have been created from within the community. We call our groups Think Tanks because their mission is to identify areas that need improvement and the gaps that need to be filled.

Mentoring: This was the first Think Tank to emerge from the original LinkedIn group. There are some very good mentoring programs available through associations and other organizations in the U.S. and Europe (including ATA’s program) that have managed to capture the essence of mentoring and have a great group of people managing them. However, our mentoring group conducted a global survey and found that many of the freelance translators who responded were unaware of existing mentoring programs or didn’t have a clear understanding of how to get involved. Respondents also stated that expectations and responsibilities are issues of concern when agreeing on mentoring on a one-on-one basis. After analyzing the survey results, the mentoring group decided to create guidelines for freelance mentors who wish to take on freelance mentees. Under the guidance of Nancy Matis, an experienced project manager and teacher, we now have a thriving group that has written an extensive document, “Mentoring Guidelines for Freelancers,” which is currently available for download from the Translation Commons website. The group is also creating a list of mentoring programs so that graduates have somewhere to start their search for mentors.

Technology: The Technology Think Tank is an integral part of Translation Commons. Our commitment to open source resources allows us to make language and the work of translators a priority. Led by Mikel Forcada, a professor of computer science in Alicante, Spain, and with representatives from other translation platforms that include Apertium, Moses, Omega T, Mojito, Okapi, and Translate5, the goal is to catalogue all language-related open source applications and facilitate their adoption.

Interpreting: The Interpreting Think Tank is led by Barbara Werderitsch and ATA Member Arturo Bobea, who have created a very active LinkedIn group. They conducted a survey on interpreters’ knowledge and use of technology and are currently preparing the results. Their reports on various technology providers and new interpreting delivery platforms are also available on the Translation Commons website.

In addition to the working groups, we also host and facilitate volunteer groups that any member can create. Under the expert guidance of Gabriella Laszlo, who worked on Google’s Localization Operations and who now designs backend workflows for Translation Commons, we’re able to offer collaborative volunteer initiatives related to language.

Volunteers

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the Translation Commons community. Their passion for language and expertise in technology are the cornerstones of our initiatives. Their commitment and clear vision of the roadmap that our industry needs to follow are a testament to the merit of a united global language community.

We invite everyone to join and register at http://www.translationcommons.org and to participate in the LinkedIn groups. Do you have an idea that would benefit the community? Do you want to become a mentor to the next generation of language professionals? Do you want to share your expertise, links, material, tutorials, or articles? Are you part of a small initiative and need more exposure? Then please share your knowledge with all of us!

Remember, if you have any ideas and/or suggestions regarding helpful resources or tools you would like to see featured, please e-mail Jost Zetzsche at jzetzsche@internationalwriters.com.


Jeannette Stewart is a co-founder of Translation Commons. She has a BS in business administration and her early career was in advertising and marketing. She is the founder and former chief executive officer of CommuniCare, a translation company specializing in life sciences. She created a series of workshops on language specialization and participates in industry associations and at conferences as a speaker and advocate for the language industry. She writes articles on language community initiatives for Multilingual Magazine. Contact: jeannette@translationcommons.org.

Mental Health in Freelance Translation: Imposter Syndrome

Maybe just another run through, just to be safe.

I had already checked that .srt file around 16 times in the past couple of hours and it still didn’t feel like enough. It was the first subtitle I had ever made, following a subtitling workshop at an agency, a test that determined whether or not I would enter their base of freelancers. It was to be my first proper translating gig ever.

But instead of being happy about the prospect of kick-starting my career or entering the lovely world of audiovisual translation, I was choking in self-doubt. I’d never done this before, so how was I supposed to know what was right? Would the feedback turn out to be excruciating? What if the file got corrupted when I saved it? What if I’m actually the worst translator ever?

I hit send. Dread ensued.

Thankfully, one of the project managers at the agency got back to me in no time. The feedback was really positive, and it contained this sentence: “It looks like this was done by someone who’s already experienced in translation.

…I was mortified. It couldn’t have been that good. I had never done that before. Sure, I did some translation in college, but no subtitling! What was I getting myself into? What if they actually thought I had let someone else do the test subtitle for me? Did I look like that kind of person during the workshop? Would I be able to put as much effort into the actual work as I did in the test subtitle? What if all of the following subtitles turned out to be trash? What if I just got lucky with this one?

Could the PM smell my panic through the email? And how long before they found out I was a fraud?

Imposter Syndrome in Freelancing

Welp, you guessed it: I have a huge case of imposter syndrome.

Just like burnout, the term “imposter syndrome” has been around since the 1970s. Another similarity between the two is that it’s not considered an official diagnosis, but can lead to health concerns such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

According to Medical News Today, people with imposter syndrome may experience some or all of these behavioral symptoms:

  • worrying that we will not live up to expectations, i.e. the fear of being “found out”
  • avoiding extra responsibilities
  • getting stuck in self-doubt cycles, i.e. feelings of self-doubt getting worse despite/because of successes
  • attributing success to external factors, i.e. failing to acknowledge our own competency
  • self-sabotage

What these symptoms boil down to, according to psychological research, is perfectionism.

In their paper on imposter syndrome in high-achieving women, Pauline Rose Clance and Claire Imes suggest that the core of imposter syndrome lies in early childhood development and upbringing: either in excessive praise and lack of guidance or a strict and overly critical approach on the part of the parents. In the first case, individuals grow up with a sense of implied perfection, meaning that they feel it is expected of them to always achieve excellence — which later becomes the front they have to maintain, lest they be exposed. In the second case, they grow up with a sense of enforced perfection, in which achieving parental attachment is only available through constant excellence — the front needs to be maintained in order to maintain the attachment. In both cases, therefore, the person feels the need to operate at high levels of achievement, while simultaneously feeling like what they’re doing is, in fact, a performance.

In order to maintain this image, we self-defined imposters deal with our perfectionism and dread in different ways. As Kirsten Weir puts it in her article on imposter syndrome in graduate students:

“So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help. That perfectionism can lead to two typical responses[.] An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear that he or she won’t be able to complete it to the necessary high standards. Or, he or she may overprepare, spending much more time on a task than is necessary.”

I’d like to suggest rejection as a third type of response. The thing with perfectionists is not just that they have to do things perfectly, it’s that they often won’t even try to do a thing unless they know they can do it perfectly. Imposter syndrome can stop you from trying new things, prevent you from achieving new heights, hinder your ambitions and cause you to turn away business opportunities for lack of self-assurance. In translator terms, you may have noticed that, in certain cases, you or the translators you know, especially in the newbie circles, have rejected offers due to their perceived lack of experience and/or skillset in the subject matter at hand.

The problem is, how exactly do you acquire the necessary experience if not by accepting new projects and acquiring experience in new subject areas?

An additional problem with imposter syndrome in translators is the fact that feedback and recognition are not always a thing in this industry. Most clients, at least on the newbie side of things, won’t take the time to provide proper feedback or acknowledge that they recognize your talent and expertise. As a freelancer, you are also not surrounded by colleagues, bosses or mentors who can provide expert feedback and help guide you to a place where you’re secure in your abilities and realistic in your self-assessment. Somehow succeeding without knowing what you did right can enhance your insecurities, regardless of where they come from.

So how do you, as the lonesome freelance translator you are, go about dealing with those insecurities?

Managing Imposter Syndrome

As with most similar issues, there is more than one answer; there is no quick fix, and self-compassion is key:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

Acknowledge that you’re human. While societies tend to put a bigger emphasis on positive feelings and attitudes as the preferred mode of living, the reality is, humans experience negative emotions for a reason. Insecurities are not something you are born with, but something that has developed through time and experiences. Admit to yourself that you are insecure about your capabilities, or the prospect of a new endeavor, rather than glossing it over with “oh, I’m just too busy at the moment” or “I’m just not cut out for this.” This tip is not about taking risks and giant strides, however — this tip’s here to tell you to develop an understanding of yourself and the roots of the insecurities you harbor.

  1. Acknowledge your work

I.e., your competence. List out the time, steps and strategies you took to achieve the goal you’re feeling fraudulent about, or the ones that would help you accept that new opportunity you’ve been offered. Let’s say it took you a month to finish translating that super convoluted text, you had to research a bunch of super specific terminology and spent ludicrous hours on getting the equivalence just right. That shows perseverance, determination, mental agility, wit and patience. See how many qualities you can identify in the way you handled that one project alone? However much you may have procrastinated during that process, you still did that and there’s a reason your efforts reaped results. Similarly, there’s a reason you’ve been offered that opportunity, and it’s not “oh, they think I’m really good at this based on a false premise I’ve established.”

For others, your work is proof of your abilities and potential. Don’t underestimate their ability to give a fair judgement.

  1. Acknowledge your (and others’!) fallibility

This one is major for me. For some of us, it’s hard to accept the fact that, realistically, perfection is utterly unachievable. We all understand it when it comes to other people, but our relationships with ourselves are often tainted with high expectations and self-doubt. One of the things we should try to integrate into our thinking is the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as they’re honest. When you strive to do your work to the best of your ability (which, as an “imposter,” you probably already do), any and all mistakes that may happen won’t be due to lack of effort or skill. Think of all the times what you did was good, regardless of that punctuation mark that wasn’t in its right place.

Speaking of enough, I’d also like to address the role of social media in imposter syndrome. The highly polished image of the personal and professional lives of others that we see on social media cannot be good for the “imposter’s” sense of inadequacy. While most of us are aware that our feeds don’t exactly give us full disclosure, we do internalize the messages we receive through them. It is, therefore, important to remember that the edited online extension of somebody’s life doesn’t reflect the entirety of it. It certainly won’t show you, say, that time your kick-ass, award-winning translator friend cried themselves to sleep over an impending deadline. In short, accept that others are faulty as well, and that life is not a race to perfection.

  1. Ask for help

This can take on many forms: opening up to your friends over coffee, discussing your insecurities with a mental health counselor, asking for feedback from more experienced colleagues, your clients or project managers. There is no shame in admitting your insecurities and dealing with them, nor in wanting affirmation from the people you work with. None of us can look at ourselves objectively and we need others to provide us with a mirror when our self-doubt gets the best of us. Ask others for input and advice and trust the people you love or admire when they tell you you’re truly good at what you do.

I’d like to round this off by reminding you that managing your imposter syndrome is a process, and that the causes and strategies for managing it are individual to you. The same goes for your strengths and abilities — they are unique to you, and even though you may not possess the same confidence or go-getter attitude as some of your peers, you do possess other qualities that they probably do not. I guess my main point, then, is self-acceptance, and using that as a basis for growth, both in your career and in your personal life. After all, you’re only just beginning.

There’s plenty of room to grow.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Julija Savić is the Content Kid at Zingword, a freelance translator at home and an overall art buff. Her hobbies include cooking and making people feel good about themselves. Check out her other mental health posts at the ZingBlog!

Zingword helps translators feature themselves online, while also effectively marketing their translation services to prospective clients. We have been developing the platform for 3 years and it’s nearly finished and hopefully beautiful. Sign up for the launch!

If you’d like to discuss imposter syndrome or any other topic related to the overall wellbeing of freelancers, join Zingword’s Wharf of Wellness groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Are you who you say you are? Being honest about your credentials and skills

You turn on your computer, take a sip of coffee and see a potential project come in. What are the chances, knowing nothing about the project, that you will accept it? If your answer is close to 100%, it might be time to re-think your strategy. You may be providing subpar service to your clients and hurting your potential future in the translation and interpreting (T&I) industry.

Is this assignment a good fit for you?

I regularly turn down work when I don’t have the expertise for it, don’t have the exact qualifications they are needing, or don’t have the time to give the client the quality I expect of myself. Is it that my business is already so solid I can’t take on any more work? Absolutely not. Don’t I have bills to pay? Of course I do! The thing is, I care about what I do and I insist on providing excellent service to my clients. As a result, when I know, for one reason or another, that I can’t do that, I believe the best thing for my long-term business and my clients is to turn down the assignment, even when it hurts. I also take the ATA & NAJIT Codes of Ethics seriously and both require that translators and interpreters accurately represent their credentials.

Some assignments are easy for me to turn down: You need a Spanish into French translator? I translate Spanish and French into English. You need a French court interpreter? I am a Spanish court interpreter, but don’t interpret in French. Some jobs are harder to turn down, though. Take, for example, a French transcription that I received from a favorite client of mine, a few days after doing a similar French transcription for them. I always try to prioritize this client’s assignments; I hate saying no to them and luckily almost never have to. I listened to the file and just wasn’t confident, so I had to turn it down. I felt like I let them down and I hated that feeling. However, they were able to find someone else who was able to provide a better service, and my time was freed up for another assignment that came in just after that.

Misrepresenting your qualifications to get more work

Just don’t do it! Saying you’re a Certified Translator when you’re not puts you at risk of being called out publicly for an ethics violation and causes people to question those who do have that credential. If you’re serious about the T&I industry, you’re hurting your future self because people may not trust your credentials when you do attain them.

When helping others can hurt you

In Texas, in order to interpret at depositions, county courthouses, and in any court of record, the law states you must be a Master Licensed Court Interpreter (with a few exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article). I have a great relationship with a colleague who does not have this qualification. He recently got a call from a lawyer asking him to interpret at court. My colleague explained that he was not a Master Licensed Court Interpreter and the attorney told him he didn’t care. He told him it was an easy case and it was hard to find people with the right qualifications available for hearings. This colleague is the kind of guy you can count on⁠—he really wants to help people. He hates disappointing clients and he felt like this attorney needed him, so he was contemplating helping him. I pushed back and explained that this was his decision, not the attorney’s, and that he was better positioned to know the risks and consequences. I emphasized that he could get into trouble for taking on this assignment. I was shocked to be having that conversation with this person, whose ethics I normally admire. This just goes to show how “being helpful” can make us lose sight of real issues.

How to turn down work in a way that gets more work later

Remember that transcription assignment I mentioned earlier? Two weeks later, the client offered me the best assignment they’ve ever offered me, and I was ecstatic to take it on. They know that when I say I can do something I can do it!

Half the battle is getting a client to find you and reach out to you. Once you’ve won this part of the battle, use the opportunity to talk about what you can do for them. Rather than ignoring the email, respond back and let them know that while you don’t have the expertise or qualifications needed for this assignment, you can do XYZ.

It’s also a good idea to network with other colleagues in your language pair, and in the opposite language pair, so that you don’t have to leave clients out in the cold. A few weeks ago, I was asked to do 30 pages of handwritten medical reports by a client from whom I was really hoping to get some repeat business. I like electronic medical reports, but I just could not decipher these handwritten ones. I did a search in the ATA directory and found two people I thought were qualified. I took the risk and told a client with whom I really wanted to build a better relationship that I couldn’t decipher the handwritten medical reports and gave them the names of people who I thought could. I wanted them to get the best translation they could get, and I highlighted what I can do for them in the future, as well as my desire to continue working with them. Fingers crossed—hopefully they learned they can trust me.

Conclusion

It’s important to grow your business in ways that bring back more business. That means only advertising on your business card, website, LinkedIn profile, CV, etc. qualifications and certifications you actually have. Take a good look at assignments before accepting them and don’t take jobs you know you aren’t qualified for, hoping you’ll just figure it out, or think that the client won’t know the difference. Remember, if this is the career of your dreams and it gives you the lifestyle and intellectual challenges you want, focus on the long-term: creating a reputation for excellent work and helpful customer service.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

Email: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

Spider marketing – How to get clients to come to you

Reblogged from SJB Translations’ blog, with permission (incl. the image)

How to get clients to come to you

Adapted from my presentation at METM 16 entitled “Spinning your web”

Last year at METM15 in Coimbra I was inspired by a presentation by a very experienced translator called Graham Cross, which I wrote about here. Graham was talking about churn, the marketing concept that dictates how many of our clients end up disappearing for one reason or another, and his basic point was that, because of this seemingly inevitable factor, investing large amounts of time and money in marketing is a waste because, even if you do find new clients, it is highly unlikely that they will earn you enough to repay your effort.

This attracted my interest because it was certainly my experience that a great deal of time and effort can be wasted on marketing. Last year, for example, I went to a big trade fair in an attempt to sell my services. I had leaflets printed and went round meeting people handing them out all over the place. Some of the responses were quite encouraging but, despite this, the effort won me no new customers at all. The year before I went to a networking event for entrepreneurs in a bar in Barcelona. I prepared myself, got up on a stool and presented my business for two minutes, which is the format for these meetings. The reaction was very good and it was a fantastic exercise in getting out of my comfort zone, as I’ve never considered myself a public speaker. But once again, in terms of winning new customers it was an absolute failure.

My point isn’t that going out and selling yourself is never worthwhile. I’m sure the way I went about things in those two examples can be dissected and the reasons for my failure laid bare. What I am saying is that it is possible, and even quite likely, to spend lots of time and energy on it for little or no result.

Back to Graham Cross. He was asked the very reasonable question: “If marketing is a waste of time then how do you find clients?” He replied by explaining the two theories of capturing clients: the “Tiger” and the “Spider”. The Tiger represented going out and hunting for them, with the risk that you might chase a juicy deer and end up with a rabbit or a rat. But he identified with the spider, waiting for the clients to come to him.

Networks

So, how does being a spider work? Well, on this one I’m not with Graham, who was such a technophobe he dictated all his translations and had them typed up by a secretary to avoid having to have a computer. This is the 21st century and we have all sorts of electronic means within our grasp. First of all, there are the social networks. I’m not going to spend too much time on this because we all know about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on. All I will say about them is that, in my opinion, it doesn’t really matter which ones you use as long as you’re there somewhere. If you know me, you will know that I can be found on Facebook, for example, but, until very recently, not on Twitter. This has been a personal choice. I know many people who use Twitter very successfully. I simply have limited time to spend looking at and dealing with social media and have chosen to ignore it until an experiment which I’m currently carrying out and will no doubt report here at some point. All the networks have their peculiarities. Facebook lately seems to have been trying to discourage business pages; LinkedIn, as always, seems to be full of potential but never quite lives up to it and Google+ is dying on its feet. You can post across several of them using Buffer or Hootsuite, but my advice is to make sure sure the content you post is good and worthwhile.

Have I won clients through social networks? Yes I have, and one or two good ones, but to be honest not that many. A good spider’s web needs to have other strands. One of those, of course, is the online profile. There are many kinds of online profile on sites like ProZ and others and some of these may be worth having, particularly if you’re not ready to take the step of having your own website. They can attract offers of work, although often the conditions will be so poor they won’t be worth considering.

To my mind there really isn’t any substitute for having a website of your own, although I have to confess that mine hasn’t brought me huge numbers of clients. As much as anything, I see it as an electronic business card where I can direct potential clients to find more information and I know for a fact that my site has helped convince clients to entrust their translations to me. I believe the most important thing is that you try to connect with your customers, with a message that says a bit more than “Here I am, I’m very good at my job”. Mine, for example, makes the point that if you hire me, as a freelance rather than an agency, you know exactly who is doing your translations. You will no doubt either have found or will find a message of your own.

So, here are my website tips. First of all, as I have said: connect with your customers. That would include making sure you have your site in their language or languages. Then, use a professional designer. There are plenty of programs that allow you to do it yourself but I don’t see how we can in one breath ask people to use professional translators and, in the next, say we’re going to build our own websites. But even when you use a professional, make the style your own. There are lots of possibilities, but your site should be original and reflect your personality or the personality you want to put across. Tying in with that is the content: make sure it’s well written and don’t try to artificially fill it with keywords. Now, keywords are related to search engine optimisation, which means getting your site to appear high up when someone makes a search with Google or another search engine. As I’m not an expert on the subject, I asked a more knowledgeable colleague what she thought and I was greatly encouraged because many of her tips turned out to be very similar to mine. That means Google is now set up so it actually rewards things it ought to be rewarding. But she also had some other advice I thought I’d share.

Selling

First of all, she made the very important point that you should concentrate on the experience visitors have on your page, and, following on from this, pointed out that conversions matter more than clicks. In other words, it’s all very well getting people to your page, but it’s no good if they then don’t buy your services. Then there were two other points: consider all elements of SEO and use Google Analytics to make sure it’s working. Finally, there were some suggestions there for getting more information on SEO: visit https://moz.com/learn/seo, read Search Engine Optimization for Dummies or simply google “SEO basics”.

Moving on, there are also translators who have a blog. I’m one of them, of course, and blogs can be used for selling, although I’m the first to admit that mine actually isn’t. It’s written in English and talks about translation. If I was really going to use it for selling I’d write it in my source languages and write it about subjects of interest to clients. At the moment that’s a future project, although I have the capability to do it, as my website is multilingual. Strangely, my English blog has actually helped to win me some clients. I know this, because they have mentioned to me that they picked me because they liked my writing style, which only goes to show that you can’t always predict the results of what you do online.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far accounts for what you might consider to be the main strands of a spider marketer’s web. Nowhere, though, have I given examples of anything that has attracted lots of new clients. To explain why, let’s go back for the last time to Graham Cross. Right at the end of his talk he was asked another good question: “Where are my clients going to come from?” to which he replied “The people sitting next to you: your colleagues”. This set me thinking. The marketing initiatives I’d launched had largely failed. I had what I considered to be a good website, but it wasn’t bringing in lots of customers, and yet I considered myself reasonably successful, with plenty of work. So I did something I’d never done before and started looking at who my own clients were and where I’d found them.

First of all, I was amazed to discover that 85% of my clients had come to me, rather than me going to them looking for work. It turns out that I really am a spider. Then I was surprised at how many direct clients I have – they make up 36% of the total, followed by colleagues at 31% and agencies in third place at 29%. This year’s figures would show a different proportion, with agencies dropping still further after I put my rates up again at the beginning of the year.

Relationship

Looking a bit more deeply I realised that a lot of the direct clients had also, in fact, come via colleagues. Taking this into account, colleagues were clearly my most important source of work, just as Graham Cross had predicted. So what is it that makes our colleagues such good clients? One reason is, as I have suggested, that they often bring us into contact with direct clients. More importantly, they bring us into contact with direct clients at a time when those clients need translations. Maybe if we’d run into that same client at some event or other they’d have taken our business card and by the time they needed work doing they’d have lost or forgotten about it. But if we’re introduced by a colleague it’s because that end client needs a translation now. If we do it well, we have a good chance of keeping the client. Not only that, but if our colleague has a relationship with the client, it probably means that the client is a low risk in terms of non-payments, something else it could otherwise be difficult to discover.

And even if the colleague does not put us in direct contact with the end client and decides to act as an intermediary, the rate we can obtain is often better than an agency rate. This is because, generally, our colleagues are not motivated by profit when passing translations on to us. What they are usually concerned about is solving a problem for their client. Sometimes they don’t even make money on these jobs, they just want to help the client by getting them a good translation with as little fuss as possible. Their profit will come from the translations they regularly do for the same client.

This is one reason why colleagues make up such a large proportion of my clients nowadays. My rates are becoming too high for many agencies to pay, but colleagues’ clients can still afford me provided the colleague is not concerned to make money from the job. Colleagues who work in this way are also generally reliable payers. I have some who pay within a day of receiving the invoice. Why do they do this? It’s obvious really. They know exactly what it’s like having to wait for payment themselves.

So where can we find these colleagues who are going to bring us all this work? It’s possible to find them online, of course, but I’ve found the best source is in translators’ associations. My survey of my own clients showed up clearly where a large proportion (31%) come from: my membership of APTIC, the Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters of Catalonia. Why is this the case? Well, it’s because most of its members work in precisely the opposite language combination to me. A colleague in the same language combination will only send you work when she’s rushed off her feet. But when those working in a reverse combination are asked for a translation into English, they are professionals, who don’t want to translate into a language that’s not their own, and they look for someone who they think can do the translation well. The trick is, to be the person they think of when they’re looking.

Events

There are various ways of being that person. You should, first, appear in the association’s directory of members. You can also, for example, participate in the association’s mailing lists and forums so that people get to know your name. Then you can go to its social events and get to know members. Just to give an example, I make a point of going to the APTIC Christmas party and chatting to people I know and people I don’t know there. You might think this is a trivial point, but when I went to my first one, several years ago now, I was sitting on a table with three other people. I still work for those colleagues and they are still recommending me to other potential clients. I should stress that I have done none of these things consciously, or at best with vague desire for “networking”, but I can vouch for the fact that they really do work.

Another way you can make the most of associations (and this is more the spider venturing out of its web once in a while) is by chasing after jobs advertised to members. This I would advise you to do as often as you can, provided it’s a job you can do well. But when you do it, be quick. With this sort of job offer it’s definitely the early spider that catches the fly. It isn’t necessarily the job that’s advertised which you’re interested in, though, it’s more the long-term connection with the client concerned, often a direct client. The job isn’t always what it seems, anyway, as demonstrated by this example. Last year I saw quite an interesting job advertised on the APTIC e-mail list. I wrote in response – it was a 3,000-word French translation related to history, one of my specialist areas. After speaking to the client, it turned out that what really had to be translated was an exhibition catalogue amounting to almost 100,000 words of Catalan and French – one of my biggest and best jobs of last year.

Of course, once you have managed to get orders for work from colleagues or other clients, you need to keep those clients and, just as importantly, find ways of getting them to recommend you to others. 11% of my clients, I discovered, came through this kind of recommendation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a good number of the 44% of clients whose origin I don’t know or can’t remember also came in this way. So how can this be done?

Dating

I started writing down some tips, based on my own ideas and conversations with some of my colleagues and clients, and I can only apologise for the fact the headings sound a lot like the kind of dating advice you might receive from your mother:

  • Be different. Sometimes it helps if you can offer something different – an unusual language combination or specialist area, for example. Mine is French-English, which isn’t an unusual combination except in Spain, but has opened a lot of doors for me.
  • Be yourself.  Remember not to work outside your specialist areas. You won’t impress if you mess up a translation you’re not really suited for.
  • Be available. Sometimes you need to make a bit of extra effort to secure this type of client, working the odd evening or weekend, especially at the start. You can set boundaries later, but you want the client to come back.
  • Be good. I can’t stress this one enough. Be the best translator you can be, taking advantage of all possible forms of self-improvement, including conferences like this. And it’s not just me saying that, I want to reinforce it with a comment left on my blog earlier this year from no less than Chris Durban, who many of you will have heard of as someone who has, in the past, stressed the need for translators to adopt business-like attitudes. She said: “I would dearly like to hear more support for the hottest tip I know of for translators looking to build their business. Ready? Here we go: *Become a better translator.*”
  • Be on time. Deadlines matter, but it’s amazing how many translators don’t realise this. How do I know? Because some clients have been astonished simply at the fact that I always deliver on time. To me as a former journalist it’s second nature. Make sure it’s second nature to you too.
  • Be nice. This can take whatever form you like, but it takes your relationship on to another level. In my case, I just try to be friendly and make my e-mails a little more personal, especially if the other person takes the lead. Others make homemade Christmas gifts. One thing I do is think about who might become a potential client in the future. Project managers, for example, often leave agencies and set up on their own. If you find out one is leaving, write her a message wishing her luck. Next week she may need a translator into English…
  • Be reciprocal. Pass on work you can’t do to colleagues. It helps make them think of you when they need something doing.

Follow these principles and I can’t promise you’ll find Mr. or Miss Right, but you should satisfy your colleagues and clients and win more recommendations, which is the point of the exercise.

So, I would say that’s mostly what there is to being a successful spider. It’s a strategy that perhaps won’t take you to the very top of the profession. After all, a spider is unlikely to catch big game. What it will do is provide you with a good base to build on with clients who will pay you reasonably well and reliably and who will help you break out of the agency market – and that’s something well worth considering.