Business and Marketing Tips for Translators: Direct Client Contact Ideas

This post originally appeared on The ATA Chronicle and it is republished with permission.

Companies are looking for someone who is more than just a great translator and writer. They’re looking for someone who can translate, provide cultural and background expertise, and who is in tune with the company’s vision.

Finding and contacting potential direct clients can be perplexing for translators. One of the challenges is performing appropriately within the context of the client relationship. I’m always on the prowl for tips on how to finesse these relationships.

Recently, I listened to a webinar by Ed Gandia entitled “How to Launch a Profitable B2B Writing Business in 10 Weeks or Less.”1 While this audio course focused primarily on writers and copywriters and how they can make money quickly by zeroing in on corporate content writing, a number of strategies and ideas stood out to me as being relevant to translators marketing their services and dealing with direct clients.

Writing for businesses that sell to other businesses can be very profitable. Think potentially doubling whatever you thought would be a healthy freelancing income in our profession and you’ll get an idea about your potential profit margins for corporate content writing. How is this related to direct translation clients and a healthy freelancing career? Well, it has to do with the approach: being focused and strategic. As freelancers, we’re always trying to get on the right radar. We know clients are out there and that they need us, but exactly how to reach them is the issue.

Focus on What Clients Need

The first step toward securing clients is to stop pestering potential ones with details about what we do. Yes, we have to educate clients, but we can’t just overwhelm them with that education from the very beginning. We have to ease them into it, like getting in a hot tub. But before we invite them in, let’s make sure they have a swimsuit on and that they like to soak.

So, how can we get to clients? How can we let them know that we’re here to solve their problems? By offering to help with what they need most and learning about their businesses. Keep in mind that what you can do for clients and what they need can be two different things. In order to get the business we want—the fun projects, the high profile names, the work that makes a difference—before all that, we have to get clients, confidence, and experience. How? Once you’ve listened to what clients need, deliver it to them by going the extra mile.

Look Beyond Your Current Contacts

Find your ideal potential clients by looking for a business that offers services or products that are new, expensive, and complex, and—this is the key for translators—a business that wants to expand into a target market for your native language. This should be a company that has a lot of written material to explain and inform about the services and products it offers. This is a good time to showcase your writing skills as a translator by providing excellent copy in your target language.

The crux of the thing here is that companies are looking for someone who is more than just a great translator and writer. They’re looking for someone who can translate, provide cultural and background expertise, and who is in tune with the company’s vision.

To find these elusive companies, invest in a hyper-focused marketing effort. Hyper-focused? Yes, this is going to require some reflection. But break through those usual barriers where you say to yourself, “I don’t know anyone who needs my services,” or “I’ve already told everyone about what I do.” Instead, look beyond your contacts to the people they know. Investigate their circles online and consider where you could do meaningful work (i.e., the type of work that you enjoy most and excel). Here’s a possible path your thinking could follow:

  • Think about the people you know in professional and personal circles.
  • Think about the people you know and the companies where they work. Are you interested in any of those companies as potential clients?
  • What’s your specialty or favorite type of text? What sector is it?
  • Have you ever done work in that area? Ask a contact from a previous project for a recommendation.

For online research, you can start by looking at your contacts’ contacts on LinkedIn to see if there is an area where you can fill a need. For example, I browsed an investment banker’s contacts recently and not only learned a lot, but also got some great ideas for potential leads, even though I’m not involved in financial translation. (As a courtesy, you might want to mention to your existing contact that you found a potential lead on their profile list.)

Shift Your Focus

When you market your services as a translator, consider shifting your focus away from telling prospects about your business and services. Instead, how about learning about the companies your clients run and how they are organized? What do they want and need, and how can you make that happen for them?

For example, say you want to translate a book describing photography from the state where you live for a client in your source-language country. You know a client who will publish such a translation in your target language. Boom! Sounds great, right? But this client doesn’t know you, and the photography book is one of the most important things they’re doing this year. By finding the areas where they need help, not what you want to do for them, you get your foot in their door. Ask clients what their most urgent communication needs are related to cultural questions, translation, interpreting, or another service at which you excel.

Oh, and don’t forget to mention any certifications. Recently, I told a client that I’m certified as a translator by the Judiciary Council of the State of Jalisco. Although this has little to do with being a literary translator, it turned out that the client needed someone with this certification. After helping the client in this way, I became liked, known, and trusted. This is a great place to start a long-term relationship with a client.

Market Yourself as a Problem Solver, but Be Selective

Every client needs someone to solve his or her communication problems. Translators are in a unique position to do so because of the complexity of their work and the level of skill required. For each step in the translation process, the translator changes roles: from researcher to cultural expert; from writer to editor to word processor; from customer services representative to bookkeeper to innovator; from friend to colleague to mentor. What are we missing? Business, sales, negotiation, and soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills).2

Clients need you to take the tasks off their hands that they don’t understand completely but realize are important. Unfortunately, working with clients who have no idea what translation involves is not the road to increased income and a comfortable freelancing career. Every freelancer works with clients who aren’t from the word world (i.e. linguists, writers, editors, etc.), and every professional has to explain what he or she does. However, if you work with clients who have even an inkling of what you do and why it’s important, you’ll be able to do business faster, more productively, and ultimately, more successfully.

In his webinar, Ed Gandia alludes to a great parable about a man selling watches. Ed’s advice: if you’re selling watches, don’t try to sell to someone who doesn’t have a watch, since this is very hard. You need to find those clients who already have a watch and know its value. In our case, this means clients who appreciate the value of translation.

Whatever the reason for clients having some knowledge about what you do, it’s very helpful. Maybe it’s because you’re not the first translator they’re dealing with, maybe the text was botched the first time. Maybe it’s a marketing department at a large company where they know that translation is important, but don’t exactly understand everything that’s involved in shifting a text from one culture to another. Whatever it is, the kind of clients you market to makes all the difference.

Stockpiling Documents

I listened to another talk by legendary copywriter Bob Bly, and his marketing strategies are pure genius.3 In terms of positioning—that is, how you communicate with clients and the value you bring to their business—his strategies and suggestions are spot on in relation to freelance translation.

In addition to the types of clients to whom you market, the sheer number is crucial. Bob’s suggestion is to try and get two to five times the leads you can handle. In his words: “Don’t market to get business, market to have choice.”

How can you help ensure that your marketing efforts stand out? Freelance translators looking to attract great direct clients should have a cache of professional documents, samples, and website pages. When clients need information about what you do or your work process, you should have documents ready to send out that describe and highlight your value and explain your approach. For translators, this might mean a document showing how historical miscommunications have led to costly errors, or the traditional example of company names not working in target cultures.4

A great way to get clients’ attention is to show them how your cultural knowledge can help them save time and money. Find a translation blunder in your prospect’s industry and you’ll be sure to impress. This leads to a more satisfying business relationship and in turn generates new insights in your clients about the culture of their customers and suppliers. This document could include examples from their industry or that show how important it is to localize content. There are great examples in the book Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. Here’s an excerpt:

When Mistranslations Cost Millions
Banking and financial services giant HSBC had a popular Assume Nothing campaign, but the phrase was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in several countries. How to repair the damage done to the brand? A $10 million rebranding initiative soon followed.5

As an added value, you can check if the client has localized their products in your target language, or send them a short paragraph on why the brand name would work in country X, which, incidentally, might also be a good place to export. When you have industry-specific examples ready, it’s easy to connect with and educate clients.

Another suggestion is to write a book to market yourself. This could be great for many translators with vast specialty knowledge. A nonfiction book, a handout, or a pamphlet on your specialty knowledge subject area might be just the ticket. Your book could get noticed. As word spreads, you’ll gradually gain a reputation as an expert on the subject, and clients will come to you. This happens when someone buys your book, tells other people about it, or simply keeps it and picks it up again later. When you’ve written a book on a specialized sector you boost your authority and exposure. You can also send copies of your book to potential clients. Bob says it best: “A book is a brochure that will never be thrown away.” Remember, in every business, professionals have to explain what they do.

Take Advantage of ATA’s Client Outreach Kit

For translators working with clients who don’t have a precise idea about what translators or interpreters do, a short, informative, and entertaining document, brochure, case study or short presentation prepared beforehand with clients in mind is an invaluable resource. ATA’s Client Outreach Kit will help with some ideas on how to prepare your material.6 These documents will also showcase your writing skills, but they must be flawless. Get a top-notch translation editor to look over your material so that clients will be drawn in by the meticulous copy.

It’s Time to Determine What Works for You

What marketing methods have worked for you with direct clients? What cultural quandaries have you come into contact with? Consider creating a list with examples to use with future clients!

Notes
  1. “High-Level Business Writing with Ed Gandia,” http://b2blauncher.com.
  2. For a basic definition of soft skills, see http://bit.ly/soft-skills-defined.
  3. Bly, Bob. “Ten Steps to Having a Great Copywriting Career for Life,” http://bit.ly/Bob_Bly-talk.
  4. “13 Unfortunate Translations that Harmed Brand Reputations,” http://bit.ly/unfortunate-translations; also see “11 Brand Names that Sound Hilarious in a Different Language” (Huffington Post, August 11, 2012), http://bit.ly/hilarious-translations.
  5. Kelly, Nataly, and Jost Zetzsche. Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World (Perigee Books, 2012).
  6. ATA Client Outreach Kit, www.atanet.org/client_outreach.

Author bio

Jesse Tomlinson is an interpreter and translator and splits her time between Canada and México. She translates from Spanish into English and interprets in both languages. Her special interests lie in Mexican culture, the tequila industry, and literature. Website: www.tomlinsontranslations.com

 

New ATA e-book for Translation Newbies: Your Go-to Guide for Starting Out

So, you’re interested in starting a career in translation… chances are you have a lot of questions! You might be wondering whether you need a website or blog, how to find potential clients and market your services, what kind of hardware and software you’ll use, and how to approach your business structure and finances. These questions can be daunting. We know, because we all started out where you are right now.

Luckily, ATA’s Membership Committee has published the ATA Guide to Starting Out as a Translator, a new resource to help newbies get started by addressing these questions—and more. This free e-book, available to download in PDF format, is jam-packed with guidance and information on a variety of topics of specific interest to newcomers. Over 30 pages of content cover technology, networking, pricing your services, marketing strategies, and more. And, because we’re all word nerds, the book also includes a handy glossary and acronyms list to make sure you know all the appropriate lingo.

The e-book also features testimonials from ATA members who share how the association has helped them throughout various stages of their careers, including being student members, earning their ATA certification credential, and attending the ATA Annual Conference.

Anyone who is new to the translation profession will benefit from reading this e-book. Whether you’re currently studying translation, a recent graduate, or making a career change, this resource will help you start off on the right foot and set you up for success in this dynamic and exciting field. The intention of this e-book is not to teach you how to translate, but to help you build a strong launchpad for your new translation career.

From drafting your resume and building a website to working with agencies versus direct clients and attending professional conferences, this e-book is your guide to set you on the right course as you get started. It’s also chock-full of links to additional resources, including webinar recordings, blog and magazine articles, books, and more.

And, yes, the interpreter e-book is in the works! Stay tuned for updates on its release.

Author bios

Meghan Konkol, MA, CT is an ATA director and an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator specializing in international development, marketing and communications, and human resources. She received her MA in French>English translation from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 2010. She serves as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee, and also serves as the coordinator of ATA’s School Outreach Program. meghan@fr-en.com

Ben Karl, MBA, CT is a French and Mandarin to English translator and copywriter based in Los Angeles who specializes in commercial, financial, and marketing texts for the US and Canadian markets. Ben is ATA certified for French, serves on the ATA Membership Committee, and chairs the Translatio Standing Committee of the International Federation of Translators (FIT). www.bktranslation.com

How to maintain a healthy work/life balance

This post originally appeared on Trados blog and it is republished with permission.

Work plays a significant role in all our lives. We need it to keep the lights on, our stomachs full, money in the pot and a roof over our head.
Whether you work as a freelance translator, as part of an agency, or within an in-house translation team, the working culture within the localization industry has seen a considerable shift in 2020. The amount of time we spend working remotely has increased and the technology on offer to us has continued to grow more sophisticated. As freelance translators have long known, and as many agency and corporate translators have since learned, home working certainly has its benefits; you don’t have to spend large chunks of your day stuck in traffic, sitting in uncomfortable work clothes or choking down the unpleasant way a colleague makes your coffee. And the growing sophistication of the CAT tools we use, whether working from the office or at home, means translating is faster, simpler, and more consistent than ever.And yet… when you work where you simultaneously live, and have the other staples of progressive technology — smartphone, email and social media for example — vying for your attention too, how do you strike a healthy balance between work and life?

Jamie Hartz of Tilde Language Services is an ATA-certified freelance Spanish-to-English translator who provides services to clients in a variety of industries. The juggling act of trying to maintain a healthy balance between the professional and personal facets of life as a translation professional is something Jamie is all too familiar with, so she has kindly shared some of the top tips she uses to combat the common issues that arise when trying to achieve equity between the two.

1. Resist the temptation to be ‘always on’

The value of this tip depends on the individual person, but I know that, particularly at the early stage of my career as a freelancer, I found it very difficult to step away from being available.This is perhaps mainly relevant to freelancers who worry that if they ever aren’t available, then they’re missing out on opportunities. If you miss an email or if you don’t respond within a certain amount of time then you worry that you may disappoint clients, or even lose them. This paranoia isn’t unjustified, because there can be opportunities that present within a very small window of time, but you have to make peace with the fact that there are always going to be opportunities that you miss – most of which you won’t ever know about anyway.

For agency or corporate freelancers it’s different, but there may still be pressures to be ‘on’ after hours or at weekends, and you need to be careful about drawing clear lines if necessary.

So when you step away from your desk, resist the temptation to obsessively check your phone for work emails, and don’t let ‘always on’ notifications become exhausting.

2. Dispel the pervasive guilt

Especially now in 2020, we have translation professionals who would normally work in an office having to adjust to working from home, and those of us who normally work from home offices are having them invaded by people who wouldn’t previously have been there.I know a lot of colleagues who have their children at home and are trying to home-school them and work alongside a spouse or partner who is also having to work from home. While we are fortunate to be able to work from home during this pandemic, having other people around you who are demanding your time and attention can create a sense of guilt.

If you are diligently working on your translation projects, you may feel guilty for not paying attention to your children or spending time with your spouse. Alternatively, you may go off and spend an hour in the middle of the afternoon playing with your children or taking a walk with your spouse and then you feel guilty about not being available for your work.

I think there’s a certain level of guilt which we experience no matter what type of balance we try to strike between work and life — and that isn’t really fair because the guilt is not productive for us. Make sure you set aside allocated time for your family and don’t let guilt paralyze you when it comes to setting those boundaries.

3. Don’t take on more work than you are comfortable with

Everyone has to draw a line if work becomes ‘too much’ (though naturally what constitutes ‘too much’ will differ for different people).For agency and corporate translators, if your volume of work is consistently uncomfortable, you’ll need to have a conversation with your manager. If you are a freelancer, especially a new one getting started, securing a particular client who you know is going to be a good source of work in the future can lead you to take on more work than you would ideally like. Ultimately, though, that line still has to be drawn so that you don’t make a counterproductive decision where you are taking on so much work that it’s negatively impacting other areas of your personal or professional life.

During the pandemic, in particular, I’ve noticed that the busy weeks are busier than ever and the slow weeks are slower than ever so there is that temptation, when something comes along, to feel that I have to take it because I don’t know what will come next week. This is part of what makes the 2020 pandemic so problematic.

The key for me is to ask: can I do a good job of everything I’ve committed to? Whether you’re a freelancer like me or not, always ask yourself this before you agree to new projects.

4. No matter how busy you are, take a break —and eat!

Yes, you may have a lot of work on, but take a break anyway. Taking a short break and stepping away is a good way of getting some perspective on your work. Meal breaks are a good excuse for this, as you should never eat at your desk. Use them to give your eyes and mind a rest so that you can come back to your work refreshed.I can’t count the number of times I’ve worked through lunch and it’s gotten to two o’clock in the afternoon (I normally eat at noon) and I’ve realized that I’m nowhere near as productive as I need to be — and it’s simply because I’m hungry! Don’t overlook basic needs. Remember that something as simple as stepping away to eat can make a huge difference.

5. Set realistic expectations for your day-to-day work

Set up a schedule of what you will be working on, at what times and for how long each day. I use Google Calendar to manage my time because I find it extremely useful to be able to look at my day before it has even started and see what chunks of time I am going to be committing to each of my tasks that I have planned to do that day. It helps me to organize my projects and thoughts and generally alleviates my stress levels because I’ve got everything right in front of me.A calendar can also help you define the boundary between work and personal life, in that you can even color-code personal activities versus work activities and see the balance that you’re creating between the two. One way I’ve managed to combat the temptation to work too much is to schedule commitments to friends and family in my calendar that I know will inhibit me from accepting work that I don’t have time for. You can also look back over previous weeks and see how well you’ve done with setting those expectations, and then potentially set up future weeks in the same way.

One of the most important things to note about setting a schedule is that it has to be adaptable. It has to be flexible to change because things can and do suddenly come up – that’s the nature of the business we work in.

6. Use an out-of-office responder

There are certain times when I need to be completely removed from my email and my computer, but there are also times when I want clients to know that while I may not be tethered to my desk, I am still reachable.
Setting up an out-of-office responder is an effective way of giving myself space. I will normally have it set up to state I am ‘away from my desk’ but that I will get back to them as and when I can.
This is a really simple but effective tool you can use to help set clear lines when it comes to your ability to work without completely cutting people off. Clients will know you are still open to work and can expect a response from you, but that urgent requests will not sit within the realms of your availability.
In a sense, your out-of-office responder can act as a cushion between your work and your personal life – use it wisely to give yourself that extra bit of breathing room.

7. Take part in a stress-reducing activity

Personally, I run as a means of exercise and as a way to relieve stress. You don’t have to run, or even necessarily ‘exercise’ per se, but I think everyone should have some sort of stress-reducing activity that they love.
It could be yoga, it could be knitting, it could be taking a walk with your dog. Anything that gets the endorphins going in your brain will reduce stress and help you focus on your work with a better sense of clarity when you need to.

8. Make technology work for you

There are so many brilliant apps out there that can help you manage your work and recreation time, from the Google Calendar I mentioned earlier to the pomodoro timers people use to help them stay focused on one particular task.I use the Digital Wellbeing app which gives you a daily view of your digital habits. It’s got a really useful ‘bedtime’ setting which turns notifications off during your allocated ‘bedtime’ period. This stops me receiving notifications during this time and, in turn, helps me to stop feeling like I have to check my emails outside of my allotted working time.

A colleague also recently mentioned the Timeular app to me. I haven’t used it personally but as I understand it, you buy an eight-sided ‘tracking die’ which links to your phone and you flip the die onto the correct side that is associated with the task you are currently working on. The die tracks the amount of time you spend doing each task and tells you where each minute of your day is spent. It sounds really interesting!

If working from home is a recent adjustment you have had to make this year, or if you are just looking for some further holistic advice, our ‘how to stay productive and healthy when working from home’ blog contains some more pragmatic tips on how to stay as efficient as possible when having to work remotely.Having a healthy mind is just as important for translators as having a healthy body, and the two are more intrinsically linked than you may think. Take a look at our ‘simple tips to help you keep a positive mindset as a busy translation professional’ blog and harness the power of positive thought to help bolster your translation productivity.

Author bio

Rebecca White is a Digital Marketing Executive for Translation Productivity at RWS with a passion for creative content generation, social media engagement and product analysis.

ATA’s Back to Business Basics—Phone and Email Etiquette for Freelancers

How can you use email and phone communication to make a good impression on your current and potential clients? This is one of the questions addressed at the Phone and Email Etiquette for Freelancers webinar presented on February 15, 2020, by Corinne McKay, a French to English translator and interpreter, seasoned trainer, and past ATA President. This presentation was part of ATA’s Back to Business Basics webinar series, which was launched in September 2020. These webinars focus on a small, practical piece of business advice for translators and interpreters at different stages of their careers. The series quickly became popular: typically, a few hundred people attend each live session. Members can access these webinars free of charge, and non-members can purchase each recording for $25.

Most of this webinar was devoted to managing email communication professionally, effectively, and appropriately. Corinne talked about the importance of having the right domain name—ideally, your own—and avoiding mail providers that make your messages land in your client’s junk folder. She also talked about your email address and signature as key pieces of your personal branding, focusing on what you may want to include in these elements.

Next, the webinar examined some expectations around email content and response time in the US and Europe. Corinne looked at what an appropriate greeting looks like in these two regions and pointed out that US emails tend to be on the shorter side. In addition, a quicker reply is expected in the US than in Europe. Finally, Corinne shared some tips for managing your inbox, which included scheduling your outgoing messages to avoid sending them outside business hours, using email templates, and setting up an automatic response for your absences.

The final part of the webinar looked at phone etiquette. Corinne recommended having a basic, professional voicemail message and only answering the phone if you can have a professional, noise-free conversation. She pointed out that unless you work in cultures that favor phone conversations, having a dedicated phone line for your business may not be worth the expense anymore.

This overview of communication etiquette will certainly help beginners get a sense of North American and European conventions. However, even seasoned professionals could use these tips to streamline and improve their client communication skills.

Check out the recording of this webinar and share it with colleagues who may be interested!

Author bio

Maria Guzenko is an ATA-certified English<>Russian translator and a certified medical interpreter (CMI-Russian). She holds an M.A. in Translation from Kent State University and specializes in healthcare translation. Maria is a co-founder of the SLD certification exam practice group and the host of the SLD podcast, now rebranded as Slovo. More information can be found on her website at https://intorussian.net.

Cold Emailing: What Not To Do

This post originally appeared on Diálogos Online Forum and it is republished with permission.

When novice translators ask me how they should begin establishing a client base, cold emailing to potential clients is rarely one of the strategies that I suggest. As a general rule, unsolicited emails are much less effective than responding to job postings, attending conferences, establishing a solid online presence or simply being available at the right time (i.e., all the time). As a freelancer I have had only very occasional success with cold emailing (indeed, it has been many years now since I last employed the strategy), and as the director of a small translation agency I receive hundreds of unsolicited emails a month from freelancers offering their services, the percentage of which I actually retain for future reference is negligible. Nevertheless, there are occasions when cold emailing may yield results, provided that, as a bare minimum, the following basic guidelines are followed. Most of these points may seem obvious to any freelancer, yet I can assure you, based on the many cold emails I receive, that they are all too often overlooked.

  1. Select your potential clients carefully and personalize your email to them. When sending out CVs to potential clients, many freelancers adopt a bulk emailing approach, equivalent to the “strafing approach” used by bomber pilots at war. The problem with this approach is that while in a war zone the objective is to hit anything that moves, in job-seeking it is not enough merely to hit your target, but to consider the kind of impact you’ll have on that target, and whether it is a target that you actually want to hit. I run a small agency dedicated exclusively to Spanish-English translation in a few specialist fields, a fact that is quite clearly stated on the home page of the Diálogos website; nevertheless, I receive huge volumes of cold emails from translators working into or out of French, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and Somali, to name but a few. I also receive many emails that make no reference to my agency at all, and some that even address me anonymously as “Dear ,”. Even if they do reach a potential client with an interest in your services, impersonal emails like these are likely be deleted as soon as the recipient sees the blank space for the addressee’s name at the top. It is essential in your cover message to show some indication that you have actually researched the client you’re soliciting work from, and have recognized that they may have a need that you have the skills base to fill. Otherwise, your email is really just spam, and will be treated accordingly.
  1. State your language pair(s) in the subject of your email. It should perhaps be obvious to most translators that the language pair or pairs you work in is the first piece of information you should provide to clients, yet it is surprising how many freelancers bury this indispensable bit of data down the bottom of their email… or don’t even include it at all! This oversight is especially common among French-English translators in Canada, where you can still find lingering traces of the antiquated chauvinist notion that Canada’s two official languages are the only languages, even in a multicultural context that makes such chauvinism look highly ludicrous. I have also found it quite common among Spanish-English translators based in Latin America, where this language pair tends to dominate the translation sector. It is essential to provide the information on your language pair first (preferably in the subject of your email), because (as should be obvious) all your other qualifications are irrelevant if the client you’re approaching doesn’t work with your languages.
  1. Check your spelling, grammar and phrasing. In any field of employment, cover letters with spelling or grammar errors would probably be used as an excuse to disqualify a job candidate; but for linguists, where your language proficiency is one of the skills you are marketing, an error or awkward phrasing in your cover email can be fatal. Consider, for example, a freelance translator whose cover email to me included the sentence: “I dominate perfectly both English and Spanish languages.” With his awkward use of language, this translator has managed to make an affirmation about his English language skills and, simultaneously, to contradict that affirmation. In linguistic terms this is quite an impressive feat, but it is not the sort of achievement that you would want to become known for among your potential clients.
  1. Avoid translation industry clichés. Words like “accuracy” and “faithfulness” tend to get thrown around a lot in the translation industry, but in a cover email they don’t convey any real information about you and thus tend to look like filler. The assumption that a professional translator will endeavour to produce an accurate translation that is faithful to the source text should be so obvious that to state it is redundant. On the other hand, blithely employing adjectives like “accurate”, “faithful”, “flawless” or “verbatim” to describe your translation skills may give clients the impression that you haven’t really reflected on the contentious and subjective nature of these terms, which should be a point of reflection for any serious translator. The best approach is thus to avoid making what may sound like hollow or meaningless claims, and let your qualifications and experience speak for themselves.
  1. Be concise. It is important to bear in mind that any unsolicited email you send to a potential client is essentially advertising, and as such you need to apply the rules of effective advertising. One of the most important of these rules is to keep it short, offering the essential information about you and your work in as few words as possible. Given the limited amount of time that clients have on their hands to review their inboxes, any cold email that exceeds two short paragraphs will probably be deleted immediately. Do your best to hone your cover email down as much as possible, focusing on a short set of key points that the potential client really needs to know (language pair, fields of specialization, academic degree, translator’s certification, years of experience, past clients), and expressing those points as succinctly as you can.

Of course, following these guidelines will not guarantee success with cold emailing, which, as I suggested above, can be a less than rewarding client-hunting strategy at the best of times. However, I can guarantee that ignoring these guidelines will ensure a swift journey for your cold emails out of the inboxes of your potential clients and into their junk folders. And if you want to see something come out of your work in preparing your cold emails, that is a journey you will want them to avoid.

Author bio

Martin Boyd is a Spanish-English translator certified by both the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (Canada) and the American Translators’ Association (United States), and the director of the Toronto-based translation agency Diálogos Intercultural Services (www.dialogos.ca). He has numerous published translations to his credit, including articles for academic journals such as L’Atalante and Mediterranean Journal of Communication, and books such as The Neoliberal Pattern of Domination by José Manuel Sánchez Bermúdez (Brill, 2012) and The Mystery of Queen Nefertiti by C. T. Cassana (Amazon Books, 2017).