Email Best Practices: How Not to End Up in the Recycle Bin

It’s bound to happen sooner or later in our careers. That moment when someone thinks you have enough seniority and may be interested in subcontracting. Or your email address somehow ends up on a mass-distribution list. Or you just become the target of scammers.

Whatever the case may be, a message like the one below pops up in your inbox:

Complete with 14 attachments, this is a truly exceptional message that triggers an involuntary reaction in the recipient to hit “Delete.”However, it makes a great specimen to learn about the traits of a fraudulent message, as well as what NOT to do when reaching out to potential clients.

Let’s dissect this message together, but first, a disclaimer: I know our readership spans at least six continents, and perhaps the formulas in this message may be acceptable in your culture. But for the sake of this exercise, I will be analyzing this message from the standpoint of an American-based recipient.

  1. Email address. You’ve probably heard a million times that having an email address from a webmail provider as your work email doesn’t look very professional. But sending a message from email address X, and asking the recipient to send responses to email address Z is a clear indication that a) this message is spam, and/or b) that this is a phishing scam. Notice the domain on the sender’s email address is “@163.com”, which is a known spam transmitter domain.

Result: Hit “Delete”.

  1. Subject. It is true that the purpose of our email should be clear in the subject line, but when approaching potential clients or prospecting, we need to be a little more creative. How about: “Professional interpreter looking for collaboration opportunities in Miami”? Perhaps I would not hit “Delete” so fast, and at least give them credit for coming up with a personalized subject.

In our sample message, notice how the subject was written. Capitalization is off and there are extra periods. That kind of sloppiness is another indication of a fraudulent message.

  1. Being creative doesn’t equal being weird. I’m big on creativity, and I’m all for doing things differently. But opening your email with a strange statement (quote?) that’s supposed to be inspirational (or something) doesn’t cut it.

Some people like citing famous authors, or including interesting quotes in their messages, and I think that’s great and might work, depending on your audience. But it cannot be the first thing your reader sees when opening your email. Find a way to include it in the body of your email or at the end. Such messages should act as tasteful decorations to your main message.

On the other hand, scammers love to include intriguing quotes—often completely unrelated to the actual purpose of the email. I don’t know if it’s the shock factor, but I must confess that I’ve found myself staring at such quotes and trying to make sense out of them. But your prospective client won’t waste their time; they will just hit “Delete”.

  1. Different fonts and colors. Due to the difference in color in the text, there is no doubt that this message is a Frankenstein of fragments. I don’t like to realize that the sender might have copied and pasted the very message he is sending to me 50 times to 50 other people. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to make your recipient feel special.

I get it, we all draft templates that we then modify. And that’s perfectly fine. But your reader can never find out that the message she is reading has had many incarnations before. So, be careful when you copy and paste your template in a new message. Some email clients change the font or its color when you copy and paste directly from another message, or when importing from a word processor.

  1. Make it or break it in your opening paragraph. A memorable quote from our sample message is that this person is a business consultant who also acts as a translator, who then also provides market research. What?

Briefly stating who you are and what you specialize in is perfect. But then going on and on about yourself and the awesome things you could do is a big turn off. You must have a reason to send that message (a reason other than wanting a job, of course). That is, you must have something in common with that person. Why did you choose to send that message to Mary and not to Joe? If you are unable to answer this question, then I invite you to stop and think about it.

Sending messages out of the blue, without a clear purpose and for no reason other than distributing your résumé, is just as ineffective as going outside right now and handing out your résumé to any passerby.

See below for a simple checklist on what to include in your message.

  1. Spelling and grammar. If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume you are a linguist, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway: Check your message multiple times and use the spellchecker.

This is another classic feature of spam emails: They’re poorly written and plagued with errors, punctuation issues, broken sentences, you name it.

  1. Attachments. The gentleman of the sample message sent 14 attachments, including his résumé, a few sample translations, a couple of inspirational memes, and so on. Needless to say, I didn’t open any of them. Even if he had sent just one, I wouldn’t have opened it either.

Nothing screams “spam” louder than receiving an attachment from a stranger. It’s just a big no-no in today’s netiquette. Even if the rest of the message didn’t raise any red flags, I would never open an attachment from a sender I don’t know.

Repeat after me: Thou shalt never send an unsolicited attachment.

What should you include in your message?

Here is a simple checklist to craft that very important first impression:

  • State your name, what you do (translator, interpreter, both), and briefly mention your areas of expertise.
  • Mention what you have in common with that person (i.e., you attended the same conference a few weeks ago, you both belong to the same group on LinkedIn, you read an article he wrote, etc.) This is your “hook”, that is, something that catches the other person’s attention and makes you stand out. It’s the personal connection you have with that person or organization.
  • State the purpose of your email (to follow up after the conference, to connect, to learn more about the topic of his article).
  • Make sure to include how you think you can help, or your previous experience in the field, or any other piece of information to pique your reader’s interest. It should provide additional information related to your opening paragraph.
  • If possible, include a call to action, that is, a question for your reader (i.e., “Is your agency interested in hiring in my field of expertise?” or “Are you looking for a French language editor?”)
  • Include a link to your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc., and invite your prospect to learn about you and what you do. Remember: No attachments!
  • Close your email (i.e., “Looking forward to hearing from you”).
  • Include your contact information in your signature.

The above recommendations apply not only when approaching other colleagues, but also if your target is an agency. Recruiters receive dozens of emails daily from people looking for opportunities. Your message should stand out, but in a positive way.

What would you do if you were on the recipient’s end? If you received such a message, would you be interested in reading more about this person?

Think about these simple questions and ideas the next time you send a prospecting email. I promise it will make a world of difference and will increase your odds of achieving your goal. Let us know how it goes!

Image source: Pixabay

How to Break into a Career in Translation: Starting from Scratch

This post is the second (read the first post here) in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

Starting your freelance translation business from scratch can be a daunting task. Below are a few of the most fundamental questions to ask yourself as you begin to think about building your business.

Do I need further training to become a translator?

There is no one “right” way to become a translator, but most professionals feel it is important to have at least one of the following two qualifications: a) experience (could be from a previous job or volunteer position), or b) training (from an academic program in translation or at least education in another language).

If you are interested in becoming a translator but do not have much experience, taking a course may be a good place to begin. You can find translation courses at many major colleges and universities, some of which are offered online. If you enjoy the first course and want to pursue a career in translation, it may be of benefit to you to meet other translators and get a feel for what it takes to become one. You can even ask them how they got started. If you decide academic training is the best route for you, checking out the schools we have featured in guest posts here at The Savvy Newcomer may be a good place to start.

Academic programs in translation and interpreting range from certificates to PhD’s, and may be either online or in person. No gold standard exists for individuals entering the translation field, and some translators start off with a few years of experience from other sources and then get a degree in the field later on in their careers. It just depends on your situation! Getting a degree or certificate in translation can help to develop your skills, lend credibility to your resume, and give you a network of colleagues and classmates to support you as you get started with your career.

How can I get experience with translation?

There are several ways to get experience when you know another language but have no experience. One is to work with another translator who has at least a few years of work under his or her belt. If you know someone who is willing to work with you and edit your work, this is a great way to learn the ins and outs of translating without worrying about making a big mistake! You could act as a sort of intern or apprentice for this translator, who would provide you feedback and ensure the translation is accurate and ready for delivery.

Another way to get experience as a translator is to volunteer. Some charities and non-profit organizations may have small and low-risk documents that need to be translated (for instance, letters from a sponsored child to his or her sponsor, or brief and informal messages to connections in other countries). It can be hard for these organizations to afford translation of this kind, so they will often seek volunteer translators to help out. Groups like The Rosetta Foundation work to connect organizations with willing translators. Another volunteer opportunity exists in conjunction with the well-known TED Talks, which recruits volunteer translators to subtitle videos into other languages to help inspiration and ideas spread across borders.

How do I find clients when I am ready?

Once you have some experience or training in translation, you are ready to begin looking for clients. For the most part, translators who are just getting started will work with translation agencies that receive requests from a variety of different companies and source each project to the right translator for the job. You may eventually work directly with companies that need your services, but this involves a different level of client education and collaboration. To begin working with translation agencies, consider some of the following techniques for finding clients:

  • Cold emails/form submissions: Find the websites of different translation agencies and search for instructions on submitting your resume to be considered for freelance work. Each company will probably have different instructions—some may ask you to submit a form online, while others will provide an email address where you can send your resume and cover letter.
  • Directories: After you join professional associations such as ATA, NAJIT, or local associations (see a list of local associations here: http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/index.php), you can usually list your services on the association’s membership directory. This is an opportunity for clients to find you and contact you about your services.
  • Conferences: Many associations hold annual conferences attended by both freelancers and translation agencies (for instance, ATA is holding its 58th Annual Conference at the end of October 2017: www.atanet.org/conf/2017). Oftentimes you can meet agency representatives at booths or networking events and make a personal connection that could lead to freelance work in the future.
  • Contacts: One of the most common ways to find clients is by word of mouth. Translators may refer other translators for work they think suits them, so networking with contacts of all kinds (colleagues, classmates, friends, and family) can help spread the word about your services and let people know you are open for business.

We hope you have learned something new from this post about starting from scratch! Stay tuned for the next article in this series, Services and Specialization.

Branding Yourself – Create a Professional Portfolio

 Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission from the author

In today’s business world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make yourself competitive, especially as a translator. More and more freelancers are being added to the market, so what can you do to make yourself stand out in a sea of many? A great place to start your differentiating process is by creating a professional portfolio. A portfolio is an invaluable tool in more ways than one. But what exactly is it, and exactly how can it help you?

What Is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is simply a collection of your work that can be used to market your language services, apply for a job, highlight your professional experience, or document what you have learned. As a translator, you need a portfolio to create the link between what you can do and what the prospective client or organization wants from you. Your professional portfolio will distinguish you from the competition. It will clearly highlight your experience and demonstrate that you are serious about your career as a translator and your job search. It will show examples of your unique strengths and pique the interest of your potential clients or employers. In addition, it will help you build confidence in what you can do.

How Can Your Portfolio Help You?

What are your professional activities, and what are the outcomes of those activities? Are you documenting them adequately so others can see your contributions? Do your activities and the outcomes they produce match your profession? What do you need to change or enhance about what you do and the outcomes you document? A professional portfolio will be an immense help in answering these questions constructively. It helps you keep track of everything you have done in your career as a professional translator or interpreter and points out where you should go next. Most importantly for freelancers, it will definitely get you attention and help you stand out from the crowd.

The Importance of Your Unique Value Proposition

Before you embark on creating your professional portfolio, you must first identify your value proposition—a clear statement in line with the market’s challenges and your desires, communicating the unique contribution you and your services are providing that is different from your competitors. Try to answer the question, “Why should I do business with you and not someone else?” Your unique value proposition must appeal to the client’s strongest decision-making drivers. It should be believable, authentic, and specific. Once you have a statement that you are confident communicates your value, you have the basis on which to build your professional portfolio. Like a classic novel that has a specific theme or overall message, your unique value proposition should pervade your portfolio. Whoever is reading it should get an overall sense of your value without your having to state it explicitly.

What Goes Into a Portfolio?

The key point of your portfolio is that you want to give an employer cause to hire you or a prospective client reasons to retain your translation or interpreting services. You want to showcase your education and work experience by showing examples and evidence of your work, skills, and accomplishments. While your portfolio can be creative and contain an array of items based on the exact message you are conveying with your unique value proposition, there are some elements that are absolutely necessary. These are your career summary, bio, personal philosophy, and mission statement.

How to Make Your Career Summary Interesting and Relevant

Your career summary is simply a description of who you are through what you have done throughout your career as a linguist. It typically includes information not on your résumé, such as your work ethic, professional interests, and your philosophy about life and work. In your summary, aim to quantify your achievements by using varied adverbs and more descriptive detail. Instead of simply mentioning that you did X translating job for Y company, make a statement saying something along the lines of you consistently did X job, translating 3,000 words per day at Y company.

How to Define Your Personal Philosophy and Mission Statement

This is a personal statement about the principles that guide you, your purpose, and your value proposition. Consider this your personal executive summary. While it may be short, this is important for singling out your mission as a linguist and expressing your uniqueness.

Perfect Your Bio

In the business world we summarize our experience, qualifications, education, skill-sets, and any other important aspects of our professional life (and sometimes even our personal life). This is contained in what is typically known as the résumé or CV (curriculum vitae). The information presented, its style, format, length, etc., all vary among cultures. Nevertheless, it is an important component of your marketing kit, regardless of the culture you are targeting. However, this tool does not really highlight all of those personal characteristics that make you different from others. The biography is a highly underestimated, yet very powerful, tool that should be essential in any marketing kit. It is simply the story of your life.

A résumé lists your credentials. A biography presents them in a story, automatically making the content much more interesting. Stories are fascinating and have the ability to engage and connect us with our target market through purpose and passion. Let your human side shine through your story. Your audience wants to find that special connection with you, and there is no better way to connect than by sharing your story. Do not be bland. Personal hobbies and interests, while not necessary, may be helpful in letting your readers get a taste of who you are as a person.

When composing your bio, consider your audience—who exactly will be reading it? This is important, because what you include in your bio should and will vary depending on your target audience. While this may be difficult to achieve, a good bio is short—somewhere between 150-300 words. To keep the length to a minimum, it is important to focus only on the highlights or more significant moments. Use phrases such as among others or to name a few. These phrases keep lists short, but convey the notion that the list continues. Your bio should also be written in the third person in order to keep it formal and professional.

Some Other Items to Consider in Your Portfolio

While every one of the following items is not required in your portfolio, you should try to include what you feel is necessary to convey your unique value proposition. Consider the following:
• Career summary
• Goals
• Personal brand statement in a tagline form
• Mission statement
• Bio
• Résumé
• Accomplishments
• Work samples
• Research publications and reports
• Testimonials
• Letters of recommendation
• Awards and honors
• Conferences and workshops
• Transcripts
• Degrees
• Licenses and certifications
• Professional development activities
• Volunteer and community service
• References

One thing to keep out of your portfolio is your rates. Also, if you are targeting translation agencies, include the tools and technologies you use; however, when targeting direct clients, this information is not necessary and may even confuse your potential buyers.

Stylistic Tips to Keep Your Portfolio Professional

Use an assortment of syntax and vocabulary so that your portfolio does not become boring to the reader. Be careful to stay truthful. If you are caught lying or even stretching the truth, you will lose a lot of precious credibility—and likely a client as well. In addition, industry jargon should be kept to a minimum. What good is your portfolio if the reader does not understand what is being said? Monitor the length of your sentences so that the flow of your statements does not become choppy or confusing. Keep in mind that bulleted lists are easy to follow and show organization. Avoid words that are too “flowery”; that is, if you think your reader might have to go to a dictionary for it, do not include it. Definitely omit pronouns, as they make your portfolio look less professional. You should always keep your intended audience in mind when planning your approach. Perhaps your readers would prefer something a little more personal. Always remember that your portfolio should motivate the reader to take action.

Stand Out from the Crowd with Your Work Samples

Regarding samples, if you are a translator, make sure you include the source and target translation. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, you can simply include a hyperlink to the source document and the corresponding translation if they are available online (like a website). Instead of just including the source and target translation, focus on highlighting any outcomes that resulted from your translation. For example, if you translated a website, and that website is reaching out to X amount of people, point that out. If you are an interpreter, you can include a link to a short video clip of an actual interpreting assignment along with a brief description of what the gig was all about. A word of caution: if you are going to include hyperlinks to projects or assignments on which you worked, make sure you always get the proper permission from your client to do so. You do not want to infringe on any confidentiality agreement and jeopardize not just the relationship with your client but also your professional reputation.

Your Portfolio: Why It Should Be Online

Google is your biggest promoter. The Internet is the biggest gallery in the world, with millions of potential clients online. You need to make sure they can find you and your work. An online portfolio gives you the perfect opportunity to do this. With numerous social media outlets, you have the ability to showcase yourself and your work to thousands of people not available via traditional methods. Think about the implications of not popping up on someone’s online search for your name. Will you lose all trust or credibility since you are not in the results set? Are you hiding something? If others cannot find you online, you have done a poor job of letting people get the chance to know you and your services. Your online portfolio is available around the clock. You want your online portfolio to be like a website that is well designed, easy to use, and tells the reader exactly what is wanted quickly and without hassle. Not to mention, you want it to be instantly inspiring upon first glance. One of the most important aspects of your online portfolio is its appearance—easy to read, clean, and thorough. When you create easy-to-read application material that paints a detailed, well-matched picture of your professional self, you make recruiters, clients, and employers happy and interested.

Online Tools to Create Your Online Portfolio Find websites that can both stylize your portfolio with graphics and organize your information in a visual and compelling way. There are numerous free and inexpensive tools online that allow you to create graphical representations of your skills, working history, and professional achievements. If you do not already have your own personal website, consider investing in one. Make it easy for others to find and be impressed by you. Make them think, “Wow, I need those services, and now!” It is easier than you think to make yourself accessible. You will find that your professional portfolio (particularly one that is online) will do that for you. All the effort required is the initial creation of the portfolio. So, go out and self-promote. After that, your clients will come right to you!

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Marcela Reyes is the chief branding officer for Latitudes | Training, Coaching and Consulting. She is an entrepreneurial marketing expert and business coach with over 20 years of experience. She partners with language services providers around the world to help them communicate their value to attract more clients, expand their services, and develop their own brand in local and international markets. She gives presentations around the world and is a published author. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and an MBA with an emphasis in marketing. Contact: marcela@latitudescoach.com.

Nouveaux traducteurs : 10 conseils pour bien démarrer

By Gaëlle Gagné (@trematweet)
Reblogged from Le Blog de Trëma with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Nouveaux traducteurs 10 conseils pour bien démarrerIl y a quelques semaines, j’ai répondu avec plaisir à l’invitation d’une de mes professeurs de l’ÉSIT qui m’avait conviée à un de ses cours afin que je partage mon expérience avec les étudiants de la promotion 2016. La plupart envisagent d’exercer en tant que traducteurs et interprètes indépendants dès leur sortie de l’école et étaient avides de conseils pratiques pour bien démarrer.

Voici les 10 recommandations que je leur ai faites :

1. Préparez votre lancement

Avant de vous lancer tête baissée dans la création d’une entreprise, prenez le temps de réfléchir à ce que représente cet important choix de vie. Être indépendant offre une très grande liberté et, en général, une meilleure rémunération que l’emploi de traducteur salarié (sauf si vous êtes recruté par une organisation internationale, mais c’est un cas à part). Vous bénéficierez également d’une expérience plus variée qui vous permettra de choisir véritablement votre domaine de spécialisation. Toutefois, ces avantages ne doivent pas masquer un certain nombre de contraintes : en tant que créateur et gestionnaire d’une entreprise, vous aurez à réaliser de nombreuses tâches qui ne sont pas directement liées à votre domaine d’étude (prospecter, facturer, établir et maintenir une comptabilité, gérer vos relations clients, etc.). Êtes-vous prêt à y consacrer une part importante de votre temps ? Certains d’entre vous pourraient se sentir isolés en travaillant seuls à la maison. Sans compter que vos revenus seront, au moins dans un premier temps, aléatoires, ce qui peut susciter un stress important en période creuse. Bref, regardez la réalité en face, au besoin en demandant à des traducteurs expérimentés de vous décrire leur quotidien sans fard, afin d’éviter toute désillusion.

Une fois convaincu que la vie de freelance est faite pour vous, effectuez une petite étude de marché pour identifier les différents types de clients, les domaines de spécialisation porteurs, les revenus que vous pouvez espérer, etc. Les associations professionnelles sont de précieuses alliées à ce stade pour vous donner l’occasion de rencontrer des collègues en exercice et pour les rapports qu’elles publient régulièrement sur l’état de la profession. En plus du marché, étudiez également l’environnement juridique (formes d’entreprises, obligations légales, aides à la création, etc.) pour être à même de prendre les bonnes décisions au regard de votre situation.

Avant même de commencer à démarcher des clients potentiels, soignez votre présentation : rédigez un CV et créez des profils sur les réseaux sociaux professionnels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Viadeo…), car vos prospects ne manqueront pas de vous « googliser » pour savoir à qui ils ont affaire. Dans même, si vous ne disposez pas dans un premier temps d’un site web professionnel, assurez-vous au moins d’avoir une adresse e-mail dédiée (nanou94@yahoo.com ou barbaraetlucas@gmail.com nuisent à votre crédibilité professionnelle) et une signature automatique précisant vos langues de travail et redirigeant vos contacts vers des pages leur permettant de se renseigner sur vous. Enfin, faites imprimer des cartes de visite que vous aurez toujours sur vous, car on ne sait jamais quand on pourrait rencontrer une personne à la recherche d’un traducteur !

2. Fixez votre tarif avant de prospecter

Pour éviter d’être prix au dépourvu quand vos efforts de prospection vous placeront enfin en position de négocier avec un client potentiel, réfléchissez dès maintenant au tarif que vous demanderez. L’étude de marché que vous aurez réalisée (voir conseil n° 1) vous aidera dans cette démarche qui doit s’appuyer à la fois sur ce qui se pratique dans la réalité (consultez les tarifs moyens par combinaison de langue présentés dans l’étude tarifaire de la SFT) et vos propres besoins (attention, comme je vous l’ai déjà expliqué votre temps ne sera pas uniquement consacré à la traduction, donc toute heure travaillée n’est pas forcément rémunérée).

Quoi qu’il en soit, NE BRADEZ PAS VOS SERVICES EN ESPÉRANT TROUVER DES CLIENTS ! Être un peu plus cher est paradoxalement plus vendeur pour des clients en quête de qualité (les meilleurs). Sans compter que si vous pratiquez des tarifs trop bas, vous passerez tout votre temps à traduire pour gagner peu, sans pouvoir consacrer le temps nécessaire à la recherche de contrats plus rémunérateurs.

3. Trouvez des clients

Sachez que si vous avez du mal à trouver des clients, ces derniers ont autant de difficultés à trouver des traducteurs. Acquérir une plus grande visibilité doit donc être votre priorité. Pour cela, ne négligez aucune piste : informez la Terre entière (votre grand-mère, la boulangère, votre banquier, vos copines de yoga, etc.) que vous êtes traducteur. Vous aurez certainement droit aux questions habituelles : « vous traduisez des livres ? Combien de langues parlez-vous ?… » et aux réflexions légèrement apitoyées : « cela doit être dur, non, d’être seul à la maison toute la journée ? », mais en informant patiemment vos auditeurs vous saisirez l’opportunité de vous faire l’ambassadeur de notre beau métier et, surtout, de devenir LE traducteur professionnel du carnet d’adresses de tous ces braves gens prêts à transmettre généreusement (et gratuitement) vos coordonnées dès qu’ils entendront parler d’un besoin de traduction.

Le réseautage est un autre élément essentiel de votre stratégie de prospection : maintenez des liens avec vos anciens collègues et employeurs et tenez-les informés de l’évolution de votre carrière, devenez membre d’une, ou plusieurs, associations professionnelles, notamment de votre association d’anciens élèves, afin de vous appuyer sur leurs réseaux. Contrairement à ce que pensent certains, les autres traducteurs ne sont pas vos concurrents, mais des partenaires potentiels. S’ils vous connaissent, ils pourront éventuellement faire appel à vous pour décrocher un gros contrat ou vous proposer de sous-traiter une partie de leur activité lorsqu’ils seront débordés. Alors, sortez de chez vous et allez à leur rencontre !

Méfiez-vous des plateformes de mise en relation, type Upwork (née de la fusion de oDesk et elance), Freelancer, Trouve-moi un freelance, etc. Ces sites proposent de mettre en relation des entreprises avec des travailleurs indépendants, mais lorsque les offres de projet sont affichées, ils fonctionnent en fait comme des enchères inversées organisant une course aux tarifs les plus bas.

Enfin, quel que soit votre état de famine, n’acceptez JAMAIS un contrat sans vous renseigner préalablement sur votre client potentiel. Entre les déplorables pratiques de certaines agences et les très nombreuses arnaques aux traducteurs sur Internet, les écueils sont nombreux. ne vous réjouissez pas trop vite, prêt à accepter n’importe quoi pour décrocher un contrat : commencez par rechercher une partie du texte à traduire sur Google (les arnaqueurs ne sont pas créatifs et envoient souvent le même texte des milliers de fois dans l’espoir de duper les traducteurs indépendants) et consultez les avis de vos pairs sur Payment Practices, le Blue Board de ProZ, etc. Je reviendrai sur ce vaste sujet dans un prochain billet, promis !

4. donnez-vous du temps

Tous les traducteurs qui sont passés par là avant vous vous le diront : se constituer une clientèle prend environ un an. Patience est donc le maître-mot, mais prévoir une petite somme pour survivre en attendant ne fait pas de mal ! Ne vous découragez pas. Vos efforts finiront par payer, probablement au moment où vous vous y attendrez le moins. Un de mes tout premiers clients directs m’a été adressé par une amie française installée à Londres qui avait été sollicitée à la sortie de l’école par une maman, directrice marketing d’une PME, pour traduire le site web de sa société (avis aux clients potentiels : cette histoire aurait pu mal tourner si mon amie n’avait pas une « vraie » traductrice dans son carnet d’adresses !)

5. Commencez par les agences

Pour décrocher plus rapidement vos premiers contrats, frappez aux portes des agences de traduction. Ces intermédiaires ont le mérite de vous faciliter la recherche de clients, ce qui a un coût bien sûr (vos prestations seront généralement moins bien rémunérées que si vous facturiez directement un client), mais offre une expérience très formatrice. En effet, les agences sont en mesure de vous fournir des missions variées et, à condition de bien les choisir, contribueront à accroître votre rigueur par la révision attentive de votre travail.

Pour identifier les meilleures, fiez-vous une fois encore à vos collègues (certains forums comme ProZ ou le Translator’s Cafe compilent les commentaires de traducteurs) et exercez votre bon sens pour ne pas faire les frais de pratiques douteuses. Par exemple, considérez que vous n’avez pas à subir de pressions pour baisser votre tarif : puisque vous ne l’avez pas fixé au hasard, il doit donc simplement être accepté ou refusé. Méfiez-vous également des fausses promesses de type « facturez moins cher maintenant pour travailler plus à l’avenir » et n’acceptez jamais d’être payé à condition que le client final ait lui-même réglé sa facture (c’est tout simplement illégal). Dans le même esprit, plutôt que d’effectuer à titre gracieux moult tests de traduction, proposez des extraits de votre travail présentant la source en regard de la cible (après tout, on ne demande pas une consultation d’essai à un médecin ou un test de créativité à un graphiste !). Enfin, même si la question peut être débattue, je trouve les rabais pour « fuzzy matches » abusifs, car rien ne garantit la qualité des segments enregistrés dans la mémoire de traduction que vous devrez utiliser et dont vous aurez, de toute façon, à adapter le contenu.

Pour résumer, votre relation avec une agence est une entente commerciale entre deux entreprises, les termes de votre collaboration sont donc librement négociables. Même si certaines abusent de leur position dominante pour faire pression sur des professionnels DONT ELLES ONT BESOIN POUR EXISTER, vous n’êtes pas tenu de tout accepter sous prétexte de décrocher un contrat.

6. Faites preuve de professionnalisme

Il ressort du point précédent que vous devez absolument vous considérer comme un professionnel et vous présenter en tant que tel. Dans cet objectif, rédigez des conditions générales de vente qui serviront de base à vos négociations commerciales et établiront dès le départ les modalités de paiement et les obligations de chacune des parties.

Par ailleurs, mettez un point d’honneur à respecter scrupuleusement les délais et les consignes. Au moindre doute, faites des recherches et si vous ne parvenez pas à trouver vous-même la réponse, posez des questions à votre donneur d’ordre. Personne ne lit un document plus attentivement qu’un traducteur, vous êtes donc un atout précieux pour l’auteur et un filet de sécurité avant la publication de son texte. Signalez respectueusement toute coquille ou maladresse, en étant conscient d’offrir de la valeur ajoutée tout en contribuant à asseoir votre réputation professionnelle. En outre, relisez toujours attentivement votre travail, même s’il doit être révisé par un tiers.

7. faites-vous recommander dès vos premiers clients

Lorsque vous renvoyez votre traduction, ou peu de temps après, sollicitez l’avis de vos clients sur votre prestation. Leurs témoignages constituent un outil précieux pour améliorer la qualité de votre travail et convaincre d’autres agences ou clients directs de vous faire confiance. Même si peu de traducteurs parviennent à s’y astreindre dans les faits, vous devriez prospecter continuellement pour maintenir un niveau d’activité régulier. En effet, un important donneur d’ordre peut à tout moment renoncer à un projet ou faire appel à un autre prestataire, mieux vaut donc répartir le risque de perte financière en maintenant un portefeuille de clients (sans compter que travailler pour un seul donneur d’ordre peut être considéré par l’URSSAF comme une forme de salariat déguisé, lourd de conséquences). Afin d’augmenter vos chances de recueillir ces précieux avis, privilégiez une approche directe en simplifiant au maximum la tâche des personnes sollicitées. Vous pouvez par exemple envoyer une demande de recommandation via LinkedIn ou créer un questionnaire rapide à l’aide d’applications de sondage gratuites comme Survey Monkey.

Les périodes creuses sont propices au développement de votre activité : profitez-en pour vous former dans vos domaines de spécialité, acquérir de nouvelles connaissances ou aller à la rencontre de traducteurs. Si vous avez recours à la formation, sachez qu’il est possible de vous faire rembourser tout ou partie des frais engagés par le Fonds interprofessionnel de la formation des professions libérales (FIFPL) (code NAF : 7430 ZS).

8. Ne vous spécialisez pas immédiatement (mais ne tardez pas trop non plus)

Les traducteurs ne sont pas omnipotents et sont même bien meilleurs lorsqu’ils se concentrent sur un certains types de textes. En réduisant le nombre de sujets que vous accepterez de traiter, vous limiterez certes la taille du marché ciblé, mais aurez accès à des contrats plus rémunérateurs, confiés uniquement à des professionnels expérimentés. Pour être viable, une spécialisation doit rester relativement vaste pour faire face à d’éventuels retournements de situation économique dans un secteur d’activité (traduction juridique, technique, financière, marketing, etc.), mais peut aussi être très étroite pour vous positionner sur un marché de niche (vous devenez alors LE traducteur spécialisé dans la culture d’orchidées ou les techniques de soin bucco-dentaire). Pour guider votre choix, interrogez-vous sur ce qui vous plaît et ce que vous traduisez le mieux. Une fois que vous aurez opté pour un domaine, vous pourrez alors consacrer du temps à parfaire vos connaissances et votre savoir-faire, afin de produire des traductions de qualité qui passeront pour avoir été rédigées par un professionnel du domaine.

9. Une fois spécialisé, adressez-vous directement aux clients

Maintenant que vous avez cerné le marché à développer (le domaine d’activité dans lequel vous vous êtes spécialisé), vous êtes prêt à vous adresser aux entreprises qui pourraient avoir besoin d’un traducteur qualifié. En contournant les agences, vous gagnez un accès direct aux donneurs d’ordre et augmentez généralement vos perspectives de rémunération.

Sachez toutefois que cette approche a aussi son lot d’exigences : les clients directs sont souvent moins informés de la nature du travail des traducteurs et ont besoin d’être « éduqués » en ce sens pour la mise en place d’une collaboration fructueuse. Expliquez succinctement votre démarche en indiquant qu’il vous faudra être au fait des spécificités de leur entreprise et de leur stratégie, précisez les délais à prendre en compte, demandez à ce qu’on vous transmette les coordonnées d’une personne-ressource à qui vous pourrez éventuellement vous adresser pour clarifier certains points et insistez sur la nécessité d’une relecture par un tiers (en interne ou en externe, organisée par vous).

Vous devrez sans doute consacrer plus de temps à la « gestion client », mais cet investissement se révélera vite judicieux pour la mise en place d’une relation de confiance dans la durée. De plus en plus d’entreprises préfèrent avoir affaire à des traducteurs indépendants qui connaissent leurs spécificités et leurs enjeux, plutôt qu’à des agences qui se révèlent souvent incapables de leur fournir des prestations de qualité constante. Pour les fidéliser, soyez prêts à en faire un peu plus (les rencontrer en personne, faire de la veille sur leurs marchés dans votre langue cible, être disponible dans les temps forts de leur activité, etc.) et à gagner en visibilité (identité visuelle, présence sur le web, participation à des salons, etc.) pour mieux vous intégrer dans leurs équipes.

10. ne restez pas seul face à vos interrogations

Au fil de votre parcours d’entrepreneur, vous vous sentirez parfois seul et démuni face à certaines questions. Dans ces moments de doute, n’hésitez pas à vous appuyer sur des réseaux (d’entrepreneurs, d’anciens élèves, de traducteurs, etc.) qui rassemblent des professionnels ayant rencontré les mêmes difficultés avant vous et à même de comprendre votre situation. La vie de freelance, n’est pas un désert solitaire : c’est même une excellente opportunité de partage pour qui sait s’ouvrir aux autres. Alors, n’hésitez pas, rejoignez une ou plusieurs associations professionnelles et, lorsque vous serez à votre tour lancé, rendez aux suivants tout ce dont vous aurez su si bien profiter…

Bon vent !

Always leave the door open for future opportunities

Always leave the door open for future opportunitiesLearning to say no is widely covered in our profession. It is a skill many of us have to work on. It took me a long time to identify my limits and realize that yes can be a huge and attractive trap. There is another aspect of our profession that does not receive as much attention: learning to hear no and respond properly.

Not too long ago I was contacted by a law firm. They seemed to be in a big hurry to replace their previous translator. They invited me to come to their offices for a meeting and I promptly agreed. Error #1.

I should have investigated them before responding to their email. The email identified the type of law the firm was involved in, but did not give me any idea of their size or type of cases they took on (personal, business, both). It would also have been a good idea to tell them my rates beforehand to make sure my services fit within their budget. Error #2.

The interview was conducted in a hallway (bad sign). I was informed that the attorney herself performed the translations into Portuguese (well, her accent was not that of a Portuguese speaker, which already concerned me), and the attorney’s focus was on cost. All she cared about was the fact that her former translators had raised their fees.

Upon seeing the dollar signs swirling around my head, I informed her of my rates. Guess what her response was? She abruptly thanked me, turned around and left the hallway. I was left there dumbfounded staring at her back. After a day of thinking how to properly respond, I sent her office a note that read more or less like this:

Dear Former Prospective Client,

Thank you for making yourself available to speak with me at your offices on [DATE]. I truly wished we had had more time to speak so we could both fully understand what was at stake.

My career in translation and interpreting spans 36 years and I have clients in various countries and industry segments. The reason my clients choose to work with me are quality and reliability. The dollar signs attached to a translation project are to be analyzed against the best interest of the client, always.

In order to project a more polished image and produce a fully culturally and linguistically correct product, language access through translation and interpreting has to be considered beyond dollar signs.

I understand that my rates do not fit your budget but I can offer you guidance on where to look for qualified professionals. The best places to find qualified translators are the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (http://www.najit.org) and the American Translators Association (http://www.atanet.org). These two professional associations offer directory users the opportunity to search by language pair, certifications and location among other options. Their members are bound by codes of ethics pertaining to confidentiality, quality, professionalism, which I believe, would suit your organization.

The ideas behind the note were:

  1. Bring back a level of civility to our exchange
  2. Keep the door open for future projects
  3. Share information that may assist them in the future
  4. Help them realize that their need is shared by many and
  5. There are professionals trained to assist them

As you may have guessed, I have not heard back from them. However, should they choose to do so, rather than the bad impression left by the meeting, we will have the email as a starting point for our renewed relationship.

Lessons learned:

  1. Always follow your procedures for qualifying a client
  2. Rushing things lends itself to bad experiences (not always, but enough times)
  3. An emergency on the client’s part does not constitute an emergency on my end
  4. Keep calm and read the signs!

Image credit: freely

Author bio
Giovanna LesterBrazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester has worked in the translation and interpreting fields since 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with: ATANAJITIAPTI, and the new ATA Florida Chapter, ATIF, which she co-founded in 2009, serving as its first elected president (2011-2012).
As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. She loves to teach and share her experience. Connect with her on Twitter @giostake and contact her at gio@giolester.com.