More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Everyone wants to grow their client list. After all, who wouldn’t, right? It’s part of being a business owner, no matter if you are a freelancer or if you manage several people who work for you. It’s good to always have more clients coming in the door… but quantity over quality is often not a good idea, and that includes in business. When you have high quality clients (i.e., ideal clients), then you don’t necessarily have to have an ever-growing client list. Once you have consistent work coming in from those ideal clients, you can shift your focus more to maintaining those client relationships by refining the client experience, and then a slower incoming trickle of new clients won’t seem so much of a make-or-break issue.

To read more about finding that sweet spot with quality clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Just like most things in life, when you focus on quantity (i.e. how many new clients you can gain or how many clients you currently have), losing sight of quality can easily create more issues for you. If you are constantly striving for more, you will find yourself always wishing you had more. And frankly, you cannot possibly focus on sustainable growth or nurture client relationships with your best clients if the focus is always on when that next project will be coming down the pipeline.

By choosing to focus on attracting and maintaining lasting relationships with quality clients, you will find that you have more time to work on the things you want to within your business. You can take a vacation (and leave that laptop at home!), and you can take more time for yourself and the things and people you love outside of your business. With some care and time, you can grow your business into something that sustains the lifestyle you want, rather than working to sustain your business and income until that next payment arrives.

Rather than trying to convert every lead that comes your way, or take on every project that is offered to you, be more selective. Make some non-negotiables when it comes to the work and clients you take on. Do you want to avoid working after a certain hour of the day and on weekends? Quality clients mean that you can achieve this. Do you want to drop projects that you find absolutely tedious and draining? Seeking clients (and maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with them) whose work you value in terms of content will allow you to do this.

Don’t get stuck in the “But what if next month is slow?” cycle or way of thinking. Decide to make an effort to attract those clients that will make you feel satisfied with your work, because the quality of the client and the quality of the service(s) that you can provide to them match up. After all, if you’re always taking on quantity (volume), then the quality of what you produce will suffer as a result. It is impossible to keep up with quality if you are accepting every project that crosses your desk. It’s okay to say “No.”

When trying to determine whether a client is “high quality” or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you like to hear from them whenever they come knocking, or would their projects feel like tedious tasks that make you less than excited about sitting down at your computer to complete their projects?
  • Do you like to work with them because of the type of work you can do for them (subject matter, their mission lining up with your own values, etc.)? This may even be the case if the client doesn’t have the budget to pay your higher translation or interpreting rate. As long as you feel good about the working relationship and the value you provide (as well as the value the projects provide to you as a professional), you may very well think of them as a high quality client.
  • Does the work you receive from the client allow you to be open to new opportunities later? For example, is the subject matter is something that will help you to pick up new (and high quality!) clients because of the experience you’re gaining by working on their projects?

Be sure to reassess your client list from time to time. If there is a client you’d rather not work with in the long term, put your energy toward gaining more of those you do want to work with, and set a goal to let go of those that are less than ideal.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your client list, you will see that you are happier with the work you do and the value you provide. This satisfaction will carry over to other areas of your life. You will produce better content and output as a result. You will be able to spend more time on the things that you want to work on after you’ve met the deadlines set by these quality clients. And last, but definitely not least, you will simultaneously be refining your craft with the work you get from these clients. This alone is enough reason to take a hard look at how your clients shape up when it comes to quality vs. quantity.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

Attending your clients’ conferences

Have you ever been told, “go where your clients go,” “meet your clients face-to-face,” or “attend an industry event”? Have you been interested, but not sure where to start?

Attending your potential clients’ conferences can be very rewarding: you learn new terminology, get familiar with the industry, meet potential clients, and promote your services. The list goes on! However, conferences can be overwhelming, and putting yourself out there can seem intimidating.

Have you considered attending with a colleague? Do you think attending alone would be a better fit?

Earlier this year, Veronika Dimichelis and Jessica Hartstein teamed up and attended an international conference together, and Veronika attended a local symposium alone just a few weeks later.

We hope this article gives you some food for thought on how you can make the most of attending large, non-translation industry conferences and find new ways of partnering up with colleagues.

Choose the right client conference

We chose to attend the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) together since we both worked in the oil and gas industry in the past. This is an international oil and gas conference and tradeshow with 2,470 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees from 100+ countries. We had both attended this event in the past through our former employers, so we knew what to expect and excitedly anticipated running into old co-workers.

Of note, many non-technical companies attend and exhibit at events like this; you can find people to talk to even if you’re not working with technical subjects. Think: communication experts, law firms, and even environmental and human trafficking NGOs.

A few weeks later, Veronika attended a local Human Resources symposium with 2,000 attendees and around 100 exhibitors. She is a trained HR professional; it’s one of her areas of specialization and she knows the subject matter. Given her experience in this field, she found it easy to connect with people and start conversations around common challenges and focus areas.

Fly solo or go with a colleague?

Jessica initiated the buddy approach with OTC. She approached Veronika because she felt like they had similar communication styles and knew she’d be comfortable talking to prospective clients with Veronika. Keep in mind that while you and your buddy may work for yourselves and offer separate services, you are likely to reflect on each other to prospective clients.

In our case, we have completely disparate language pairs, and this meant we would never feel in competition, but teaming up with someone in your same language pair or with your opposite language pair may be the right fit for you.

The pros of attending with someone else are that you may feel more comfortable striking up conversations, you have a chance to learn from the other’s experience, you can vouch for each other’s professionalism, and it may simply be the crutch that gets you to the event!

The cons, if not managed well, could be that you talk to fewer people, take backstage to your colleague, or are less efficient with your time. Toward the end of our visit, we had to split up because the tradeshow was so large, there was no way to get to every exhibit we wanted to otherwise.

Preparation

Rather than just punching the address into your GPS and winging it, it’s worth the effort to think about what your main objective is in attending the event. You are making a time and financial investment to attend the conference, so be strategic.

For example, is your biggest priority to find potential clients? To improve your understanding of the subject matter? To get inspired and find new ideas for services you can offer or markets you can target? Or is it to catch up with former colleagues or to position yourself as an expert in the field? Once you’ve determined your main goal, look at the events with that goal in mind.

In our case, OTC is a 4-day event, but we set aside enough time to be in the tradeshow for about 4 hours. Our hope was to connect with companies who work in Spanish-speaking countries (Jessica) and Russia (Veronika). We individually looked at the exhibitor’s list and took note of which companies we thought would be a good fit for ourselves, and then compared our lists beforehand. With over 2,000 exhibitors located in two different arenas, it’s important to have a game plan!

We also wanted to bump into former colleagues to let them know what we were doing and to get a chance to learn about what they were up to now. We reached out to the people we knew and stopped by their booths. It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect and introduce each other to people who know the value of professional translators.

As Veronika prepared for the HR Symposium, she looked at the exhibitors’ list, reviewed their promotional materials, and took note of companies that work in Russia or offer services that have to do with relocation or international assignments. She also made a list of presentations related to topics that she worked with as an HR manager in the past. The HR Symposium was a relatively small event, so she felt that she had to be comfortable asking questions and contributing to the discussion after the presentations.

The day of the event

Go prepared with an elevator pitch that specifically targets that industry or even the companies of greatest interest to you. Prepare a few good conversation-starters and avoid using T&I jargon. For example, clients are unlikely to be familiar with “source language” and “target language.” A simple “do you have English documents you need translated into Russian?” would probably get you the information you need or start a conversation where you can help them learn more about the industry.

Neither of us is pushy, and while many companies at OTC need or use translation services, we both knew that the exhibitors had their own priorities, and our services were not what they were targeting at this event. Thus, we were respectful of people’s time, engaged in conversations about their international presence, and provided information about T&I wherever we could. In fact, Veronika very politely pointed out to an exhibitor that was trying to present an international face with a multilingual display that they had made a significant error in Russian. We could see him immediately appreciate the need for professional translators, and we’re fairly certain he went back and told his team about that to improve the display for his next tradeshow.

At the HR Symposium, Veronika focused on participating in conversations with other participants, primarily about international assignments and intercultural challenges that arise when operating in different countries. She could relate to examples and challenges discussed and could share her own experience as an HR professional and a translator.

At a “niche” event like this, she really stood out as the only translator in the room, and most people were interested in learning how translation works and why translators want to stay abreast of trends and focus areas in the fields of their specialization.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to attend client conferences. The only thing for certain is that NOT attending is a missed opportunity. Of course, it’s important to set realistic expectations for what success will look like to you.

Is it fair to think you’ll have 10 new and fantastic clients sending you work immediately after one day at a conference? No! Both of us have the long-game in mind and feel that attending client conferences is one component of that.

At the very least, this is a chance to be better informed about your potential clients’ interests, challenge yourself to step out of the T&I bubble, and practice talking about what you do with confidence.

We will definitely be attending more client events in the future, both together and separately. We hope you will, too!

Image source: Unsplash

Authors’ bios:

Veronika Demichelis is an ATA-certified English>Russian translator based in Houston, TX. She holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication and an MBA in Human Resources Management, and specializes in corporate communication, HR, and social responsibility.

She serves on the ATA Membership Committee and is the co-host for the Smart Habits for Translators podcast and Director for Professional Development for Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.

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.

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.

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.

Top 10 tips for new freelance translators

Reblogged from Translator Thoughts blog, with permission, incl. the image

If you’ve never worked in the translation industry independently before, it can be quite a daunting world to step into. How do I find work? Where do I advertise my skills? What competition am I facing? But do not fret! Help is at hand. Read our top 10 tips for new freelance translators below to get yourself off on the right foot and create the best possible base for your new career as a freelance translator.

  1. Structure Your Days

When I began freelancing, I found it difficult to settle into a “normal” routine. One of the benefits of being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. If you want to work 12 hours every day for 2 weeks so that you can have a couple of extra days off, you can! However, just make sure that you don’t become inefficient. One of the traps I started to fall into was getting up late, sometimes missing out on work and then having to work until the wee hours to complete projects. I would NOT recommend this! Try and be strict with yourself; get up early, have a decent breakfast, exercise, get some strong coffee and then start a productive day. On the other hand, if you are a bit of an over-achiever, make sure you don’t end up working 24/7. You have to allow yourself breaks as well and spend time with your friends and family. Find a healthy balance and you’ll feel all the better for it.

  1. Set Your Rates

One of the most difficult things about starting out as a translator is figuring out what to charge. Try and think about how much you (realistically) want to earn and how many hours you are willing to work per week. This will help you decide what a fair rate to charge your employers could be.

  1. Don’t Undersell Yourself

However, in relation to the above point – do not undersell yourself! Although it is tempting to charge almost nothing at the beginning, most companies will be happy to pay for high-quality work rather than pay peanuts for something that is not up to standard. If you charge a decent rate for your work, you will be more highly respected and as a result, will be more likely to get more work.

  1. Figure Out Your Niche

A great way to get more work as a translator is to have a niche market that you are experienced in. Indeed, the most highly paid translators usually have a degree in another subject such as engineering, medicine or law. However, not all of us have experience in these fields and if, like me, translation and linguistics has been your main field of study, think about what you want to specialise in and work on pursuing that goal. Maybe our previous article about how to choose your specialisation could help.

Keep in mind that to identify your niche you might want to define first who your target clients are.

  1. Study, study, study!

When you’re constantly working and trying to get new clients, it can be easy to forget about what you’re actually offering. Make sure you keep your language skills fresh and up-to-date so that the quality of your translations does not suffer. There are also lots of other blogs (here we listed for you the top blogs in the translation industry) out there specifically designed for freelance translators like us, and these can be a great way to expand your knowledge of the translation industry.

  1. Invest In Your Career

As mentioned above, it can be highly beneficial to specialise in a chosen subject when offering your translation services. Why not invest in some new courses? This will show employers that you are taking your career seriously and want to improve yourself as a translator. Furthermore, a lot of companies want translators to use CAT tools, which make large projects a lot easier and faster to complete. The majority of these are pretty pricey, but when you’re starting off why not try Omega T, which is free. You can then invest in more expensive software when you are more established.

  1. Provide High-Quality Work

When starting out, it can be tempting to take on as many jobs as possible in order to get paid and build up your portfolio. However, it is much more beneficial to take your time in order to provide your best work and please your employers. One thing about the translation industry is that you get back what you put in. So, if you provide a rushed translation that hasn’t been researched properly, you will gain a poor reputation and could even miss out on payment. However, if you provide a high-quality, professional translation, it is highly likely that it will lead to more work and will certainly help you move forward in your career.

  1. Market Yourself

One of the best ways to get work when starting out is pretty simple: get your name out there! Companies can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist after all. Yes, it takes a while and yes, it can be pretty tedious. But spend some time to identify your target clients and contact them. Learn how to use social media to be found by your prospective clients.

It’s essential that you build a blog in order to start building your online presence as a freelance translator (it is so important that we’ve build a free guide for you here). Your clients cannot find you if you’re not out there!

And in the meanwhile, you can also send out letters and CVs to translation agencies until you have some direct clients. Remember, you’re investing in yourself and your career so it is definitely worth putting in the groundwork.

  1. Freelance Websites Are Your Best Friend

So, you’ve sent out hundreds of CVs, studied hard and are ready to work. Sometimes, it will take a while for companies to get back to you so in the meantime why not try out some of the freelance websites that are available. Check out our blog post here to learn about the best ones.

  1. Don’t Expect Overnight Success

For the vast majority of people, full-time translation work does not become a reality for at least a year, and a lot of us actually have to get part-time jobs to pay the bills in order to be able to pursue our dream job on the side. Don’t let this get you down. It takes a while to establish yourself, find the right clients to work with and build up a portfolio of translation work. However, if you’re willing to stick it out and work hard, you will reap the benefits in due course.