Connecting with translation and interpreting clients during a pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the way we connect. For public health reasons, networking events are no longer taking place in person. Since February 2020, people around the world have been recasting their connections. What used to be in person is now done remotely if possible.

What are we noticing?

I have been attending meetings with my local Chamber of Commerce, which has done quite a few things:

  • They switched their weekly live event (usually over 50 attendees every Friday) to a Zoom session every week.
  • They set up three trainings a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, for Chamber members to learn how to switch their business models to survive the new circumstances.
  • They moved as many networking meetings as possible to Zoom sessions, with the same schedule they had before.
  • They invited the Mayor for a Town Hall in English and another one in Spanish.
  • They are keeping members abreast of all developments, and set up tip jars, resources for starting up, and an amazing support service.

What have I learned through these sessions over the last three months?

  1. Be there. Show up and be involved with your community, no matter how your group meets. Yes, we are anxious to have coffee together, but can have at least this connection with some precautions.
  2. Go through your old, discarded list of contacts. As you look at it, you will remember some of the conversations you didn’t have the time to follow up on. Now is the time. Those people remember you too. Just send a couple of emails a week and see how it goes. Personally, I took all the cards I had collected and dropped them into an Access database. I am contacting a few of the people in that database a week.
  3. Take a few online trainings. Personally, I need at least 30 minutes between one online session and the next because meeting online is more intense than meeting face to face. I take those 30 minutes to take a couple of notes, maybe send a quick email, even stretch or have a cup of coffee. I like to start each session somewhat fresh.

How to participate in online events:

  • Focus on the content.
  • Participate in the chat. Then, select all the text in the chat (control-a), and copy it into a Word document so you can follow up on whatever you want to keep track on.
  • Keep in mind that in the chat you can send private messages. It is like passing secret notes in class and it is a lot of fun!
  • You are on candid camera, so pay attention to how you look. You are now part of the gallery show. You can, of course, turn your camera off or choose speaker view. Keep in mind that if you choose speaker view, the rest of the world can still see you so picking your nose is still a no-no! By the way, artificial backgrounds make your head look strange when you move at all.
  • In the chat, at least in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, the first thing we all do is write our name and email address so folks can get in touch with us later. Every online session is a networking session. That is how we collect cards today. Go for it! Add your phone and a short blurb about yourself. For example: Peter Pan, peterpan@youthful.com, keeping the world happy. Now we know who Peter Pan is, how to reach him, and what he does! Just remember, nobody likes an essay in that section…

There is a dizzying amount of online conferences, online networking sessions… Take advantage of a few of them. However, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call a friend, send a card to a client, call someone to ask how they are doing, write an email to your contacts and tell them how you are coping. Today, being human is expected. All calls start with “How are you doing?” and people actually want to know.

What do I want to keep from this era?

  • The flexibility in extending deadlines when my internet crashed, and everything took longer because of COVID. Nobody broke a sweat.
  • How nice everyone is, since everyone starts phone calls by asking how we are doing. I like being treated as a human being.
  • FaceTime stories with my two-year-old grandson every day! That lightens up my day.
  • The sense that we are in this together. The whole community is acting that way in so many ways. When one person is successful, the whole Chamber rejoices. When one interpreter gets quarantined because they were with someone who got COVID-19, everyone is sad. There is a huge sense of community.
  • The respect for people who are ill. “No, stay home, please.” It used to be, “Well, can’t you go interpret anyway?” (and probably catch whatever bug is floating around with a weakened immune system if you are not well, to add insult to injury.) Now, if only some interpreters didn’t have to pay a penalty for missing appointments… I would be even happier.

So, stay well. Take care of business every day. Remember, taking care of business includes:

  • Taking care of yourself. You are your most important asset. Never skip this.
  • Doing paid work, if that is on your schedule for the day.
  • Contacting sources of work. Always save some time for this!
  • Doing other things that will set you up to be a stronger professional. This should always be on your weekly schedule.

By the way, some say we will be interpreting remotely for the long haul and that remote meetings are the norm for the rest of our lives. As I interact with my neighbors at the Chamber, I am not so sure. We are tired of Zoom. We want to connect in person. We celebrate every meeting that moves from Zoom to in-person!

How we stay in touch might change based on the circumstances. We are still people and work with people we know, like and trust.

Stay connected. Be human.

Public Outreach Presentations: Change Perceptions Outside our Industry

This past fall, Veronika Demichelis and I had the opportunity to speak about translation and interpreting at Rice University. My hope is that in sharing our experience, you will be encouraged to seek out or accept similar opportunities. It’s important to bring greater awareness to the general public about our industry and to educate potential buyers of translation and interpreting services. We each have a role to play in that.

The opportunity

Located in one of the most diverse cities in the country (Houston), Rice University offers a class called Multilingualism. Rice linguistics professor Dr. Michel Achard teaches this course and approached Veronika about presenting to his students because of her volunteer efforts with the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association, where she serves as VP of Professional Development. Since our experience attending the Offshore Technology Conference together last May had gone so well (read about that here), she invited me to join her for this presentation. This was especially exciting for me because not only would we be presenting at my alma mater, but most of these students were majoring in Cognitive Science, which was one of my two majors. What a small world!

This course was focused on the challenges faced by governments and society as a result of multilingualism. Veronika and I were asked to discuss how translators and interpreters solve some of these problems. Additionally, we saw the students as possible future buyers of translation and interpreting services and felt the presentation could have a real impact in whatever fields they will later choose to dedicate themselves to. It’s always good to have allies.

Preparing the presentation

Have you ever attended a lecture/presentation/conference session and left disappointed because the presenter hadn’t spent enough time preparing or didn’t have you in mind while preparing? How about when the presenter shows up with a few points written on a napkin? Ack!

Here are a few tips to consider when preparing your public outreach presentation:

  1. Get to know the audience and think about how our industry can solve some of their headaches.
  2. Spend time both brainstorming and whittling down your list of topics so that you can focus on quality and not quantity. A good presentation takes time to prepare.
  3. Avoid writing your full script on your PowerPoint slides whenever possible.
  4. Consider using information from the ATA’s Client Outreach Kit (read here for more information).
  5. Practice your presentation beforehand.
  6. Ask questions of your audience and be receptive to audience questions.

We wanted to ensure everyone would walk away feeling like their time was well-spent. Before the day of the presentation, we chatted with Dr. Achard for an hour on Zoom and were able to get a deeper understanding of his class, his students, and his goals for our presentation, as well as learn about some topics he was interested in us exploring.

Objectives

Dr. Achard wanted us to introduce the students to the fields of translation and interpreting. Additionally, he hoped that our presentation would give the students some ideas for the research project they were going to carry out later in the semester. Knowing his goals helped us immensely.

We talked with the students about how translation differs from interpreting and we discussed the variety of different environments translators and interpreters work in; the different types of assignments that translators and interpreters are asked to work on; and the skills, education, and tools translators and interpreters use to perform their jobs successfully.

Our hope was that when multilingual issues come up for these students in the future, they will know how to and why they should find professional translators and interpreters to help them.

In line with Dr. Achard’s objectives, we discussed with the students how interpreters and translators can solve some of the challenges found in societies where residents speak many different languages. The two of us were able to give several impactful examples of challenges that hospital administrators, medical professionals, and non-English-speaking patients face every day in Houston. The students also learned about some of the difficulties LEPs face in the legal system and that courts face in dealing with the wide variety of languages found in Houston. I also spoke about some legislation that a local Texas representative had drafted last year that would have reduced the passing score required to become a Licensed Court Interpreter in Texas. ATA, HITA, TAJIT, and others opposed this legislation and worked to successfully defeat it.

Conclusion

Veronika and I enjoyed the chance to educate these college students about our careers. The students asked several great questions and walked away with a new perspective on some important issues. Veronika and I are hoping that we can leverage the hard work we put into preparing this presentation and use it to do more public outreach in Houston. We do not want this to be a “one and done” effort.

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Rice students so much that I decided to sign up as a volunteer associate at my former residential college. The Linguistics Department also recently invited me to join an Alumni Panel. What unexpected outcomes!

While we don’t know whether any of the students left our session inspired to become translators or interpreters, the truth is that I was inspired to turn my dream into a reality after attending a similar outreach presentation in Tokyo while I was wrapping up my time working on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

You just never know how much you can impact others and I encourage you to get involved in sharing our profession with your community. This brings greater awareness to our industry, helps prospective clients know what to look for when hiring language professionals, and is an interesting way to network and learn.

Author bio

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

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

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.

Networking 101 for freelancers

Every freelance professional knows the drill. You enter a door to some event space and there’s a desk with name tags on it. “Hi! My name is ________.” You take a black marker and write your name on the small blank canvas. You peel off the nametag and stick it to your shirt. And yes, it will fall off several times during the next two hours. A smiling young woman or man behind the desk says “hi!” and points you to a food table.

You grab a beer or a glass of wine and look around. People are clustered in circles of four or five. Most of these people are young writers and editors, or maybe designers or videographers. You walk up to the edge of a circle of chatting people and lean your head into the ongoing conversation. A woman or man smiles at you, takes one step to the side and lets you enter the circle. You nod, introducing yourself and shaking hands all around.

People are engaged, energetically discussing the creative life and how to make connections with audiences. This being an event for writers and editors or designers, the conversation turns to clients and how we approach the process of telling stories and making designs for our clients. It’s fun to talk with friendly folks engaged in the same daily activities, with the same ups and downs, as you are.

Why network?

One of the main reasons to attend networking events is to help make connections with other creative professionals, the kind of people who can refer you to potential clients or hire you outright. You might also want to network as a way to manage the isolation and loneliness of being a freelancer. Community can be a great way to help your business and it can enable you to maintain good mental health too.

The foundation of good networking: Give before you get

You shouldn’t network with “getting” in mind. The best networkers give first, putting faith in karma and the psychological rule of reciprocity: When you do for others, they naturally seek to return the kindness. In my experience, you invariably get a much higher return than you’d ever expected when you help someone and don’t expect something in return.

I like to introduce people whenever I find there’s a match between what somebody wants to do (a freelancer seeking to write for a technology client, for example) and what somebody needs (an editor or marketing leader who’s looking for a technology writer). For me, networking is first about making connections for others. And yes, indirectly, I make connections for myself too, but that’s a secondary concern

I didn’t learn this “give first” style of networking on my own, but from people who recommended me to friends in need, and did so without expectation of return. Author Dorie Clark is a great example. She recommended me several years ago to the biggest writing client I have right now. She barely knew me then, but she created an opportunity for me by recommending me to this client. She also showed me that this is what great networkers do: help others first.

Prioritize a few “real” connections over multiple shallow ones

Networking, suggests Clark in her book, Stand Out Networking, isn’t about passing out business cards or adding names to some database or spreadsheet. When we network, we don’t need to be fake or bring our smooth, practiced elevator pitches. Keeping it (and ourselves) “real” is the best and only thing that works to turn acquaintances into deep relationships that help our businesses and lives.

What matters most at any networking event is the quality of the human interactions, not the quantity. You can spend your entire time talking to two people, and have the event be a smashing success. You can also walk around the room handing out fifty business cards and chatting with people for ten seconds each, and have absolutely zero impact. That’s a fail for sure.

In his must-read book on networking, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says it best:

“Today’s most valuable currency is social capital, defined as the information, expertise, trust, and total value that exist in the relationships you have and social networks to which you belong.”

And the best way to build those crucial relationships, Ferrazzi repeatedly says, is by giving first.

The takeaway here is simple: When we help others and expect no immediate return, we do the most important thing any person or business can do. We build connections and deepen human relationships that sustain us as people and help grow our freelance businesses.

In the end, that’s what networking is about.

Image source: Pixabay

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance B2B Brand Storyteller who connects brands and customers through engaging stories. His clients include Sojourn Solutions, The Boston Globe’s BG Brand Lab, MITx, abas USA, and The National Center for the Middle Market. His website is http://www.chuckleddy.com/.

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.