In a world with an ever expanding need for multilingual communication, translators are looking ahead with above-average optimism. Whether you partner with agencies or have your own clients, the translation industry seems to be one of the best to work in. But if you’re a freelancer, I bet you would like to see your business increase. Getting direct translation clients, is one way of doing it.
For the sake of fairness, I will mention that this article was inspired by a discussion on Linkedin, and I owe a great deal to the contributors to that discussion, like Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz or Matt Bulow among others. I decided the discussion brought up many great ideas that are definitely worth a summary. So here’s a few things that might help you to get direct translation clients.
1. Connect with people in your target industry
You might be good in a certain area of expertise, but you have to let the right people know that. Go to the conferences and fairs attended by the people in the industry that you would like to get noticed in; this will also allow you to get familiar with the latest industry developments. Such settings are much more likely to open the opportunities you are looking for. It might prove productive to also have your business cards on you.
2. Resist the urge of becoming Lord of all Rings
When I first started off as a translator, I thought people would expect me to be able to translate anything, anytime – some actually did. But you see, if you can do well in a boxing ring, you shouldn’t necessarily conclude you could survive in a wrestling or kickboxing ring. Trying to become the Lord of all Rings (or jack-of-all-trades), will sooner or later get you knocked-out professionally. Instead, you could try reducing your rings to a minimum – this way you will have a better chance at becoming a champion in a specific area of expertise. And experts is what most clients value.
3. Place your ads in dedicated industry magazines
Find out what publications the industry professionals are reading and prepare your budget for some ads. The investment will be worth it since your readers are already filtered down and your voice will be heard by the right crowd.
4. Use Google Adsense and Adwords
While not as targeted as placing adds in industry-specific press, you might want to consider the exposure you can get with an effective Google Adsense / Adwords campaign. If you are unfamiliar with the two systems, a simple search for “Google Adsense tutorial” could get you started in a matter of hours.
5. Take a course/seminar in the field you are targeting
If you’ve just decided you want to specialize in a certain field, it will not be easy to get work without experience. However, you can prove your competence with professional certificates that you could get after going through a course or seminar. For instance, if you are considering becoming an automotive translator, it might not be a bad idea to start off with an introductory course in Mechanics – what better way to understand systems and to collect terminology? An even better option would be a specialized translation course/seminar in your field of expertize – learning from other translators how to translate from a certain field tops everything else.
6. Deliver lectures, get published, hold workshops to enhance your good reputation
What national/local translator communities do you have in your area? Get involved somehow, be active, offer to write for their publications or to deliver a lecture. While you might have to do some volunteer work along the way, you will slowly garner a reputation that will make you a lot more interesting to high-profile clients.
7. Get noticeable. Create a brand around your business
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s good to be noticed. Direct customers have to hear about you in a time where more an more employers like to check out the Facebook profiles of their prospective employees. But you should be able to do more than that. Setting up a website is a must. You don’t need to maintain a blog necessarily, but having a web address where people can find you is like having a physical address: it’s the home of your business and it should leave a good impression on your guests. So pay attention to both content (make it informative!) and design (make it appealing!). You can spice up your brand if you like to blog – building community around your name/business is priceless. Catching both the mind (arguments, ideas) and the eye (esthetics) is critical to building your brand. Oh, yeah, and get noticeable – did I already mention that?
8. Get social: social and professional networking
Give your potential clients a way to interact with you and give yourself a way to interact with them. More and more people argue that having a Facebook profile (and why not, a Twitter profile) is a must for any business. But lately, it seems like Linkedin is one of the professional networking websites where translation professionals connect best – there are tens of thousands of members in several translation groups that you can interact with and learn from, and some of the groups are specifically set-up for publishing jobs. So, why wait? Get on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
9. Profiles on Proz.com and Translation Cafe
These are the traditional places where many translation clients (direct clients as well) look for professional translators to hire. For maximum benefits you would have to buy a membership, but it will pay out (in my experience). I actually got many of my direct clients from Proz.com. One piece of advice: a complete profile is an informative profile.
10. Get your existing clients to recommend you
You probably already have satisfied clients that could recommend you. Don’t just rely on their good faith and memory to do so; let them know specifically that you would REALLY appreciate their endorsement. Give them some of your business cards and ask them to give them to a partner or two. However, make sure your relationship allows this kind of request, getting pushy could put your existing relationship at risk.
11. Read at least one book on business communication and negotiation
As a freelance translator, you are most of the time behind a computer. But if you want to get out there and meet with people who could potentially increase your business, then you must make the right first impression. There are numerous good books that can teach you how to succeed as a business communicator and negotiator. Get one or two and then make your first contact!
12. Living in a big city is your ace in the sleeve
Living in a big city is not everyone’s fortune, unfortunately. Nevertheless, the bigger your city, the more opportunities you have to connect with all kinds of industries, and the bigger chance you have to meet a foreign investor interested in localizing products, services etc. Find out who are the foreign investors in your city, and be on the look for any new foreign investors. So, if you have the advantage of living in a big city, make it count!
These are some of the ways you can boost your business by attracting direct translation clients. They will entrust you with their products and services and if you deliver, your business can only prosper. It would be great to find out what other approaches you think could work in getting direct clients, so please drop a comment.