We translators spend a lot of time strategizing about how to cold contact potential clients. But what happens when a potential client cold contacts us? Especially if you have a well-written profile in your local/national translators association directory, or you have a professional-looking website, or you do a reasonable amount of networking, this is bound to happen; you get an “out of the blue” e-mail or phone call from someone who needs a quote for a translation. What are some basic steps to take in order to set this interaction up for success?
- Establish who the client is. This sounds laughably basic, but it isn’t. Is the client an individual or a company? How did the client get your name? Is the client based in your country or somewhere else? Is the client a startup or an established going concern? All of these factors will weigh into your decision as to whether to work with this client and at what rate. Always do your own research on the client, either by searching them on Payment Practices, getting references from other freelancers who work with them, searching them online, or preferably all three.
- Determine if the client needs some basic information about your services, a quote for a specific project, or both. I think it’s useful to have a nice-looking one or two page document about you and your services that you can send out to anyone who requests it. Personally I would not mention rates on this profile document, but I would include information about the services you do and do not offer, your specializations, some recent projects, etc.
- Ask questions. I think that many translators make the error of giving too much information while asking for too little information from the client. For example, is the document you will be translating already written, or is the client still writing it? What is the deadline? How many words or pages is the document? Is the document for internal use or for publication? Does the client have a glossary and/or reference materials? While you don’t want to bombard the client with complicated requests or make them feel that they have to jump through all sorts of hoops to work with you, you also don’t want to fall into the trap of agreeing to something you can’t deliver.
- Always, always (did I mention always?) insist on seeing the document before committing to a rate and turnaround time. Offer to sign an NDA in advance if you need to, but realize that you are setting yourself up for failure if you do not see the actual material before the ink is on the contract.
- Give the client your terms of service. Whether this is an extensive document or just an e-mail that the client needs to reply to, make sure that you have something in writing where the client confirms your rate, deadline, payment terms and any other policies (i.e. dispute resolution procedure, confidentiality agreement, etc.)
- If the project doesn’t happen, be gracious and stay in touch. I think anyone who has been in business for a reasonable amount of time has been contacted by numerous potential clients whose projects don’t work out. Don’t get bitter; thank the client for contacting you and ask them to keep you in mind in the future!