On September 3, Steve Lank and I presented a webinar for ATA, on “Effective marketing to translation companies.” We offered to answer the remaining questions from the webinar here. I’ll put the questions in bold, and our answers below them. If you’d like to purchase the webinar recording, it’s on the ATA website.
Corinne – You put “CT” after your name on your resume. Is that an official ATA abbreviation? Or can I put the same if I’ve been certified by another organization?
Corinne: “CT” is ATA’s designation for ATA-certified translators. If you’re certified by another organization, you should see what their designation is.
For experienced translators, do you have advice on how to increase rates with agencies you have been working with for several years? If a translator has a good, long-term relationship with an agency, will the agency stop using a translator if he/she raises rates?
Steve: I think you just need to be open about it. We have to go the same thing with our end-clients and the response differs depending on the individual. But it you have a good relationship you should be able to talk about and they should be expecting it (again, we have to do the same thing). They will let you know if it is possible or not and then you take it from there. Whether or not an agency will stop working with you based on a rate increase depends on the agency. If they have an upper limit they can accept then perhaps. More likely there will be some cost-sensitive projects they won’t be able to send to you, but there will be others they can. In the ideal scenario, because of the long-term relationship you have and the value you bring they can absorb the increase and nothing changes. I myself have never stopped working with a translator with whom I had a long-term relationship for increased rates alone.
How do you move from being in an agency database to actually getting assignments?
Steve: Persistence, I would say. If you are really interested in working with a particular agency, stay in touch. That will show you are serious and keep you top of mind. It takes time, but I think persistence pays off. Of course, I am talking gentle, professional; persistence, not the pushy, stalky kind! 😉
When asked for references, do I need to ask permission from current/past clients before listing them? Asking more about individuals than agencies.
Steve: Yes, I think you should always ask permission to list someone (agency or individual) as a reference This in my mind is a question of professional courtesy. Besides, some companies have a policy against providing references so even if your PM loves you s/he may not be able to give a reference, so you need to check regarding their policy. And even if you know they will serve as a reference, you will need to find out how they would like to be contacted (e.g. phone or email). Finally, contacting clients for permission to list them as a reference also gives you an opportunity to reconnect with them (and to keep you top of mind) in case you have been out of touch, as well as to give them some details on the opportunity so they can be prepared and craft their response accordingly. For me, at least, there can be a real difference between how I respond to a reference request when I know it is coming vs. something out of the blue. and since you want to have the best references possible, you want to make sure your clients are prepared.
When you check the translator-scammers, do you look for the name or the email address of the translator? I just checked and my name is listed, but with an email address that does not belong to me.
Steve: I look for both the name and the email address and to date when I have found names on the list the emails have matched. However, if I found the name but not the email, I would still be cautious as these scammers are constantly making adjustments and can easily switch to another email address if another is identified as fraudulent. In the case of a mismatch, I might reach out to the individual to let her/him know what I have found in the event s/he is actually legitimate
How do you remove your name from the list?
Steve: I am not sure of the process to get your name removed, but contact details for the site can be found here: http://www.translator-scammers.com/translator-scammers-contacts.htm
Any suggestion on how or where to find good, reputable, quality-conscious agencies to contact?
Steve: The definition of these terms can really vary by individual, depending what you are looking for and what you value. However, I would suggest looking at listings on professional industry organization websites (e.g. ATA or other national/international organizations) or industry publications, such as Multilingual and then going from there. However, I think the very best place to start is with referrals from like-minded colleagues who have had a good experience with a particular agency. I know that when I am looking for new partners (whether individuals or agencies) I look for referrals first from people I know and trust. When I have exhausted that I will go to industry listings.
Do agencies mind if translators take previously-announced vacation time?
Steve: As freelancers, you are, of course, in control of your own time and can take vacation when you want. That said, I always appreciate a heads up from my regular translators when they are going to be away so I can make alternative plans. What is problematic is when a regular translator goes away with no notice. Again, this is the prerogative of the freelancer, but if it puts me in a bind it might lead to loss of business for the translator when s/he comes back, depending on the circumstances.
What’s your opinion of advertising your rates online (either on your website, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc.)?
Steve: I would advise against listing rates in a public forum and simply provide them when asked by individual prospects. Listing them online makes your services seem all about price and commoditizes them, basically inferring that the individual adds no value and one translator is the same as another. It can also lead to missed opportunities where someone who may have contacted you to discuss a project based on your credentials, and may ultimately be willing to pay your rate based on credentials and their conversation with you, may not ever reach out if they think they can’t afford you to begin with.
A lot of my current volunteer work is related to my religion, volunteering at the mosque, editing religious publications, etc. I hesitate to include this info because religion is such a touchy subject (and potential grounds for discrimination).
Steve: We addressed this on in the webinar itself, but I think it bears repeating and a little elaboration. That is a personal decision that you need to be comfortable with. I would hope that people in an international industry such as ours would not resort to discrimination like this, but that unfortunately depends on the individual. In your case, I would say take it on a case-by-case basis and include it or not based on what you found in your research on the potential client you are approaching. This means you have to customize a little each time, but I think it is worth the effort.
How do you justify “volume discounts” when there are no true economies of scale?
Steve: This is again is a personal decision that can be based on a variety of factors. If there are not actual economies of scale in a project, one factor could be that a large project would keep you very busy during a period when you don’t have other work and would keep you from having to spend unbillable time rustling up work. Another could be that you can translate a particular subject matter faster than others and you feel that with the size of the project you could still make the money you need. A third is that working on a large project at a discount might help get you in with a client you have been wanting to work with by helping them out of a bind and could generate standard rate business in the future. Ultimately what is typically driving agency requests for volume discounts is end-client budget and you just need to decide if it is worth it to you. What you shouldn’t do is accept just because you are asked for fear of losing future business. If it will keep you from more lucrative business in your pipeline, then the decision is obvious. But if it would help fill a gap, maybe it would be worthwhile. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The key to keep in mind is that it is your decision that you need to make base on your individual circumstances and the relationship(s) you have with your clients.