Greetings, readers! I hope that the final leg of summer (at least in the northern hemisphere!) is treating you well! If you’re starting to get back into work mode (and if not, good for you!), Training for Translators’ two September master classes are open for registration. On September 13, I’m teaching Aiming for six figures as a freelancer, and on September 26, Karen Tkaczyk teaches Editing and proofreading for into-English translators. We had huge turnouts for these webinars during the last “school year,” so we’re bringing them back for those who missed out the first time! Registration is $75 per class and that includes the recording.
On to this week’s newsletter; I’m thinking about teaching a class on this topic, so I’m using this post to refine a few ideas about it! If you’re marketing to direct clients, how do you determine who might need you? This is probably the most common question I get in my direct client marketing classes, particularly from people who have never worked with a direct client. Let’s take a look!
Lots of freelancers tell me that they understand the primary methods of marketing to direct clients (warm e-mails, LinkedIn connections, attending client-side events), but they struggle to identify direct clients who might need them. Here are a few thoughts on where to start:
- First, you absolutely, positively, *must* have a specialization. It’s perhaps possible to get a decent amount of work from agencies as a Jack-of-all-trades translator, but that’s not possible in the direct client market, because you have to know who to market to. So, that’s step one: you need a clear specialization or you can’t start marketing.
- The easiest place to start is often the kinds of clients that you’re already working for through agencies. Notice I said the kinds of clients, not the clients, because it would be a massive violation of your non-compete agreement with an agency to go after the end clients that you work for through them. But think about types of clients. Are you typically doing work that is sent to large law firms, pharmaceutical companies, software companies, advertising agencies, insurance companies? Where is your agency work going, and what other clients in those sectors could you market to?
- Then, think about clients that need lots of translations and generally pay well. In this category I’d include entities like law firms and international organizations. Law firms don’t only need lawyer-linguists. I’m not in any way a lawyer-linguist, and I’ve translated everything from birth certificates, to love letters, to real estate purchase and sale documents for law firms. Immigration law firms need mostly official documents and things like human rights documentation and support letters translated; particularly if you are certified by ATA or a similar entity, this is a good avenue to pursue. Every immigration law firm in your local area should know about you! Law firms are also generally really easy to contact; many of them have their staff e-mail addresses right on their websites. Same with international organizations: I translate for a lot of NGOs that need translations of all varieties: employee resumes, funding requests, quarterly and annual reports, quotes for office space, just all kinds of things.
- Then, look at international chambers of commerce for your other languages. In the US and in many other countries, there are tons of these: German-American business associations, France-UK chambers of commerce, and so on. You’re not marketing to the actual chamber, but you’re looking in their member directory for companies that might need you, because they use both of your working languages.
- Another great resource is professional associations for your target industries or sectors. There’s a professional association for every profession out there, and their website and membership directory can be an excellent resource for finding potential clients to contact.
- Finally, I often get inquiries from freelancers in small languages, who struggle to find potential clients, because they perceive that not many direct clients need someone for Hungarian, or Tagalog, or Farsi. While this may be true, in my opinion, this is when you go for the big companies. Heavy-hitting businesses may have zero interest in working directly with freelancers for large languages, but they may be more amenable when faced with translating their product or its documentation into, say, Greek or Polish. That’s when I’d recommend just contacting the corporate communications or international affairs department via e-mail or LinkedIn and pitching your services.
Speaking of pitching your services, if you’ve never taken one of my direct marketing classes, you may be thinking, and now what??? I have this list, or mental list, of potential clients, now what do I do?? Unless you have a contact within the company, the easiest way to start is e-mails or LinkedIn. These are not going to have a huge success rate; expect to contact around 100 people before you land an actual client, and don’t e-mail people in the zone covered by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (instead, use LinkedIn). In the US, I find that about one third of people will at least respond, “Thanks for the contact!” to a simple prospecting e-mail. I’m actually looking for at least one new translation direct client, to replace a big client who no longer needs French to English. Last week, I sent three of these types of messages; one didn’t respond at all (yet!), one was on vacation and I got an auto-responder, and one responded and said, “We already work with a few translators but we’ll keep you in mind!” Here’s the e-mail. It’s not terribly creative or original, but it gets the job done.
Hello [name], I hope you’re doing well! I’m a certified French to English translator specializing in the international development sector, and I wondered if you would be the correct person to speak with about offering my freelance services to [entity]?
I work with US and Europe-based NGOs, development banks, and USAID contractors, providing high-quality English translations of initial and ongoing funding requests, in-country employee materials, quarterly and annual progress reports, monitoring and evaluation materials, and other, similar documents. If [entity] works with freelance translators, I would love to talk further about how my services might be helpful to your organization’s mission.I use the subject line, “Inquiry from French to English translator specializing in the development sector.” Really simple,really direct, and it feels non-pushy.
As I mentioned above, do not do this with potential clients located in the GDPR zone (it matters where they are, not where you are). Instead, use LinkedIn, and when you connect with the person, answer “Yes” to the question, “Would you like to add a note to the connection request?” 300 characters isn’t much, but you could say something like:
Hello [name], I hope you’re doing well! I’m a certified French to English translator specializing in the international development sector, working with US and Europe-based organizations. Would you be the correct person to speak with about offering my services to [entity]?
This turned into a bit of a crash course on direct client marketing, but I hope these tips are helpful! Just hit Reply if there’s anything you’d like to tell me, and have a great day!
Corinne McKay (email@example.com) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!