Greetings, readers! I hope that those in the US had a great Labor Day weekend, and here we are in the new “school year”! Just a reminder that we have two great master classes on tap for you this month; Aiming for six figures as a freelancer, taught by me on September 13, and Editing and proofreading for into-English translators, taught by Karen Tkaczyk on September 29 (note new date).
This week, let’s talk about how I market to agencies. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I really enjoy working with agencies, because I like the fact that they handle all of the non-language aspects of the work, including finding the clients. I work with very few translation agencies because not many of them will pay my minimum rates, but the vast majority of my conference interpreting work comes from agencies. I recently did a marketing push, aimed at conference interpreting agencies, and here are some tips I wanted to share with you.
- Most, importantly, never count on getting work from an agency after simply filling out their online application or e-mailing them your CV. I’m not sure where those online applications go, and all of us fantasize that we’re going to click Submit, and five minutes later we’ll get an e-mail, “We have a project that’s perfect for you, are you available??” In my experience, it doesn’t really work that way.
- Plan on contacting an agency at least two to four times before expecting to get work from them. Here’s how I do that:
- Fill out the agency’s online application or e-mail them your CV. If you e-mail them, use a very clear, non-spammy subject line. I use “Inquiry from English<>French legal and conference interpreter.” If you use their online application, make sure you have a really strong one or two-page resume in PDF format, and use a descriptive file name. I use “Corinne_McKay_French_2023,” updating the year to show that the CV itself is up to date.
- Follow the agency and connect with any employees you can find on LinkedIn, especially if their vendor manager or translator/interpreter recruiter is on there. Start out by typing the agency’s name into the LinkedIn search box. When the search results pop up, click Companies, and follow the agency itself. Then click People, and you’ll see anyone who has the agency’s name in their profile. You want to connect with employees, not freelancers, and definitely anyone in a recruitment role, or project managers. Click Connect. If you’re doing a lot of this kind of outreach, it may be worth doing the LinkedIn Premium free trial, because LinkedIn is always making it harder to connect with people you don’t know, presumably to push people toward Premium. With your connection request, you can add a 300-character note. I say something like, “Hello [name], I hope you’re doing well! I’m an English<>French conference and legal interpreter based in Colorado, and I recently applied via your website [sent you my CV, etc.]. I’d love to connect!”
- Log all of the above in a spreadsheet or keep a record of it somehow. I don’t use any sort of elaborate customer relations management system, but of course that’s an option if you want to. I use a simple Excel sheet with the agency’s name, the date I contacted them, how I contacted them, a simple yes/no column for whether they responded, and then any comments (“Said to check back in six months,”) etc. I also color-code the rows: green means that the agency responded positively and I need to make sure to keep nudging them until I get a response, and red means I don’t need to contact them again. For example the other day I contacted an agency that now only does sign language interpreting, so I coded them red.
- Wait a week or two, and start nudging. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Many freelancers struggle to get work from agencies because they give up after one contact. Don’t do that. You know that agencies need you, and you know that agency employees are really, really busy, so keep after them until you get a yes or a no. Particularly keep after agencies that have expressed an interest, sent you their onboarding forms, tested you, added you to their database, etc. and then never sent you any work. These are prime candidates for a nudge e-mail: “Looking over my records, I see that you let me know on July 12 that I passed your tests, and I’d love to start working together! Do you happen to have anything in the pipeline that might be a good fit?”
- Keep nudging, by any and all means you can find. Message the employees you connected with on LinkedIn (“Completed your onboarding forms, would love to start working together”); E-mail them (“Haven’t heard from you since you acknowledged receipt of my CV on June 10, would love to start working together!”), send them a handwritten note in the mail (I have some custom-designed cards with my logo for this purpose), ask if they’re attending an upcoming conference that you’re going to be attending, really any way that you can think of.
Here’s the truth: agencies need you. They cannot do business without translators and interpreters. With direct clients, there’s always that fear of hounding someone who doesn’t want or need your services. But with agencies, keep after them until they either tell you they don’t need you, or they send you some work. Most agencies will not be shy about telling you that they don’t need your language or that you don’t meet their experience requirements. Unless or until they do that, keep nudging!
This strategy works well for me, and I hope it can encourage you to add a few steps to your agency marketing process as well.
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!