Tag: Marketing for translators

This week I was asked by a fellow translator if I think she should become a paid member of one of these job boards online, such as Proz and Translator’s café. In this post, I discuss my experience and why I think it depends on your strategy.

I have been an unpaid member of ProZ for over 6 years, and I have profiles created in most of the major job boards for translators online. I have already discussed why I think you should take the time to create a profile in a previous post. In short, these websites’ ratings improve your visibility, because it is easier than boosting your own website’s ratings or even creating one to begin one.

Creating hundreds of profiles is a time-consuming task, but I think it is worth it. There is a cheat though: I actually hired a virtual assistant, provided her with copy of the general text, my CV information, login and password to be used and she created the accounts for me. Now, I have a spreadsheet, where I have all the websites where I have profiles, login and password, and latest updates. Hence, it is easy for me to track where my information is and update it every so often (for which I also use my virtual assistant).

I can safely say that I have had potential clients contact me at one point or another through most of these websites, but still I would not recommend them as a marketing strategy. These profiles are nice to have, but do not expect them to generate a lot of spontaneous business for you, most of your business will come from active marketing. You can read some of my tips on that as well here and here.

However, I digress…these are unpaid profiles, but what about paid membership? Is it worth it?

Over one year ago, I wondered that myself, and after being a member of ProZ for over five years, I decided to make the investment and pay for a year of membership. I read several testimonials by other translators on the ProZ website saying that they got the return on their investment, so my goal was to at least get my money back in jobs won.

Hence, I bid for all suitable projects in my language pair, which I had not been doing as a free member, and made an effort to tailor all my bids to the job offers. As a result, I won quite a few jobs in my first six months of membership, and made some contacts that did not award me the particular job I bid for, but came back to me later for other jobs. The bottom line is that, like the testimonials that I read, I did get my money back.

The fact that I had paid, made me more diligent in bidding and tailoring my bids, which could have accounted for the positive results. Nonetheless, I did find that, as a member, I was allowed to bid first, so my bids were noticed more often than when I bid as a free member. This is the true value of the paid membership. I believe that a job poster will not read more than 10-20 bids, so by the time you bid as a free member, they will potentially have already selected their provider.

Another interesting aspect of the membership was having access to the Blue Board, which is a board where translators rate job posters. I could check whether a poster paid on time, was serious and ethical, etc. This obviously made me feel a lot more confident when accepting jobs.

Bottom line is that you should definitely pay for membership, at least with ProZ, right? Well, I have not renewed my membership this year.

Despite the “success”, the jobs posted there usually offered lower rates than I expect to earn. The “clients” on the ProZ website are not my target market, because I target a more specialist type of agency and end client, who usually have longer selection processes and testing, so they will rarely post a job on a job board. My clients usually pre-emptively recruit and create lists of approved suppliers so that they can easily outsource jobs to trusted partners.

Hence, I found that the time I spent tailoring bids and looking for suitable projects was better spent sending my CV and marketing information to potential clients in my target segment. I spent the last six months of my membership with ProZ sending CVs and marketing information, and taking tests. The result was that I got fewer responses and fewer replies, but the companies that became my clients in that period paid me at least three times more than my Proz clients did. In other words, in the second half of my membership year, I was able to earn a lot more, doing what I specialize in.

The lesson I learned is that both of these approaches are valid ways of finding clients and winning jobs. However, your choice of one or the other depends on your strategy. In fact, you do not even have to choose, you could do both and maximize your earnings by choosing the highest paying jobs by order of request. I find that doing both takes more than my allotted marketing time and I need to translate as well, so it is not feasible in my business, but it all depends on your demand.

A paid membership is certainly something to consider when you are going through a low demand period or building your business. When you reach a more stable level, you can then make a choice about whether this is helping you get to your target market or consuming more time than it is worth.

My main take away from this experience was that we should be open to trying new approaches and assessing them pragmatically. Sometimes, a return on investment does not make an approach attractive in the long term. As translators, we need to think as business owners and make these decisions. However, we will only be able to focus on the best approach for us, once we have tried a few different strategies and tailored our choices to our business.

Now over to you, have you had any experience with paid memberships in other job boards? How did it go?


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A fellow translator has recently asked me a similar question. He is an experienced translator, but has always worked for the same company/few companies and now wants to break on his own.

First, a disclaimer – I have never done that. I have never held an in-house position. It took me a day working in-house for a translation agency to decide that it was not for me. However, I have transitioned from a full-time job as a medical researcher into freelancing and I believe I may have some useful advice for my fellow translator.
The following tips assume that the reader is already a translator. I am not going into details of qualifications you should/could get, experience, etc. I am assuming you are ready to go, as this is a vast topic that would require several other posts!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but includes some of the steps that I believe to be key to breaking into the translation industry. I will elaborate on some of these topics in future posts, but this may give you a general overview of what you need to do.

1. Prepare an appealing CV, and then create several versions of it. Preparing your CV may be the most important thing that you will do when setting up as a freelancer. It will require you to think about what your skills are, what your target and potential clients could be and ultimately how you are going to approach them. If you choose to approach translation agencies, they will always require a CV. A CV for translation agencies is quite standard in format, except that you do not need to provide your home address in your first contact, as if you were applying for a job. It is worth having at least two versions of this CV. One version you will send to generalist agencies – i.e. agencies that provide translations in any topic. The other CV should target niche agencies, i.e. agencies that specialize in your specialist areas, e.g. medical, legal, marketing, etc.

Then you should have a CV for your direct clients. Make sure you prepare a version of this CV for each type of client that you are going to target, e.g. medical device manufacturers, market research agencies, etc. This CV does not need to be in your standard CV format; it is a marketing tool and if you are going to send it to hundreds of potential clients, you don’t want your personal details spread all over the internet. Furthermore, few potential direct clients will care about where you went to school, etc. unless this is relevant to your specialism. Hence, although you will call it a CV, it should be more like a brochure, highlighting your relevant skills for a particular market.

2. Sing-up to translator job-boards. There are many websites (I mean hundreds) where people can find and hire freelancers, as well as websites specifically for translators. Some of these websites include Freelancer.com, People per hour (for freelancers in general), and ProZ and Translator’s cafe (for translators). Sign-up for as many as you can, create profiles in all of them (make sure you are consistent). You do not need to pay for membership in all of them (not even most!); the idea is to have your profile there. The better ranked these websites are in search engines the more they will help boosting your profile; this is easier than boosting your own website ranking (and you may not have one of those yet!).

Make sure you sign-up for their job notifications.

3. Bid for as many projects as you can. Some of these websites let you bid on projects free, while others require membership. Bid for all projects that suit your skills and are free initially. Over time, based on the notifications you receive, you will figure out which paid websites seem to have the most jobs that you would be interested in bidding for, and then you may pay for membership in those particular websites. Even if you do not get many bids accepted initially, or at all, use this as a tool to learn as much as you can about what skills you have, pricing, wording in your bids, etc. that are getting attention. Test different approaches, wordings to your bids, pricing, etc.

4. Figure out your price. Call agencies and ask for quotes, join translator forums that discuss this, read blogs for translators (there is a lot of good advice out there) and find out what other translators are charging. This is key, because you want to have a competitive price, but also set up a benchmark. You do not want to start by breaking into a slice of the market where you do not want to be, e.g. very low paying agencies.

5. Activate your network. Tell everybody you know about what you are doing now, and then remind them gently. Some of my first and best jobs came from friends’ and former colleagues’ recommendations. Initial marketing efforts like mailing and bidding do not necessarily convert into jobs immediately. You need to persevere with those, because they will eventually work. However, the quickest way to get a translation job is through recommendations.
Do not make the mistake of only letting the people who you think might have some connections with your industry know. Let everybody know! Send out an e-mail, call your closest friends, discuss what you are doing with your family, etc. We never know what people are talking about and who they are meeting; I have had some really good leads come from people who knew in passing what I did, but happened to be asked for a translator and could only think of me. In addition, social media is a good way of reminding people, because if you are posting often, your acquaintances often see your face there, and even if they do not engage with you all the time, they are reminded that you exist and work with translations. That is all it takes when an opportunity arises!

6. Create your image. This is worth spending time on. First, you need to define what channels you will use, how you want to be perceived and how much you can/are willing to invest now, in a year, in five years, etc. When I first started, I was quite bold and quit my job before I actually had enough translation demand. This meant that I had little money to invest and had to be very careful. Hence, I could not afford a professionally designed website, so I signed-up for a web host that had one of those website builders and built my own website. Admittedly, it was not my best website and now I have a much more professional image, but it was coherent with my profiles and had the information that I needed people to know.

I worked very hard on the free tools that I had, such as my LinkedIn profile and my ProZ profile, which I would sometimes use as my “websites”. It does not matter how many channels you choose or can afford to use. Of course having a website, your own domain name, a professional signature and e-mail, a logo, etc. all contribute to conveying your professional image. However, ultimately it will be your coherence and the quality and timeliness of your work that will determine your success. No amount of marketing will make you a good translator, so put more of your effort into that. Do be careful though, make well thought through decisions about how you want to portray yourself, because it will be easy to “upgrade” your image as you progress, but not so easy to change it.

7. Find your target companies online and approach them. I have written a couple of posts on some marketing strategies for translations, including mailing and other tools. You may learn more about them in my posts and through several other bloggers, but I do recommend you refrain from doing this until you have created your image, profile, and decided on your pricing, because you may not have a second chance to make a good impression with a potentially really good client.

These are only 7 tips. As I said at the beginning of this post, there are many other things that you can do, such as joining professional bodies, etc. I will write more on this topic, but if you start working on these now, I am sure they will keep you busy! What else can beginner translators do?

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This post is also an answer to a question asked by a colleague after reading my post10 Things that Freelance Translators Should do Every Day. Item 3 suggests that you contact two former colleagues or clients every day to touch-base. She expressed her concern about annoying people and asked me for some pointers on how to avoid that.

Well, here is my take on the art of keeping in touch.

First, why should you keep in touch with people who have been your clients and colleagues?

The obvious answer, particularly concerning your former clients, is because they may need you again.

However, there is more to it – they know about you, they know what you do and (hopefully) they know how good you are. These people are potential walking adverts for you, and you want to make sure that if they ever have reason to think of a translator in your language pair, you are the first person who will come to mind. This will mean that they will not only think of you when they have a job for you, but also when someone asks for a reference, when they need help finding things that are in your language or country, etc.

So how do you ensure that you are always fresh on their minds without annoying them?

The first rule of positive interaction is making sure that both sides are getting something out of the conversation. The only people on whom you can pour your information, without giving them something or being ignored, are your closest friends and your mum. Except for your mum, not even your friends are being completely altruistic there, because they expect to be able to do the same to you when they need too.

Everybody else will need to feel like they are also getting something out of that conversation.

Therefore, when you contact people, your main concern must not be what am I going to say to promote myself/my business, but how will this person benefit from this interaction.

There are several types of “perceived benefits”.  Here are some that you can offer in your interactions to make them mutually beneficial:

– Financial incentives: this is sales 101, if you offer a discount or a gift along with your services, your potential/former clients are more likely to see the ‘benefit’ of that interaction for them. However, you cannot use this resource too often, because it does get annoying, and you give the impression that you are struggling or that your products/services are of low value. I tend to use this once or twice a year. If I have had a good year, I usually offer one month of discounted rates to my clients as a thank you. Hence, I get to promote the success of my business to them and, at the same time, they get a month in which they may pay less for the same quality of service that they are used to.

– Mutual interests: My strategy here is to connect. Whenever I engage with someone, I try to find something that I find memorable about him or her. To me that means something in common, because I have a shocking memory.

This usually involves me asking many questions and trying to connect with that person in some level. The upside of that is that I often do find things or interests in common with people, and this leads to positive and rewarding interactions (sometimes business connections even become friends). If you can find a connection, it then becomes easy to interact, because you will have that shared interest to draw from.

For example, men do that all the time with sports. A friend of mine is a big football fan, so the first thing he does when engaging with other men is trying to find if they are also into football. He is not subtle about it at all, he will just ask, “do you have a football team?”, and if the person does, he is in. What follows is usually a conversation about football, and he gets a piece of information that he will not forget about that person. He does that in every level, from taxi drivers to business partners and it works every time. Next time he wants to engage with that person, he can just share information about football, which he is always reading anyway, or ask the other person’s opinion about football news, etc.

How does this apply to your daily e-mails? You do not need to send marketing information every time you want to engage. Your goal is to be remembered. Your former clients and colleagues already know what you do, so unless you are doing something new or have a new offer, there is no need to keep repeating that information to them.

The best way of ensuring that you are remembered is by remembering others. So if you are reading about something that a client of yours is also interested in, just share it with that person and let them know it reminded you of them, or you thought they might be interested, or you wanted their opinion, etc. He/she may not have time to answer you, but he will not forget that you remembered.

Genuine interest: we all love to be remembered and cherished, regardless of whether we are in a professional or personal relationship. Taking a genuine interest in people is not as hard and time consuming as it seems. With technology today, people are increasingly connected; your clients probably have blogs, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook, so find them and follow them. Whenever they post news or content, comment on those, share their content, congratulate them on accomplishments, and be invested in helping their business succeed. You do not need to have a personal relationship with every client or former colleague, but showing interest in their success will get their empathy, will make you happier because your interactions with people are positive, and ultimately will put you under their radar.

I have recently read that your success will be directly proportional to how many people want you to succeed. I believe this to be very true. When people empathize with you, they talk about you, they are happy to recommend you and they want to be a part of your success too.

This is how I try to keep in touch with my clients and colleagues. How about you? Any other strategies?
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I have recently posted a 2-part list of 10 things that freelance translators should do every day, you can access parts 1 and 2 here. Those are a few things that I have done every day and have really helped me not only develop my business, but also helped me develop professionally. I can recommend them, because I know they work.

However, one of my readers of this post has asked a very important question: “Do you also allocate time to looking for/contacting new clients?” Do you manage to strike a balance between reading up on your specialist area and marketing?

Well, I am by no means a marketing expert, but I thought this warranted a more detailed response.

When you are a freelance translator, regardless of how you started, e.g. with lots of work, no work at all, the odd job here and there, etc., eventually you will have times of low demand. Many translators understandably struggle to cope with these times, because few of us have the extra income to just wait as long as it takes for another job. My advice in such circumstances is view these as opportunities, use them to market yourself and to devise your strategy so that you can keep marketing even when you have a lot of work again.

In this post, I am going to describe my strategy for contacting clients directly via e-mail, which is what I can easily fit into my daily schedule.

My specialist subject is medical translations. I began my career as a medical researcher, and translation was just a hobby helping my fellow researchers understand and publish research in scientific journals. Then I went on to become a full time translator and my research background led me to focus on clinical trials and market research. Given my professional history, there are a few types of companies that can benefit more from my services, such as medical market research companies, international scientific journals, pharmaceutical companies and medical translation agencies. The first step in any successful marketing campaign is identifying your “primary targets (clients)” and learning about them.

Your marketing message must always resonate with a particular client. There are no guarantees that we will always achieve that, but the best way of coming as close as possible to it, is understanding what your clients want and how they will use your services. Hence, the process of learning about your clients must be very thorough. In your research, you should determine:

–          Which of your services will be most beneficial to your clients?

–          Where are your potential clients and who are they (make sure you keep a list of all potential clients that you come across)?

–          How do they speak to their customers (e.g. language on their website)?

–          What do they charge and what do they pay for services like yours?

The knowledge you acquire at this stage will be useful in any kind of marketing campaign that you choose to do. In my particular case, I like e-mailing and have mailing lists, because I live far from my clients’ markets and phone calls and in person meetings are just not an option, at least not for my budget.

When I am happy that I know enough about my potential clients to talk to them, I then prepare my message. I know how people dislike sales e-mails, so I make them short, targeted and I also create a brochure that I attach to my messages. If the person who gets the message is interested, they can then find out more straight away, they can forward the brochure on to the decision-maker or they can go to my website and eventually contact me. I do not have time to create a new brochure every day or even every month, and even if I did, the information about me does not change that often, so I create a brochure for each type of target client. In my case, I have a brochure for medical device companies, journals, translation agencies, medical market research companies, etc.

I usually also craft an e-mail message template for each of these audiences, which I can easily access and tweak as I become aware of new potential clients.

Right, so by the time my marketing materials are ready, I not only have the means to contact potential clients quickly, but I also have lists of potential clients from my research. So what is my marketing strategy? How do I market on a daily basis?

I have set two targets, one for when I am busy and one for when I am not as busy with translation work. I say that because when I am not translating, I blog, I keep in touch with people, I study, I learn, so I can never say that I am not busy, but I am not as busy with translation work. Hence, when I am busy, I contact 10 potential new clients a day. When I am not busy, I have to contact at least 20. This is arbitrary and works for me, you need to work out what works for you.

So how do I fit that into the 10 things that I should do every day? Well, when I am reading about my industry (items 1 and 2), I often come across news and articles that relate to primary target companies. When I spot these, I quickly stop my reading, find the company’s website, locate contact details and contact them. This is quick, because my e-mail message is virtually ready; all I have to do is tailor it to that particular prospect client.

If by the time I finish my reading, I have not yet contacted the 10 or 20 potential clients, then I refer to my lists (the ones I prepared during my research, back when I had time), and contact however many companies I still need to reach my target. This usually does not take me longer than half an hour and sometimes I do it at the end of my working day, so I finish on a positive note – I have reached my target!

Mail marketing admittedly is not always the most effective form of marketing, but it is the one that I can fit into my daily schedule. After all, marketing is not my area of expertise, translation is. I find that by contacting at least 100 companies every 2 weeks, I am playing the numbers game, i.e. the response rate might be low, but I do not need 10 new clients per week, I need one or two a month, if that, so the low response rate works for me.

This is not the only way that I contact new clients, and I do not just delete the contact information for potential clients that I have already contacted, but these other strategies will be discussed in a different post.

For now, I hope you find this useful. Please share with me in the comments – what works for you? Good luck!
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