How to Decide What Type of Marketing is Right for Your Freelance Translation or Interpreting Business

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There are lots of ways to market your freelance translation or interpreting business. In fact, there are so many ways, it can be truly overwhelming at times. 

Not only do you need to learn how to market, but having a diverse marketing strategy is key.

When I hear people say they don't market, I get a twinge of anxiety for them. Why's that? Because I personally fell into a "I'm so busy with work, I don't have time to market" trap myself once before. And if I'm honest, it lasted way too long and it came back to bite me. Big time.

From my own experience, let's just say that after I got comfortable to the point of thinking that I didn't need to market much over a period of several years, I decided I had enough work to be able to let go of a client that I didn't care to work for anymore.

Here's the kicker, though. 

At the same time that I let go of that less-than-ideal client, one of my anchor clients, i.e., one of my most consistent and well-paying direct clients, was purchased by another company. Not only did my work slow down for about a year, but it was slower than it had ever been. 

This is not a good position to be in. Trust me.

So, from my own experience, I can tell you that it's good to always be marketing in some way, even if you can market more during some seasons of the life of your business than others.

Why a lot of translators and interpreters avoid marketing their freelance businesses

There are several mindset blocks I see among freelance translators and interpreters when it comes to marketing their businesses. Do any of these sound like you?

  • "I hate marketing because it feels awkward and I'm afraid to come across as salesy or pushy."

  • "Marketing isn't worth my time because it has never worked for me in the past."

  • "I know I need to market my business, but I don't even know where to start."

And I'm here to tell you that these are all excuses. There are plenty of ways to market your business that are not "salesy" or pushy. The idea that something didn't work in the past is not a good enough reason to not try something new or to simply try again. And lastly, no one is born knowing where to start. 

The difference is that those who figure it out are the ones who succeed

So, how do you decide what kind of marketing is right for your translation or interpreting business?

The simple answer to this question is "the kind of marketing you know you can stick to."  

Sounds pretty simple, right? But that's the thing. You won't know what you can stick to and what will bring results until you take the time to try something and give it time to work.

If you've tried to market your services in the past and it always felt hard or awkward, then perhaps that just wasn't the right strategy for you. 

So, here's a challenge for you.

Tips for finding a marketing strategy that you can stick to

  • Make a decision to test two new marketing strategies at a time.

    Give yourself a quarter (that's just 3 short months!) to try two new marketing strategies. At the end of the three months, ask yourself which strategy always felt hard or tedious. Ask yourself which one felt easy or enjoyable and brought results. The reason for testing two strategies simultaneously is that one strategy may not work forever. Instead of starting over after one strategy doesn't work out, you can put more energy into another that gives you more results. If you look at this like a personal (and professional) challenge, it will make the process more exciting. Test strategies that feel natural to you or like an extension of your personality. Those are usually the ones that work best! More on that in the next point.

  • To make the process fun, test strategies that you might actually enjoy.

    Think about what you're good at, what others like about you, and how you can maximize those traits to work in your favor. For example, are you an outgoing person? If so, maybe you should be speaking at local trade shows, frequenting networking groups, or attending conferences that your target market attends. Are you a bit more introverted, but you have a knack for writing? Maybe you can spiff up your marketing materials with some stellar copy and organize an email or direct mail marketing campaign. Or maybe you are someone who has amazing research skills (many translators do!). Perhaps you could create a list of potential clients in your specialization that you could approach and send them warm emails over the next few months. Research their contact information, and schedule time to reach out to (and follow up with) each of them to keep the conversation going.

  • Take a look at what others are doing and do something different.

If everyone you know markets their services the same way, then how will that help you stand out? Instead, look at what freelance service providers do in other professions and adopt some of their strategies to fit what you can offer. This strategy has truly helped me uncover some of the best and most natural-feeling marketing strategies I use today.

When it comes to marketing, you can avoid it, or you can do something different and see if it results in more business for you. Of course, if you don't test different strategies, you'll never know for sure what works. Like anything in business, marketing techniques are simply a test. 

Give yourself a time frame to test one strategy at a time if more than one feels too overwhelming. At the end of that period, look at the results. If you picked up even one or two new clients, then I would say your strategy was successful. If the strategy felt natural or easy to you and worked, then you know you've got something worth doing again. No two people are the same, so what works for one translator or interpreter might not work for you. Of course, you won't know until you try!

What kind of marketing strategy feels right for you? If you don't know yet, how will you explore new ways to market your business in the coming quarter/year?

How to Maximize Your Email Signature - Updated with More Strategies

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This post is meant to serve as an update to one of my post popular blog posts since I started writing this small, but mighty, blog: How to Maximize Your Email Signature as a Professional Translator or Interpreter.

It's been over a year since I published that post, and it's still one of the most read and shared posts on the blog. Not only do I think the suggestions in that post are still valid and useful today, but since then, I've come up with a few more ideas I'd like to share with you.

So, here are five more ways to update and maximize your email signature to market your services to current and potential clients! 

1. Link to your LinkedIn profile with an invitation for others to connect with you. This not only helps your email recipients to learn more about your expertise, but it helps to grow your network on a platform that is meant for doing business.

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2. If you're an interpreter, link to a video of yourself! You can upload one for free on YouTube, and you can even embed it on your website. Give a brief introduction of who you are, who you best serve, and how you help your clients get the results they seek. Not only is it highly effective to have "face time" with potential clients, but you also allow those who might hire you to hear you speak. A video is a great way for potential customers to see and hear your professionalism, confidence and articulation in your own voice and words.

3. Include a link for clients to sign up for your email list.
Having an email list is important for most businesses these days, and solopreneurs should keep this in mind, too. When you have access to your potential clients' inboxes, you have the ability to continue the conversation more fluidly and frequently. Show up for your clients by providing valuable content once a week, twice a month, or however often you can consistently do so.

For more on why you ought to have an email list for your clients, check out 3 Reasons You Should Have an Email List for Your T&I Business and Some Bonus Tips.

4. If you'll be speaking at an event your clients might like to attend, include a link! This not only lets your customers find out more about your expertise, but if it's a local event, they may want to attend as well. For an added bonus, upload the slides for your presentation in a downloadable format (with permission from event organizers, if necessary) so that clients can access the value you have to share, too!

5. Add an invitation for others to schedule a meeting or consultation with you! I've seen this quite a bit from professionals in other fields, but I had yet to see any translators or interpreters take advantage of this unique way of "continuing the conversation." That is… until I met Susie Jackson. Susie took my T&I Website Blueprint Course, and she amazed me with some of her simple, but highly-effective, marketing tips. Check out Susie's email signature!

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Not only is the request to chat discreet, but I think that's why it seems so effective. It's professional without being flashy. 

Once you click on the button in Susie's email signature, it leads you to this page on her site.


Susie uses Calendly, a tool you may have seen me recommend before in this blog post: Why Translators and Interpreters Should Virtually Meet Potential Direct Clients.

I asked Susie about her experience with this simple email signature tweak, and here's what she told me.

"I haven’t actually had anyone book a call through the link in my email signature yet, but I have had two since revamping my website and including the link there! I used to include my phone number in my email signature, but I found it stressful when clients just called me out of the blue. Also, my time zone doesn’t usually match most of my clients’ so I didn’t want calls in the middle of the night. I’ve found this to be a really good compromise – clients can still speak to me over the phone but I get time to prepare and can block out times when I’m busy – win win!"

I love how Susie took what could be a stressful situation for her daily business flow and tweaked it to give a professional and effective option to connect better with her clients!

All of these are easy tweaks to your email signature that can make a big impact. Between this post and the previous one, you now have 10 solid ways to bring more attention to your services by taking just a few minutes out of your day.

Keep testing different ways to connect with clients through your professional email signatures to see which one feels the most like you and is most useful for continuing the conversation with your clients. Whatever you do, don't let your email signature remain static. Use this free piece of marketing that literally everyone sees in their inbox!

Let me know if you've tried any of these email signature tweaks and had any success with them, or if you have any of your own ideas that have proven to be effective!

Why Customer Experience is a Vital Part of Your T&I Business and How to Get It Right

An essential part of running a successful business is considering a customer's experience and keeping it top of mind in every process and decision along the business journey. By keeping your translation and interpreting clients' customer experience a top priority (or not!), you send a strong message to potential and current customers.

NewVoiceMedia paints a pretty convincing picture of what happens to businesses that provide poor customer service. In the United States, it is reported that around half of business lost is due to poor customer service and customers feeling underappreciated.

( Source )

5 Reasons Why It's Important to Give Your T&I Customers an Excellent Customer Experience

1. A customer's experience can be a deciding factor between choosing you and another translator or interpreter.

People like to work with those they like, know and trust. That's why it's important to get the customer service aspect of your business in place from the start. A customer who reaches out to several translators for a potential project may very well decide to choose the one who gives them the best first impression and experience, instead of selecting another who is more qualified but less attentive to the customer's needs. Yes, qualifications are a vital part of providing professional services, but a customer's experience is equally important.

2. It's easier (and less expensive!) to market to and maintain existing clients than it is to market to and gain new ones.

Think about the customers you already serve. When was the last time you touched base with that client whose projects you really enjoy but who hasn't sent you any work in a few months? Perhaps it's time to send a friendly note with a reminder that you're available to help them whenever they need. Remember that marketing efforts should not be earmarked only for new clients. Customers who feel understood and appreciated are more likely to send you more projects in the future. If a customer has already had a great experience working with you, be proactive and continue the conversation by reaching out on a regular basis, even if just to say hello or to offer a word of congratulations for an achievement or milestone.

3. Referrals!

Customers who are happy with their experience are much more likely to refer you to those in their networks. Give your customers nothing but good things to say about their experience with you, and you'll find that your referrals will increase. After all, many of us can attest that more than half of our client lists are made up of clients referred to us.

For more on the topic of referrals and how to leverage them, check out How to Use Referrals to Grow Your Client List.

4. You can position yourself as the expert your client needs.

The more you get to know your clients, the more you will understand their pain points and goals. By doing so (and keeping a note of them), you can find new and creative ways to better serve your clients. One of my T&I Website Course students is thinking of offering a new service to her clients where she monitors and reports on her clients' competitors' social media posts. She knows that her customers do not speak French or have the bandwidth to monitor competitors in France. To help solve this issue for them, she has offered to provide monthly reports to her customers about new product launches, customer questions, etc. that appear on their social media channels. Genius! Not only does she provide translation services to her clients, but she also offers an additional, related service that furthers her position as the expert and professional they already know her to be.

5. You help the profession! 

We are a group of professionals who are often seen as part of the gig economy. NO MORE! We need to up our game in the area of customer experience and show our professionalism from that very first conversation with a potential client until even after they've paid us for our services. I personally encourage you to do your part to further the profession and commit to not only giving an amazing customer experience to your customers, but as a boost to all our professional colleagues. 

So, how do you get the translation/interpreting customer experience right?

Think back to the last amazing customer service experience you had. What did the brand do right in your eyes? Do you now feel like you will be a loyal customer for the long haul? 

Now think about a brand that you thought was a good fit for something you needed, but the customer experience was awful or inconsistent. Did you look for another brand where you could spend your hard-earned money instead?

As professionals, we want our clients to feel reassured when working with us. We want to give them that amazing customer service experience. 

So, how to get it right? Here are my five tips to provide an excellent customer experience to your translation/interpreting customers.

  1. Show up for your clients from every touch point, start to finish. Don't leave them waiting for your responses and wondering if you received their emails. Even if you cannot respond in detail right away, it's important to acknowledge receipt of a customer's message. These days, even this small gesture can go a long way in building trust. After you finish an assignment for a customer, make sure to wrap up the project in a way that leaves them feeling appreciated.

    For more on leaving a lasting first impression, check out Tips for Onboarding New T&I Clients.

  2. Be consistent. Related to number 1 above, consistency from touchpoint to touchpoint is vital. If you provide a consistently excellent customer experience, clients won't even think about shopping around. But if you are inconsistent with clients, it's only a matter of time before they will be ready to move on. Put together a checklist or process that ensures you make it clear how much you enjoy working with your clients so that they never have to wonder. Then, stick to this process every single time. Consistency in messaging is truly important to get right. Make sure your marketing materials, including your website, reflect the same excellent customer experience.

  3. Make sure your branding reflects your customer service experience. This is a bit of a follow-up to number 2 above. Do you offer an excellent customer experience to your clients, but your branding doesn't seem to match? Do clients and colleagues refer new customers to you, but your website is lacking any semblance of being up-to-date or user-friendly? Branding is a large part of a customer's experience. Make sure your marketing materials are a reflection of what it's like to work with you so that a new client immediately knows that you're the right fit for them.

  4. Make a note of your own amazing customer experiences (as the customer) and find ways to implement a similar experience in your own business. If you recently had a great customer experience with a brand, make a note of it. What did the business do to make you feel appreciated or heard? How can you implement a similar approach with your customers in your own business? I tend to keep these kinds of notes in a "swipe file" on my computer. They come in handy when it's time to revitalize certain areas of my business and customers' experience.

    For more on keeping "swipe files," check out Why You Need to Keep "Swipe Files" for Your T&I Business.

5. Be different! Part of a giving a stellar customer experience is being memorable. What makes you different? How can you infuse this into your customers' experience with you? Think of a few ways that you can give your clients more than what they ask for. This could be offering several updates along the way throughout the translation process, or it could be sending them a handwritten note or a small gift during a time of year when they least expect it. I personally prefer to send clients a New Year's gift instead of a Christmas or holiday gift. Whatever you choose to do to stand out, make sure it's "on brand" and a natural fit with your overall customer experience.

Now, tell us. What do you do to provide your clients with an outstanding customer experience? What would you like to implement in the future to make it even better?

If you're looking to update your website as part of your customer experience in 2020, consider taking my T&I Website Blueprint Course. A recent student said,

"Madalena's website course exceeded my expectations in terms of what I was able to accomplish! I'd been in a stuck place for a while with my client-facing website, and I was able to make a big impact on the design and copy by making just a few changes that I worked on in the course. I also appreciated Madalena's thoughtful and thorough feedback on the work I did."

Join the waitlist to find out when registration opens for the January 2020 session of this course.

How to Determine What SEO Keywords to Use for Your Translation Website

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Everyone who has a website likely knows that it's the most valuable piece of digital marketing one can have. However, not everyone takes advantage of the power behind this tool.

I'm not just talking about the fact that you should have an appealing website, though. Instead, I'm talking about how customers find your website.

It doesn't matter how amazing your freelance translation website is if your ideal clients aren't finding it, right?

That's where SEO keywords come in. Keywords are best defined as the terms that people use to search for something online that they want to know, learn about or purchase. 

Think about the last item you searched for something online. What words did you use? Did you type (or speak, if using a voice search tool) only nouns? Or did you search a phrase or type in a complete question?

Many people are now searching in even more specific terms than ever. Ask yourself whether the folks who would be looking for your services online use specific terms. The answer is probably, "Yes." 

What are they searching for? What answers do they seek to help them solve problems? It is essential to include key search terms in your website's keywords (you know, on the back end of the website and in your web copy) so that these people can more easily find you. This is a simple fix that will allow you to reap the benefits as long as people continue to use those search terms. And, of course, you can update search terms as needed. 

Here's a good example. Imagine that you are searching for a translator who is an expert in medical devices. If the person who would do the best job for you hasn't used key search terms on their site to further the chances of you finding them, you very well might not.

Now, consider this. How would clients (not colleagues) search for your services online? Would they type in something more than the language pair you work in? Most likely, yes. Most people these days know that the more specific the search, the more likely they are to find the answers — or, in this case, the services — they seek.

So, it's not enough to use keywords like "Spanish," "English," and "translator." Can you imagine the number of results you'd get back from such a search? Try it. You will probably end up with thousands of results, and you won't be any closer to finding what you're really hoping to find. You will also probably find a lot of automated translation tools. And we all know that's not what we're going for here!

So, how do you determine what keywords to use for your translation services website?

When you're thinking about search terms and how to include them on your website (both in the copy and behind the scenes), don’t simply choose the most popular keywords for your market. Use search terms that are more specific to your specialization and service offerings. As time goes on, search engines will identify your website as a key place to go for that particular subject. This will boost your search rankings and help your ideal clients find you. 

Use a combination of short- and long-tail keywords. 

HubSpot defines long-tail keywords as "a keyword phrase that contains at least three words (though some say two or more is considered long-tail). Long-tail keywords are used to target niche demographics rather than mass audiences. In other words, they're more specific and often less competitive than generic keyword terms."

Long-tail keywords are specific, which means that the person using them knows what they want and is ready to hire or buy. They contain a generic word and one or two modifiers. Long-tail keywords make up about 70% of all online searches. Make sure that the long-tail keywords you use are suitable for your business and are reliable. Test them yourself.

Here's an example of a low-scoring, long-tail keyword: 

"Spanish translator"

No surprise there, right?

And here's an example of one that would be more specific to a client looking to hire a very specialized Spanish translator: 

"How do I find a Spanish English patent translator?"

See the difference? Not only should you use keywords in your copy, but you can insert them behind the scenes in various places as well to optimize your site. 

Optimizing your website by utilizing SEO keywords strategically is not as hard as it might seem. The average translator can truly benefit just by thinking more deeply about how others find them online and enhancing their website to fit the way people search.

Speaking of how people search these days… don't forget that more and more people are utilizing voice search functions these days. In addition to typing in searches on their computer or mobile phone, they also ask real questions to automated assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and others. So, consider adding long-tail keywords to your website that will allow you to show up in such searches more easily and frequently. 

How do you determine and utilize the right keywords for your translation services website?

How to Answer the Question: Should I Translate My Website?

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I receive this question more times than I can count from fellow translators: "How do I know if I should translate my website?"

And the answer is… well, it depends on how your translation clients find you and how you find them. A translator may think it's an obvious step to create a website in both their source and target languages, but truly, this isn't the right move for everyone. 

Before you decide to hire a colleague to translate your website into your source/non-native language, ask yourself a couple of simple questions.

How do translation clients find me?

Take a look at your client list and ask yourself: How do my clients typically find me? 

Maybe they arrive on your virtual doorstep via client or colleague referrals. Or maybe they come across your profile in an online professional directory. Perhaps they tend to find you by conducting an online search. 

However your clients find you, it's important to understand what your biggest traffic stream is — whether referrals, directory listings, online searches or some other way — so that you can determine the best way to maximize the results you get in the future. This will also help you determine the language(s) for your website content.

If the majority of your clients are the result of referrals, take a look at the language your referring colleagues or clients speak. Those who refer you may not necessarily need to be able to read your website like a client would, but it would definitely help if they can skim your site and get a good idea. Many people will visit a website and poke around a bit before they send a link to someone. So, make it easy for those people who refer you to share something useful about you by describing yourself and your services in a language they can read, too.

If you find that you receive a lot of inquiries due to your profiles or listings in online directories, think about the language the directory itself appears in and make sure your site is in the same language. This sounds a bit simplistic at first, but there is good reason to do this. First and foremost, you ought to have a link to your website in your directory profile (your LinkedIn profile counts, too!). If the details listed in your profile are in English, then the link to your website that you include in your profile should lead to an English-language website, or at least an English-language page of your website where a potential client can learn more. If the directory and profile are in another language, make sure your site accommodates this language as well. Remember, it's important to make sure that the link your prospects click lead them to what they hope to find!

Also ask yourself...

How do I find translation clients?

This is another essential question in determining whether you should translate your website into your source/non-native language. 

Maybe you tend to find new clients at conferences. Or perhaps you prefer to reach out to agencies and apply to work with them. You might even have a marketing plan that is focused on reaching out to potential clients by using warm emails.

In what language do you most often speak to your prospective clients? If you are a French-to-English translator, you might write to prospective clients in France or another French-speaking country or territory. Or, if you prefer to work with agency clients, you might only communicate with project managers in English.

The language you use to find new clients and the one you use to communicate with them is the primary (and perhaps only, depending on your preferences and methods of finding new clients) language your website should appear in. 

You need to have a place where clients can find out more about you after they receive your résumé. If you reach out to a client in French, but your website is only in English, they might quickly lose interest because they won't be able to learn more about you and why they should work with you.

The short answer...

Clients often do their homework before they are willing to pay for professional services. Make it easy for them to work with you. If you have never once had a client reach out to you in your source language, then it might not make sense to translate your website into that language. But if you're looking to change your prospecting strategies and start approaching clients in your source language, then by all means… have a place for them to land that convinces them you're the right fit for their next project!

If you don't have the money to pay a colleague to translate your entire website, consider having a landing page on your site for customers who speak your source language. This page can be a brief summary of the content on the rest of your site. Be sure to include who you are and who you help, what services you provide and how they can reach you. This way, they understand the next step in continuing the conversation with you.

For more tips on maximizing your website, check out my 13 tips to nailing your T&I website and converting leads into clients, or sign up for the waitlist of my next session of the T&I Website Blueprint Course.