marketing tips for translators

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.

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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!

How to Talk About Your Translation Services So People Get It

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What do you tell people when they ask you what you do for a living?

Do you just tell them you're a translator and then leave them to sit and think about it for a moment before they follow up with another question? Do you cringe a little when they ask you how many languages you speak, expecting you to say something like "5" or "10?"

The way we talk about the work we do helps to shape the way people see us as professionals. Not only is it important to get this right for your own business, but I'd argue that it's just as important for the entire market — all the professional translators out there who make a living at this!

So, how do you tell people about your translation services?

Do you also cringe at the thought of an "elevator speech?" I never liked that term... maybe because I always felt like what we do cannot be summed up in just a few sentences.

But truly… we should be able to sum up what we do in a few sentences. I don't mean we need to repeat the "bridging the language gap" cliché we've probably all used or heard some variation of at one point or another.

I'm talking about real, tangible stuff. The good stuff. The stuff our clients praise us for and want to receive in exchange for paying for our services. I'm talking about results.

So, when it comes time to talk about your translation services to someone who asks, pretend their question was really one of these questions below. It will make it much easier to explain what you do in a way that others can grasp so they can comprehend the enormous value you provide.

  1. What results do you help your translation clients obtain with the work you deliver?

  2. What problems or challenges do you solve for your translation clients?

  3. What goals do you help your translation clients reach?

What do translators do?

One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of people who don't really understand what translators do. You may even be the first translator they've ever met. This is why it's important to get it right. They'll remember what you tell them and will remember it the next time they hear someone mention or ask about a translator.

Remember, the last thing you want to do is confuse the person who asks you what you do for a living. After all, they may know someone they could refer to you for business. Do your best to avoid using translation industry jargon like "target language" and "CAT tools," for example. Break down more complex concepts into everyday language. Remove any formality from the conversation, and talk to the person as you would a friend. This also makes it easier to follow up with a question: "Do you know anyone who needs a [fill in your language pair/specialization] translator?" It can't hurt to ask, right?

Practice the way you talk about your work with friends or acquaintances who are not all that familiar with translation. Ask them if what you've told them is clear. Also ask them if they have more questions about what you do based on the explanation you gave. If they do, that means you might want to tweak what you've said a bit until it becomes clear the first time you say it.

By practicing your professional value statement (now, that's much better than "elevator speech," right?!), you see what others find most interesting or surprising about what you do and continue to hone your message over time.

Now, you tell me! How do you tell others about your work as a professional translator?

Three Points to Consider When Prospecting for your T&I Business

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I'm pretty sure I've never heard a freelancer say, "I don't want any new clients." But if this is you, it might be good to skip this blog post. Having a revolving door of clients means that you can sustain your business for the long haul, especially if you were to lose one of your anchor or highest paying clients. But, as can be the case, it's not always easy to attract one new client after another.

Sure, you can learn to reach out to agencies and direct clients. You can send out your resume, visit trade shows and events where your clients hang out, connect with potential clients online and in person. These are all good ways to attract new clients!

However, if you're not exactly clear about what kind of client is right for your business, it can be easy to simply continue taking on every job that comes your way from any prospect. This is a cycle we should all strive to break. When prospecting for new clients (or when a new prospect approaches you), there are some important factors to think about. Not everyone will be the right fit for you, and vice versa.

Here are three points I believe worth considering when prospecting for new translation or interpreting clients for your freelance business.

  1. Only look for clients who pay more or the same amount you charge your current clients. If you're not happy with the rate you're currently charging, then it's time to search for clients and reach out to those who can (and will!) pay more. As you become busier with client work, it makes sense that you should only take on work from new clients who are willing to pay the same (if you're happy with that rate) or more than what you already make now.

  2. Only look for clients who will respect your non-negotiables or "business standards". What am I talking about? Think about what is important to you for your business and your lifestyle. What hours do you want to work? What kinds of jobs do you want to take on? If you don't want to start working at night or on the weekend, then try to avoid clients who need quick turnarounds or require working extra hours to deliver a job on time. And if you're willing to take on the odd weekend of work, consider charging this client more to make up for missing out on time you could otherwise be spending with your family or friends. If you're tired of translating a certain type of document, or you no longer want to accept certain types of interpreting assignments, shy away from seeking out prospects who frequently offer them.

  3. Only look for clients who can supply the kinds of jobs you want to do. This is related to #2 above. For example, if you are a legal translator and you would prefer to maintain a handful of clients who send you lengthier documents to translate so that you can really sink your teeth into the assignment and necessary research required, then it's best to avoid seeking the type of client who would only call on you to complete quick one-off projects once or twice a year.


Carefully consider those you reach out to before you take the time to do so. Avoid accepting a job simply because your inbox is a little sparse in a given week. Unless you need to make money quickly, accepting lower-paying jobs for less-than-ideal clients can set you up for more disappointment later on. By lowering your standards (and your rates), you are essentially letting a client know you are okay with fulfilling unrealistic expectations or being paid less. It will also be more difficult to change these expectations with this client down the road.

Remember that prospecting is something over which you have a considerable amount of control. You will receive what you put out into the world. So, if you portray yourself as being confident in the type of client you want to attract, it will happen. While it's important to make a habit of prospecting for new clients, it's also vital to recognize that not all new clients are created equal when it comes to meeting your business goals. Seek prospects who offer a mutually fulfilling business relationship and long-term collaboration, while allowing you to meet the goals you put in place for your freelance business.

How to Land Your Next Translation Job in Less Than Five Minutes

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Have you ever heard that it's easier to market to existing clients than it is to market to new ones? I completely agree with this statement. It makes sense, right? Existing clients already know us and have some experience working with us. New ones have yet to enter the business relationship, so it's understandable that it would be bit more difficult to market to new clients.

But many times, because we already have existing clients, it can be easy to forget about or neglect them, albeit unintentional of course. One might think, "But I've already landed this client. Why would I continue to market to them?"

This way of thinking and handling existing clients is both a mistake and an easy issue to fix.

I like to stay in touch with my existing clients for many reasons. First of all, it's essential to stay top of mind with them. This can be as simple as letting them know when you have some availability for new projects (more on that in a moment!).

Getting in touch from time to time shows your care for the business relationship. It's also a really easy way to market and keep yourself informed about any changes your client has made since the last time you worked together. Perhaps there is a new contact person. Or maybe your client has a new position or title. It takes no time to send a brief handwritten note of congratulations. In the process of staying in touch, you can also get a good idea of any new projects in the pipeline. This gives you an overall idea of future project-related income as well.

But while I say this is a good marketing habit already, I am just as human as any other translator in the business. At times, I've found that I wasn't doing a great job of staying in touch with some of my best clients, or at least not as well as I could have been. Fixing this issue is really quite simple and doesn't take a lot of time.

I usually like to write to my existing clients with some offer of value. This could be an article I read that I think they'd be interested in as well, something new I've prepared for them that I believe will help them in their work, etc.

But from time to time, I may not have anything new or of concrete value to send them. This happened recently, in fact. So, I decided to test out a method that I read on Jennifer Gregory's blog and in her book. She suggests writing to clients to say hello and them know that you've recently finished a large project and have some availability in the coming few weeks.

I tested this only once… and it took me less than five minutes to write and send the email. I received a response almost immediately with a "I have a few things in the pipeline that we're waiting for approval on first, and then I'll let you know". This type of response is a positive one! I made a note to follow up a week later. But within three days, the client had already responded, offering me a translation assignment worth $1,250. That's an excellent return for something that took me less than five minutes to do!

As my good friend and colleague Emily Safrin puts it, "No fun, big return!" It may not be fun to sit and think of how to authentically craft an email to a client without coming across as salesy or pushy. But boy, when you do it right, the return can be big.

To give you another perspective, I had the tables turned on me recently by a fellow translator. If you've been reading my blog for a while, or if you follow me on Twitter, you know that in addition to being a freelance translator, I also own a boutique translation agency. This translator had applied to work with my small agency about a year ago. At the time, I told him we'd let him know when something came up that fit his language pair and area of specialization.

Well, he followed up with me about a month ago just to say hello and to give me his holiday availability. And lo and behold, his timing was perfect. We had a current project that fit his qualifications and language pair perfectly. And just like that, he landed a project from us that paid out several hundred dollars.

Of course, I knew that he was making a marketing "move" (and a smart one at that!), I didn't mind at all. He was friendly, authentic and didn't come across as pushy or salesy in his message. And it paid off. He's now someone we will call on more frequently. In this process of working with him once, we were able to see that his work is superb, and he's very pleasant to work with. All that just from being consistent and writing an email that probably also took him less than five minutes to write!

So, you see? It very well may be easier to market to existing clients. The key really is consistent and authentic messages, offering value whenever you can. Have you tried this approach before? How did it work for you?