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?

Finding (and Losing) Translation Clients: Why It's Important to Do Both

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There is the saying that when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. I've found this to be true in the translation world, and I know a lot of colleagues who have as well. So, while it's very important to take steps to attract clients (more on that here and here), it's just as important to repel clients who are not a good fit for you and your business.

I don't hear many people talking about how essential it is to turn translation clients off. But in reality, it's just as important as finding good translation clients.

Once you can pinpoint who your ideal clients are, you can quickly point out the ones who are not a good fit for you. This may sound a bit odd, but it is just as important to repel the wrong clients as it is to attract the ones with whom you prefer to work. So, how can you do both effectively and respectfully? Here are my tips on how to make sure you do this well.

  • Be very specific about your niche(s)/specialization(s).

In other words, don't call yourself a generalist, even if you believe yourself to be one for the most part. Just because you may have a variety of clients from more than one industry, you can still narrow down the type of work you do into a couple of specialized areas. By doing this, you are setting yourself up to work only with clients in those main areas. Of course, if one comes along who does not fit these areas of specialization, you can make the call to work with them or not. But the sooner you specialize, the sooner you can repel the clients who don't have a decent budget, who have unreasonable expectations or who simply don't fit the area(s) in which you work. By being very clear about what you do and for whom you work, it will be easier to repel those clients who are less than ideal.

  • Avoid mentioning the type of work you don't wish to do.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I've seen so many translators who advertise an area of specialization or a type of client work on their website that they would actually prefer to stop doing. They tell me that they continue to mention it because they don't want to seem inexperienced or close any doors. "What if that's the only type of work I have right now?" And here's where I'd say, "If you don't want to take on a certain type of translation work, then stop talking about (and accepting) it. The longer you do, the longer you'll attract that kind of work." This concept can be carried over to one's résumé, too. If you prefer not to handle certain types of documents or niche areas, it's best not to even mention them on your CV. Instead, focus on what you do want to do and you'll start to attract more of it.

  • Talk directly to the type of client you wish to attract, and avoid talking to those who no longer serve your career goals.

I mention this a lot on the blog and in my T&I Website Blueprint course. It is vital to direct all your marketing efforts, including your web copy and design, to speak to your ideal clients. Talk directly to them, addressing their challenges and pain points and show how you can help solve them. Just as you should avoid mentioning the type of work you don't want to take on, you should also avoid talking to clients with whom you don't wish to start a business relationship. Again, this may sound obvious, but if your web copy is attracting clients you no longer wish to work with on a regular basis, then it might be time to review and revise it. Pay attention to the language you use, and make sure it's fitting for the type of client you want to attract more of in the long run.

  • Check your mindset.

If you're going to attract your ideal clients, you have to come to terms with repelling clients, too. Not everyone should be a good fit for you. So, the next time you're at a party, and someone asks, "You're a translator? So, who are your clients?", try not to give the answer I've heard time and again: "Anyone who needs a [target language] translation." Please. "Anyone" is not your ideal client. The more specific and specialized you are when you describe yourself and your work (both in your marketing copy and when you discuss your work in person), the more you will attract your ideal clients.

It's okay that not every client is the right fit for you. This is a good thing. It means that you don't serve everyone. And honestly, who can?! It's important to recognize this and decide how you will start to actively attract (and repel) clients. By making a conscious effort to market to clients by appealing to them directly, you will inevitably start to repel those who are not your target audience. Instead of worrying about losing potential work or income, use the time you would be spending on that client's work by looking for better clients or handling jobs for clients you already value.

How to Leverage Testimonials When Marketing Your T&I Business

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Testimonials are powerful. There's no denying that. But I keep hearing from translators and interpreters that they feel uncomfortable asking their clients for testimonials. "Do you really think they will give me one? Am I overthinking this?" My response to these questions: "Yes and yes."

We all purchase services or products and then receive messages to leave a review. How is that different from asking a client for a testimonial? Why do we feel uncomfortable asking our clients to give us a few words of praise? I can only surmise that part of this discomfort stems from the nature of the work we do. We like to stay behind the scenes for the most part. But when it comes to growing our T&I businesses, we have to step up to the plate and make the "ask." 

Your potential clients, just like you, want to make sure they are purchasing a sound product or service. Who wouldn't? That's just one of the many reasons why providing client testimonials is an effective way to market your T&I business. But you have to be smart about how you request and use testimonials so that one client's words can impact the decision making of another.

Here are my top tips for leveraging testimonials for your T&I business.

● Use client testimonials and avoid simply requesting them from colleagues.

Show how you helped a client solve a problem they had. This is how other potential clients will be able to connect with such a testimonial. They want to know what you are capable of doing for them! If you simply share testimonials your colleagues write for you, then you're not really showing those who pay for your services anything other than what your peers think. And while peer support is important in other aspects of your business, the last thing you want is for a potential customer to think you've padded your testimonials with kind words from well-meaning friends.

● Share a variety of testimonials (shoot for three to five!).

Your client testimonials should be varied, i.e. they shouldn't all say the same thing. And they should definitely go into more detail than simply "She always delivers on time!" Well, gosh, I hope so. While this may be a positive aspect of working with you, it's not going to set you apart from others in your language pair or specialization. Make sure that your testimonials have some substance to them and that they cover a range of positive experiences a client can expect if they choose to hire you.

● Dedicate a very clear space for client testimonials on your website.

You can choose to share one on every page or dedicate an entire page of your website to client testimonials. If you choose the latter, be sure to create a clear heading in your navigation menu. Don't make it hard for clients to find testimonials about your work!

● Translate them into your target language only if your clients are contacting you in that language to begin with.

I get asked this question fairly often. And my answer is always the same. It doesn't make sense to translate anything on your website unless your ideal clients are contacting you in that language from the start. Put your testimonials in the language your ideal clients speak and use when they enter search terms online.

● Ask for them!

This may be the one that so many people avoid. The "ask." The worst a client might
tell you is that you haven't worked with them long enough for them to give you a solid testimonial, or they don't have time at the moment. In both of these scenarios, all you have to do is wait, work a little more for them on assignments and ask again. Is that really so bad? I didn't think so. ;)

Write to your top five clients today, and ask them to write a testimonial for you. If they don't have time, offer to write one for them to approve. A lot of clients actually prefer this, and some may even ask you to do this in response to your request!
 

● Make sure your testimonials are brief and to the point.

Whatever you do, don't fill up your testimonials page with long-winded praise. Try to stick to around three sentences per testimonial. Anything longer than this means you run the risk of someone bypassing the testimonial completely.

● Be clear with clients about what you plan to do with their testimonials.

Make sure that your clients understand where you will be using their name and testimonial. Try to use these on your website and any online profiles you use for business that allow for this type of content, like LinkedIn.

For more tips on how to use LinkedIn for your T&I business, check out Seven Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile and Gain More Leads.

● Offer to give testimonials to others as a way to pay it forward.

I'm not saying to offer a testimonial exchange to your clients! Although, that could be interesting. ;) Instead, make some time once a month to do others the favor of writing a testimonial for them. Other professionals appreciate the praise, too. Consider writing testimonials for your accountant, your bookkeeper, instructors or trainers you've learned from in the past, other translators or editors you actually hire/pay for work, etc. Just remember to be careful these don't come off as friends doing each other the favor of padding each other's testimonials page on a website!

Make it a point to ask for a testimonial once a month. That's an easy business goal to set, no? And don't feel badly about asking for testimonials. It's a very common practice, and most people are more than happy to do it! Just make sure you also let them know by when you need the testimonial, as a lot of people don't see this type of thing as a priority and they may forget, or your request may get lost in their inbox.

Use testimonials wherever you can, even if it is in the body of an email response. If a potential client reaches out to you, and something they mention reminds you of a testimonial you received, it's not awkward to share something like, "Oh, you have this issue, too? Here's what another client said about the service I provided to them when they were in the same situation." Slip a solid testimonial in where you can, and make sure it feels natural to do so. It's not in poor taste to do some self promotion like this. After all, you have a business to run!

If you found this post useful, you may also like How to Use Referrals to Grow Your Client List.

How to Create Good Marketing Habits for Your Translation or Interpreting Business

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I recently starting listening to more audiobooks to give my eyes a rest after long workdays and to keep my mind active when tidying up the house or while I'm out for a run. One book that has me thinking a lot lately is Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear. There are so many "golden nuggets" of wisdom in this book, but there is one quote that really stood out to me.


“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

We all have the best intentions, Clear explains in his book. Many of us also love to set goals for ourselves and for our businesses (I'm raising my hand!). But if we don't also set ourselves up for success by building good habits and systems, then how can we expect to reach these goals? If we were to reach them, it would certainly take much longer without good habits.

He suggests taking small actions so that we can make our big goals more doable and feel like less of a chore. Marketing in a consistent way is the perfect place to start building good habits in our businesses. But it can be overwhelming. That's why, a lot of times, we end up procrastinating instead. Or we spend more time than we'd like to admit not marketing our businesses only to realize that we have made little progress, or worse, we've earned less income than a previous year.

Of course, we know that if we don't market our businesses in some way and on an ongoing basis, then we run the risk of experiencing more times of famine than feast in the future. Sure, our clients might find us. Referrals and a solid web presence make that possible. But we cannot assume that relying on referrals or web traffic will give us a better result next year than they did this year. We can, however, assume that if we market our businesses effectively and consistently, then it is likely we'll have a result to show for it by the end of the year.

Taking small, manageable actions every day to market our businesses, is what will get us the traction and the results we seek. I have heard Ed Gandia, a business strategist and the host of the High-Income Business Writing Podcast, say more than once that even if we have a steady stream of client work, we should be actively and consistently marketing our freelance businesses. He suggests sending several warm emails every week, doing it first thing in the morning and being more concerned about the action of actually sending the emails than the responses we get from them. Because, in the end, the more we put ourselves out there, the higher our chances are of gaining new clients and building more solid business relationships. Seems pretty logical, right?

In addition to Ed's approach, I really like James Clear's suggestion of setting up a cue that triggers the action. The repeated action will, over time, form a good habit that allows you to achieve the results you want in your business. Of course, the opposite is also true. If we have cues that trigger an action that feeds a poor habit, then we will continue to get a poor result. For example, say our cue is delivering a project to a client. This cue then triggers the action of opening up a social media application because we have some time in between projects. We run the risk of forming a poor habit if we are using the social media application only to find ourselves falling down a rabbit hole of tweets, messages and shares. Instead, it would be more effective to use the time spent on the application to engage with clients and actively market our businesses.

Atomic Habits also made me realize all the cues and triggers we experience on a daily basis and what it could mean if we started to consciously and intentionally shape them. For example, a cue to start sending more of the warm emails Ed suggests could be as simple as this. Every morning when you make your coffee and sit down at your desk, open your computer and your email. You don't answer a single inbound message until you've sent a warm email to a prospective client. This allows you to move on with your day and know that you've already handled a marketing task before you even have the chance to get lost in a sea of emails.

Here's one of my own suggestions I'd like you to consider. Commit to spending 20 minutes a day on marketing your business to your clients. Whether that's 10 minutes of engaging on social media each morning and another 10 minutes spent crafting warm emails to potential clients (or following up with those who you've met at networking events, conferences, etc.), the effect of this small habit will certainly add up over time. Let's say you work eight hours a day, five days a week. By committing to 20 minutes a day, that still leaves you 460 minutes every day to handle the rest of your work. How's that for some perspective?

If you spent 20 minutes a day the way I just described, 5 days a week for 48 weeks out of the year, you would essentially engage with clients on social media for 2,400 valuable minutes and send 240 warm emails to prospective clients. I'd be shocked if you told me that this habit yielded few results. In addition to warm emails or engaging with clients on social media, you could use good habits with cues and triggers to sit down and write a blog post or an article to share on LinkedIn over the course of a week. The actual marketing you do depends on your audience, but you get the picture.

I realize this all sounds like logical, common-sense advice, and perhaps as though we just need a little willpower to make these things work. But I do believe it's more than simple willpower. After all, if it were easy, we wouldn't have people writing books on habits and systems. Many of us choose not to market our businesses for fear of rejection. Or because we are overwhelmed at the thought of marketing. Or because we simply don't know where to start. And instead of taking action in spite of rejection, or finding ways to reduce the overwhelm, or learning ways to market our businesses effectively, we often find ourselves simply using these issues as obstacles. We make excuses. These are obstacles that we have essentially created for ourselves. We all do this in some area of our businesses. So, let's commit to changing that by rising to the level of a few newfound habits and systems to achieve the results we want to see in our businesses.

How to Provide Added Value to Your T&I Clients and Build Lasting Relationships

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If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I talk about this topic a lot. And whenever I come across anyone who is resistant to the idea of providing extra value to clients beyond that of the services we already provide as translators/ interpreters, I seem to get the same response. They usually say something along the lines of, "I don't know what kind of value my clients might want." And typically, my answer is, "You know more than you think!"

There are a lot of ways to offer value to your clients beyond the T&I services you already provide. And for some of us who work in language pairs that can have a somewhat saturated market, this is essential! We have to stand out. And to anyone who says, "I don't need to provide any more value than the services I already offer," to that I ask, "Then, what makes you different than any other translator/interpreter who provides the same service?" I know that seems a bit harsh. But if we don't start thinking about the value we provide, both as part of the services we provide and in addition to them, then we may very quickly feel like the market is taking over and we're floundering to raise our rates or find better clients. Everyone is selling something these days. So, it's important to be seen as different. Yes, this is one of those cases in which being different is a good thing!

Of course the translations and interpretations we provide to our clients are incredibly valuable. But they are often thought of as a service that is requested, completed and billed. End of discussion. So, how do we provide even better value so that our clients consider us an integral part of their larger team? How do we keep them coming back to us time and again? Surely, a large part of being valued is due to the services we provide. But it's never just about that. After all, if it were just about the service, our clients would all be shopping around for the least expensive option, right? Who wouldn't be?! So, there has to be something more. By providing more value than other options (i.e. other translators/interpreters in your language pair(s) and area(s) of specialization), we also give our clients more reason to stick with us for the long term.

By building relationships with our clients, we learn how to provide them even more value. We learn how we can serve them best. We learn what their challenges are and how we can help to relieve some of their stresses and challenges. But it doesn't happen overnight. There are plenty of ways to serve our clients in ways other than translation/interpreting that make us even more valuable in their eyes. If you are struggling to come up with some ideas, my best advice is to listen to your clients. Talk to them. Get to know them better so that you can understand the obstacles they face and the goals they have. Then, figure out how you can help them to overcome those obstacles and reach those goals.

When trying to think of additional ways to provide value, first consider your strengths, both as a professional, and in general. 

● Are you a great socializer/connector? Do you know a lot of people and can you connect your clients to others who could help them along in their business/goals? This is valuable.

● Are you an amazing researcher? What can you research or provide that shows even further value to your clients over another translator/interpreter who may not have this superpower? This is valuable.

● Are you a great writer? Can you write for the industry(ies) in which you provide your services so that you can both show your expertise and provide value in another related capacity? This is valuable.

● Are you a wonderful speaker? Could you start speaking at events and conferences that are related to your area(s) of expertise? Not only can you provide knowledge and value to others, but you will soon make even more connections that can open more doors for you! This is valuable.

Notice that none of these suggestions above have anything to do with making a hard sell. That's really not the point here. Providing added value is what allows others to like, know and trust you. From there, people will want to do business with you!

Whatever you do choose to do to provide more value, own it! Don't be shy. Tell people about it. Others will want to help you by connecting you to those they know and who could use your services or gain from the value you are sharing. Here are some ways to spread the word about your added value that will allow you to also shine as an expert translator/interpreter.

● Write a blog post or an article for LinkedIn and send it to your clients' inboxes. Try to do this regularly and watch how much you can engage your target audience.

● Think of what challenges your clients face and try to come up with some clever solutions. Since you know the industries for which you work, something like a guide or tip sheet that could be helpful to your clients in some way is an idea that comes to mind.

● Offer some extras here and there to show that you think more deeply about your clients' projects than just shooting back a translated text. I don't suggest you work for free, but sometimes it's the small and unexpected things we do that people notice the most.

The more you think about the added value you can provide to your clients, the more you will be able to keep their best interests in mind. Your clients will appreciate you even more than they already do. The possibilities here are endless. If you always try to come from a place of serving your clients, the rest will fall into place. You don't have to be salesperson of the year. You just have to think outside the box.