My free trial offer experiment

exposure + free sample + good letter + phone call = new client ?

In November 2009, I went to my first Société française des traducteurs seminar: Réussir son implantation et se constituer une clientèle.

The afternoon session covered how to get work. Chris Durban, author of The Prosperous Translator, talked about reaching out to direct clients.

How do you get a good direct client? Chris suggested offering a short free sample to show carefully selected prospects what you’re made of.

Take a few paragraphs of poorly translated text, fix it up, send it off by snail mail, and include a short and powerful letter in the client’s native language. Or take some copy which has not yet been translated and provide the client with your target-language version.

I gave it a shot and got some good (but not excellent) results. I rewrote a few paragraphs of one company’s homepage; they later asked me to do two translations for them. Another client had a bilingual website on which a few articles were missing in English. I translated something hot off the press, free of charge, and this led to a good-sized order.

Other prospects did not even acknowledge my work. Some thanked me, but said they could not afford translation services.

Almost a year later, I’d like to try this free trial offer experiment again. This time, in a more focused and strategic manner.

This is how I am going about it.

1. Get out of the house and shake some hands.

Last month, I went to E-Commerce Paris 2010 to see what French-speaking Internet workers were up to. I introduced myself to a number of exhibitors, but did not make a lasting impression on anyone.

I did fill my bag up with brochures, business cards, pens (yes!) and booklets. And a very heavy exhibition directory. Two sections in the directory merit further study: Experts 2.0 and Agences Contenu.

2. Choose my prospects wisely.

I’m going through the websites of a few Paris-based companies. Tweeters are being followed. LinkedIn profiles are being been clicked on. Blogs are getting bookmarked.

3. Don’t be a stranger.

My chances of scoring some work will be greater if my potential clients somehow hear of me before getting my sample. Perhaps from Twitter or LinkedIn groups.

Hmmm… should I get a Facebook account for business use and starting showing up on their pages? I’d probably learn a lot, find out when they hold events, and could contribute to the discussions.

4. Translate.

Choose three or four paragraphs to be beautifully translated. Make every word count.

5. Write a really good letter.

Make it concise and pleasant. Be helpful. Ask for an appointment. Let the person know I plan to call. Have a francophone check the letter over.

That one envelope should have three papers inside: short cover letter, French text and English translation. This client-friendly pitch will let him instantly compare the two versions.

6. Follow-up by phone (yikes!).

The hard part! I don’t write or speak beautiful French. But staying in touch is essential and I’m going to force myself to pick up the phone. The client might not be interested at this time, but may need a translation in the future. A pleasant phone call can leave a good impression.

I’ll let you in two months how things worked out. Has anyone else ever offered a free sample translation?


5 responses to “My free trial offer experiment

  1. Hello Catherine,

    Thanks for this great tip! IMO you’re quite lucky because you can contact your prospects in person. As a translator who can’t do this often, I usually network “out” on LinkedIn by joining discussions in groups that are within my specializations and talking with their members personally. Slow but effective and connections are increasing.

    Enjoy translating and winning clients :)

  2. I recently tried this (and have tried it in the past as well) and it did not work. I was researching a translation for a client of mine, and I came across a press release for an industry alliance their company helped found. The English translation was pitiful…so bad, in fact, that I could not resist redoing it. I wrote to c-levels at both companies (I did not write to the third company’s press contact…a PR firm…not the decision maker!). I included a good cover letter, the original, and the re-translation. Because the contacts are c-levels, very tough to get through on the phone to follow up. I sent a PDF by email and plan to follow up, resending by snail mail. Overall the time investment is huge (about three hours to redo the work, research the contacts, and follow up). That’s a lot for ONE non-qualified lead. I know that Chris Durban believes in this method and recommends it during her training (and I have no doubt it works for her), but for most translators, this is not an efficient use of “selling” time. I would much rather do what you describe above — get out of the house, follow up and keep in touch online — and turn new contacts into qualified leads. Then, at least any time you may spend later “selling” (or doing samples, or whatever) is much much less likely to be wasted, because you have qualified the lead.

  3. Hi Sara,
    This is a painful but good lesson. We really have to know when to leave a prospect.
    Thanks for your advice and have a good day.

    • @Cynthia, it’s a great idea to join discussions on LinkedIn to share your knowledge, get your name out there, and hopefully connect with other translators and potential clients. In the future, I’d like to explore how translators can use LinkedIn so keep me posted!

      @Sara, yes, the time investment is huge. I’m spending lots of time on steps 1, 2 and 3—the PRE-translation stages!

  4. Pingback: Figuring out Facebook | Catherine Translates

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