Tag Archives: direct clients

Freelance translators: Should you blog?

This is the 20th post on my 10-month-old blog of my 19-month-old translation business in my 38th year of Life on Earth.

If I can start a blog and keep it up, you can too.

Launch your own blog if this means you!

  • You will write posts regularly.
  • You write fairly well and—more importantly—you want to get better.
  • You believe blogs are useful.
  • You want to build your web presence.

No, do not blog if you fit this description:

  • You cannot commit to posting on a regular basis.
  • You think blogs are pointless.
  • You market your services in a non-blogging manner. (Or you’re so busy with well-paid work that you don’t need to market yourself at all.)

Setting up a blog is the easy part. The care and feeding is hard.

What are the benefits of blogging?

Fabio Said on Fidus Interpres sees blogs as a business asset:

Blogging makes people aware of your work as a translator and brings new prospects, blogging makes people aware of the translating profession, blogging generates additional income…

I agree.

How has Catherine Translates paid off for me?

  • Clients see my blog and feel assured that I’m a serious professional.
  • Colleagues read my blog and refer clients or subcontract work to me.
  • I’m more articulate. I write with more confidence.
  • More people visit my website.

Now you may be wondering…

Should you write short and snappy posts?

Many readers like to see concise 300-word posts once or twice a week. I do too.

Or should you write long posts and publish less frequently?

I personally vote for in-depth articles.

In my experience, comprehensive posts are shared more easily by readers via social media. For example,

These posts were promoted by other people. Not by me. That’s the beauty of social media.

You can of course vary your types of blog posts. You can mix up long copy, short copy, podcasts, how-tos, interviews and so forth. For some inspiration, see these two blogrolls: the ATA Blog Trekker and ProZ translation blogs.

Read these resources for beginner bloggers

If you’re almost convinced you should start blogging, read Sarah Dillon’s 21 tips for timid bloggers. Then consult Riccardo Schiaffino’s Blogging 101 lesson and get your blog off the ground.

You’re not quite ready to start your own blog?

If you’ve got something to say but don’t want to do your own thing, feel free to submit a guest post to Catherine Translates.

I’d appreciate your contribution. See guidelines on my Guests Posts page if you’re interested.

Are you convinced of the merits of blogging? If you already have a blog, what’s in it for you? Leave your URLs in the comments.

(If you liked this post, leave a comment and share it on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Thanks!)


Freelancers: 4 tips to tweet your way to new translation clients

I had heard of freelancers landing jobs through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter… but wasn’t sure of how much was made up and mythical.

No more suspension of disbelief because it actually happened to @TranslateTrad.

Backtrack to Tuttle Paris

I met with the Tuttle Paris group in November. Lilian Mahoukou rounded us up to talk about social media and branding. My interest was promptly piqued since I’d like to translate (and sometimes transcreate) not only websites, but Facebook pages, LinkedIn company profiles,  slideshares (my dream), blog posts, and why not, Twitter tweets.

I’d also like to get my own name out there using social media.

Our discussion, as interesting as it was, did not directly lead me to my client. Maxime Souillat, another attendee, is responsible. Also known as @beaucouplus on Twitter.

One of Maxime’s Twitter contacts later tweeted a request for a French to English USA translator. (OK, I’m Canadian, but I did grow up 45 minutes from Buffalo.)

Maxime suggested @TranslateTrad. Then came a direct message on Twitter. Then e-mail. Then phone call. Then quote. Then in-person meeting. Then translation. I lucked out because his website material was right up my alley.

My advice for finding clients on Twitter

If you’d like to get new clients using Twitter, I recommend four things:

1. Tweet about translation.

Anyone who is thinking of hiring you will skim down your last twenty tweets. So tweet something useful. When I first made contact with my client, I looked at my recent tweets and felt reassured. My tweets were mostly about web writing, translation and marketing. I did not tweet about my guinea pig.

2. Follow people who work in your industry to see what they’re tweeting about.

If you specialize in chocolate, follow the chocolatiers. If you specialize in wind energy, follow the wind experts. Keep an eye on recent developments and possibly “join the conversation” using Twitter’s reply feature.

3. Tweet out your home-made translation-related blog entries, newsletters, glossaries, and punctuation guides.

Give. And don’t be shy about that the fact that you eat, sleep, breathe and tweet translation.

4. Meet your tweeps.

Whether we’re talking about a twitter referral or any other kind of word-of-mouth recommendation, people are more likely to pass on your name if they’ve met you in real life. A handshake is worth a thousand retweets.

Good luck!

If you like this Twitter-related post, read my old post about using Twitter as a well-staffed learning resource centre.

Do you think that translators can use Twitter to get new clients? Have you ever landed work by tweeting?

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?

Me, my blogging goals, and a review of The Entrepreneurial Linguist

Hi! This is the introductory post to Catherine Translates.

Via this blog, I’d like to share what I know—and what I’m questioning—about the translation business. I started freelancing just under a year ago and am constantly revising how I want to shape my career.

Why not brainstorm with other translators and get more writing practice at the same time? I’ll be blogging on the 1st and 15th of every month.

Today’s topic:

  • The Entrepreneurial Linguist by Judy and Dagmar Jenner

Topics I’ll be covering:

  • Social Networking – my views on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Viadéo
  • 30 Days to Better Business Writing by Matthew Stibbe
  • Transcreation: How far can we deviate?
  • Strange entries in The Economist Style Guide

Topics rolling around in my head:

  • Your CV: Post it online or not?
  • Common French to English translation challenges and errors
  • Working from home and staying organized, productive and sane
  • Sound body, sound mind – sleep, exercise, sunlight and fresh air
  • Books that have influenced how I run my business

I hope to see you back!

Now for my review:

7 Questions to Myself about The Entrepreneurial Linguist

For smart business advice and a healthy dose of can-do enthusiasm, pick up The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation by Judy and Dagmar Jenner.

The makers of Translation Times focus on how translators can approach, land and keep direct clients. They dig deep into marketing strategies that every freelancer should be aware of.

This newly-released guide sets the tone for how I’d like my own career to evolve.

Why did I buy this particular book amidst so many other translation books?

The title. I need to be more entrepreneurial to properly get my translation skills out there. I wanted clear no-nonsense advice about running a business.

What sections were the most useful to my own translation business?

Pages 104 to 105. How to spend $100. Unsurprisingly, having a proper website is top priority. The Jenners give practical advice about investing what’s left.

Pages 108 to 112. Direct-customer acquisition strategies. Their input is precious! They talk about researching potential clients, going to industry-specific events, and making yourself known as someone who provides solutions.

What advice would I add when pitching to potential clients?

The Jenners did not talk about offering a short translation sample for free. As for myself, I’ve tried this before and found reasonable success. I experimented with free samples after hearing about it at an SFT seminar in Paris.

I chose about a dozen potential clients and proceeded to either translate or correct three or four paragraphs from their websites. I sent them off by snail mail. A couple of them contacted me right away for work. A few clients have even emailed me months after they received my sample.

Major drawback: It’s time-consuming. You must realistically believe it will trigger off a profitable long-term relationship.

Corinne McKay’s blog entry called ‘Using a sample translation as a sales pitch’ from Thoughts on Translation delves deeper into this technique.

What do the Jenners pay too much attention to?

SEO. There are so many translation websites out there that search engine optimization means nothing to me. If someone does a search for “French English translations” I’ll be on the hundredth page. No one will find me unless they know my name (and how to spell it!) or my exact URL address.

I need to take my clients by the hand to my website and not waste time on SEO.

What will I do now?

Find out more about Gravatars and Dragon Naturally Speaking. Reread pages 108 to 112. Figure out my competitive advantage. Redo my business cards. Fix my website. Get ready for an upcoming trade fair. Reread pages 108 to 112.

What were my favourite lines from The Entrepreneurial Linguist?

“Trust us: your potential customers do not want to see your résumé [on your website].”

“You will have to be an entrepreneur first and a linguist second. Find the business, and then put your top-notch language skills to work.”

What could experienced translators get out of this book?

Tips on speaking at conferences, volunteering for translator associations, and creating regional associations.

If you’ve been translating for agencies for twenty years and would like your own clients, or if you want more marketing and Web 2.0 knowledge, The Entrepreneurial Linguist should be on your bedside table. I downloaded it for 17 USD from Lulu.com.