4 Great Places For Finding Direct Clients

Earlier this week, I posted an article on creating a well put together marketing campaign, which can be used for finding direct or indirect clients. Some translators prefer to work exclusively with agencies, whilst others enjoy the benefits of working with direct clients. Personally, I’ve found a mixture of both to work best for my purposes, although a higher percentage of my clients are direct.

If you’d like to find more direct clients, here are a few ideas for places you might like to look:

At the Chamber of Commerce

Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start. They should have a database of companies that conduct business in the countries of your source language. Sometimes you might have to pay for access to these lists, but make contact and find out what the costs are. You can then decide whether you’re ready to invest or not.

With a Clearly Defined Online Search

A good idea would be to look for organisations that group together companies with related interests, or who have similar business goals. For example, you could start with bodies which represent import / exporters, and find out who is doing business in your language pair. You could then drill down even further, and look for ‘fruit’ importers, or for ‘textiles’ – whatever you’re interested, or specialised, in. Think out of the box and remember: sometimes the narrower your focus, the wider your net of opportunities.

Right Inside Your Inbox

Google Alerts is another great tool that delivers new leads straight into your inbox. Its tagline is: “Monitor the Web for Interesting New Content” – and if you’re savvy about it, you can use it for your translation business. For example, if you live in the UK and your language pair is English and Spanish, you could set up alerts for “England Spain” or “Spain UK” or even “Latin America UK”. Google then sends links (like an RSS feed) relevant to your terms. You might find out the UK will soon be hosting an international sporting event (it doesn’t need to be high-profile). You could then make contact with the sporting bodies and see if they need any work done (for example, any agreements or sporting codes) Or maybe a foreign construction company is joining forces with a local one . Once again, be creative. If you’d like to translate short stories, find the name of a writer you admire (preferably not too famous yet!), and set up an alert. If you’re into wine, track the upcoming international show. You can always fine-tune your alerts at a later stage, if you find it a bit overwhelming at first.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is probably the brass ring for most freelancers. It’s the most valuable form of marketing, and actually takes the least out of you, in terms of cost and time. Clients will happily recommend freelancers, in any field, who provide an excellent service, and who are willing to give just a little bit extra (without ever needing to sell oneself short). I don’t know about you, but I like being able to pass on a good contact. Same goes for clients.

The other form of ‘word of mouth’ starts with you. Talk about your business to your friends and people you meet. Hammering on about it like a drunk at the party is definitely not recommended, but be enthusiastic about what you do. If you enjoy what you do, this should be easy. It also helps to have a short, but memorable, ‘elevator pitch’ (although the term does make me feel a bit squeamish). When people ask me what I do, I say “I’m a French to English legal translator”. That’s it. Short and to the point, but I’ve made it more specific – not just ‘translator’. Next time they hear about someone doing business with a French company, they might just remember me. It’s happened before.

So these are just some of the ideas for finding direct clients. Where else is a good place? Any ideas? And translators, what’s your preference in terms of direct/indirect work?

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Kick-Start Your Freelancing Career With A Marketing Push

If you’re new to freelancing, one of the easiest ways to get off to a good start is with a direct marketing campaign. And whilst we all shudder when we hear the words ‘direct marketing’, the aim is not to make a nuisance of yourself. In fact, quite the opposite – so there’ll be no aggressive cold calling with breathless scripts. And if there is, you didn’t hear about it here.

A well-researched and cleverly put together campaign can be just what it takes to launch your career. It’s what got my translation business going a few years ago, and this year I’m doing it once again for my freelance (photo)journalism business.

Here are a few ideas to help you pull it off (without your work simply ending up in the trash can):

Research Potential Clients

The first thing you need to do is find potential clients. If you’re a translator, try searching for online lists of agencies you’d like to work for, as well as any direct clients that might need work done in your language pair. Writers can look for publications in their field of interest, whilst designers could look for businesses that need their services. Whatever your field, look up people and companies that might be a good fit.

Write a LOI

Otherwise known as a letter of introduction, this device is vital and is going to make or break your campaign. Think of it as a cover letter, where you introduce yourself and include all your relevant skills, experience and details, as well as why you’re interested in working with them. If you have a personal ‘in’ – for example if you someone recommended you – mention it. Make sure it reads well (no breathless scripts!), and include a link to your website, as well as any relevant work you might have done.

Hit the Sweet Spot

Tailor each and every email to the person you’re writing to. So no “Dear Sir/Madam”. Put in some effort and mention something to show you’ve done your homework (something from their website, for example). Also, including hundreds of CC’s is not going to make you very popular. If you do this, you definitely didn’t target your LOI.  And don’t forget to attach your CV – I’ve found a one-pager works best, especially in the translation industry.

Don’t Spray and Pray

Next, don’t send out your LOI to hordes of potential clients and then hope that something sticks. This is a waste of everyone’s time, especially yours. You really need to target your campaign. Who would you like to do work for? Where are your skills a good match? What are the rates like? There’s no point in landing a client that pays peanuts, so rather look for decent (and professional) companies and clients. Make a list of the companies you researched, and go for those.

Track It

When you’re ready for blast off, remember to keep track of your campaign. Excel is great for this. I use a simple spreadsheet and include any important information as a reminder. For example, the company name, website, email, contact person and any notes, as well as the date I sent the LOI and when I received a response. Sometimes prospects answer that they’re not currently looking for anyone, but would like to keep your details on file. This is a great opportunity to contact them again at a later date, but you’ll only remember if you made a note of it.

In the beginning, you’ll have to send out quite a few. Not tens, more like hundreds. I sent out 200 with my first campaign. At first things might be a bit quiet, but work will soon start trickling in and, before you know it , you’ll have a handful of steady clients. Some might contact you months after you sent your details. This is good news. The trick is to make sure you keep at it. So after your initial push, make sure you have a LOI target every month – about 20 or so. This will help you navigate the feast and famine cycle of freelancing.

Good luck with your campaign. Let me know if you decide to try it – I’d love to hear from you. And for those that are already established freelancers, did I leave anything out? What else has worked for you?


Freelance Translation Starter Kit: A Guide to Setting Up Shop – Part III

In Part I I wrote about the different paths to a career in freelance translation, and Part II covered the essential tools you’ll need for getting started. This final installment will concentrate on making sure that clients can find you – specifically in an online environment. Although written for translators, it also applies to any other freelancing you might be interested in.

Shop Window for Freelancers

The first thing you’ll need is a website – your shop window. Some translators prefer a blog, but personally I’ve found that a separate, free-standing website, with a link to my blog, has been vital; particularly in my field. Many of my clients are corporate, such as mining companies and law firms, and blogs are somewhat more informal, even though many are professional, and have been expertly put together. Some, like WordPress blogs, allow you to set up a landing page, which will function more like a website. Take a look at your competition and decide for yourself, then create something that is uniquely your own and suits your needs.

Should you decide to go ahead and create a website, you can either get a web designer, or build one yourself. If you’d like to go it alone, there are many great online website building tools. Most are free, but you might like to pay for their Pro packages. Some of the platforms are Jimdo, Weebly, Yola and Wix.  I built mine using Weebly (great service and support), although I’ve built other websites using these platforms before. In time I might like to develop my site, and may need to hand it over to a professional designer. In the meantime, being able to change, update and fine-tune (at any time), somehow appeals to my slightly control freak tendencies.

I chose a simple design, with a clean interface, and a few pages that give a brief overview of my business and services. If necessary, a single page stating what you offer and how to contact you is a great start. It’s also a good idea to use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on your website, and make sure you come up in Google searches.  Using Google’s keyword tool is similarly quite useful.

In addition, if you’d like to create a logo, try Inkscape or other alternatives to Illustrator, many of which are free. I don’t have experience with these, but believe that Inkscape is quite good. You could also ask a graphic designer to create it, and then forward it on to you as a jpeg, which you’d be able to use on your site or marketing material.

Your Street Address

Getting your own domain name is relatively inexpensive and definitely recommended. It’s your street address. You’d need to buy the domain name, through GoDaddy for example (Weebly also lets you buy domain names directly). You’d then also need hosting for your site. A local South African company that I can’t recommend highly enough would be Texo. I’ve been with them for a few years and they’re great.

This will also mean that you get a dedicated email address, rather than a free hotmail or gmail account. Whilst these might be handy, I can’t help but think that having a specific address ie. Yourname@yourbusiness.com , is a far better option. For the same reason that you’d do some investigating when you get an email from a potential client using gmail, so would a client want to know that you’re an established business. Investing in this is a great for your business.

Your Blog – The Engine Room

Once your website is set up and functioning as a distinct entity, consider starting a blog. See it as your engine room. It’s great for sending out news about your business and industry, as well as for generating content, which should all tie in with your business and website. This will in time build links between your two platforms, and is a great marketing tool. It’s also a lot of fun, and engaging with virtual colleagues is immensely satisfying.

There are many platforms to choose from. Previously I’ve used both Blogger and WordPress, but have come to rely on WordPress – it’s by far my favourite tool. There are many themes and extra widgets to play around with. It also seems a little less ‘buggy’ than Blogger.

This particular blog is still in its infancy, and I will need to work on having a more coherent feel, and better navigation, between my website and this space, but this will come in time. Figuring out these details is part of working as a freelance translator, and great if you enjoy wearing many hats as an entrepreneur.

Social Media: Engaging with Passersby & Neighbouring Shop Owners

The best part about social media is building a network of people who do or talk about things that interest you. It’s an excellent marketing tool, but mostly it’s also The Great Watercooler. As a freelancer, one can become isolated, and though solitude is a perk, it’s also important to reach out and connect with others. I use Facebook as a personal account, and Twitter for Muse Translation, as well as a separate, more general account. I’ve also recently opened one on LinkedIn, which I’m not enjoying as much as Twitter, but time will tell. You could also look at Pininterest (many are being quite innovative), or Google+ if you prefer. Personally, I would rather chose one or two, and not spread myself too thinly. Social media can become a bit of a time suck if you’re not disciplined about it, and defeats its purpose.

And so we come to the end of this three-part series. There are many other aspects, and I’ll be blogging about these over the course of this month. Hope you’ve been able to pick up some tips for starting your business!