English-German Translations, UK

Marketing translation services

Most language translators know very little about marketing translation services. Therefore they tend to concentrate their marketing efforts on finding agencies to work for. They scour the internet for “translation jobs”, “career opportunities”, “translators’ vacancies” and the like and hope for the best.

Then they fire off lots of emails. Often these are sent off without properly researching the companies receiving these emails. Iolante knows of freelance translators who regularly receive job applications from fellow translators. It is relatively rare that an individual translator has enough work to pass on to fellow translators. Concentrate on translation companies, not individual translators.

Marketing translation skills by printed media

In the pre-internet days, the first port of call for marketing translation services would be to get listed in the telephone directory, Yellow Pages (yell) or Thomson Local, or any number of smaller local business guides. Advertising like that is a) expensive and b) only reaches a very restricted number of potential clients, c) has the disadvantage of being out of date quickly. You move house, immediately clients can’t find you anymore unless you pay exorbitant telephone fees to have your line transferred to the new address.

If you live in a conurbation AND you are not planning to move house in a hurry, yes, it may be useful for you.

Online marketing tools

There are numerous internet marketing tools out there.

  • Join large translators’ websites. Downside: lots of competition and fierce downward pressure on prices.
  • Get included in any number of online directories. Make sure they are translation relevant and/or can be found by a vast number of people.
  • Start your own website. Having started a few myself, I can tell you one thing: an individual website is not a quick fix. It takes a lot of time, money and expertise before websites bring in clients!
  • Become a member of a franchise.

If you move house a lot or live in the country, with few local customers requiring translation services, you stand much more chance to be found by getting listed on the Internet than being listed in the local telephone directory.

Sending application to translation agencies

When starting their business, translators tend to send a lot of applications to any agency they can find.

The problem is that a lot of translators harvest addresses off the Internet without checking them. They then send off dozens, hundreds or thousands of “cooperation offers” without ever having read a single word written on the relevant website. So they know nothing of the company they are writing to. This means that the mail the translation company receives is very obviously aimed at anyone in the industry. The reader will notice at first glance that this person has taken no time whatsoever to find out anything about the company they are writing to.

So what sort of reply does the translator get? None, as a rule.

The very few agencies that may take an application like this seriously, will most likely be those at the lower end of the market.

A reputable agency seeking to employ translators will bin such a sloppy application. They will think: if this translator doesn’t pay attention to detail when sending out applications for work, how thorough are they likely to be in their work habits?

What can translators looking for work do to increase their success rate in general?

There are various ways to increase the success rate of applications of translators looking for work. First of all, translators should do some research and look at translation companies’ websites to find out what sort of company they are. They should also try to get a feeling of how big they are, what they specialise in, which language pairs they offer/seek, whether they are actively recruiting etc.

What specifically can translators do to increase their success rate?

  • Translators must make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes in the application. Even if the language they are applying in is not the language they translate into or out of, it needs to be perfect. It is advisable to find a fellow translator who’ll proofread the application.
  • Emails shouldn’t start with “Hi”, but with “Dear…” If possible, research a contact name. Most recipients will delete emails to “The purchasing manager” immediately.
  • To whet the reader’s appetite translators should provide essential details as succinctly as possible: language pairs, qualifications, professional membership, experience, subjects of specialisation, country of residence etc. Translators should only send a full CV only if the agency asks for it.
  • It makes little sense to send CVs to fellow freelance translators. These CVs will end up in the bin, unread. Translators who want to set up a network of colleagues, should find suitable colleagues and give them a ring. Have a chat. Send them work they can’t do themselves. That is the best way to set up a profitable partnership.
  • Most agencies have online application forms and will only respond to applicants who use them.
  • Telling people that you strive for perfection, never miss a deadline, adore your work, provide a 24/7 service etc. is often counterproductive. Good service and professional skills go without saying; unrealistic bragging makes the reader doubt a translator’s professionalism.
  • Freelance translators must write to hundreds of agencies to get on the books of a few. But they should consider that sending out the same mail to everyone is spamming. Spamming is illegal at worst, annoying at best. Individualising mails, therefore, keeps translators looking for work on the straight and narrow.

And yes. Translators looking for work sending off applications for freelance work that they have researched thoroughly takes more time. But it will also result in better quality replies and an increased amount of positive feedback from agencies. Even if they don’t have work for you now, they may keep your name on file for later use.

Networking

Another quite effective tool for marketing translation services is networking. Yes, I did say in the first paragraph that fellow translators may not have work for you. Yet again, some of them do have more work than they can cope with at times. So it can be a useful marketing tool to make yourself and your skills known to other translators. However, don’t just send them a one-fits-all mail. That won’t impress them much. Spend time looking at their website and show in your mail that you know what they do (or don’t do). You may be able to complement their services with your own unique niche.

You can also get known in the industry by actively participating in translators’ forums. The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), for example, encourages networking and joining groups. The Chartered Institute of Linguists encourages networking between their members in their three divisions and overseas societies.

Providing answers to other people’s questions, showing that you are knowledgeable and always including your contact details, language pairs and specialisations in the footer of the mail, may well land you a few jobs in the long-term. It will also get your name out there. So, making yourself known amongst colleagues may well be a helpful tool in marketing your services as an independent language translator.

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