When we pursue professions like ours, we know that the most convenient or common path in this type of work is to be a freelancer. You manage your time as you please, decide the location, hours, and projects to work on. However, it's essential to consider that this mode of work requires a lot of effort, especially at the beginning, and primarily, in the task of acquiring clients.
Clients are the foundation of your work. Your earnings, the quantity and flow of work, and the profitability of your profession depend on them. But do you know how to reach out to them? Do you know who to approach or how to do it? In this post, I'll share some ideas that will help you gain more clarity on this matter.
What does 'client' mean, and what types exist in the translation market?
Let's start with the definition. The Real Academia Española defines "cliente" as:
A person who buys in a store, or who regularly uses the services of a professional or company.
The book Breve diccionario etimológico de la lengua española defines "cliente" as:
In relation to someone who practices a profession, a person who uses their services. From the Indo-European root kli-ent, meaning 'one who relies on.
So, in summary, a client is the person who purchases a service and relies on the provider of this service, trusting that the service provider will provide the appropriate solution to their problem. There are even potential clients who may not be aware that they need this support until the need is created for them, something that we can achieve by identifying individuals or companies that could enhance their situation (whether they offer a product, service, or wish to disseminate any type of information) through translation.
There are two broad categories of clients: direct and indirect.
A direct client can be an individual or a company in need of translation services, where the translator works directly with the end client. They have direct communication (whether through phone calls, emails, or meetings) to clarify terminological doubts, style preferences, and other client needs. In this case, the translator receives payment directly for the translation.
In this scenario, there is an intermediary, typically a translation agency, responsible for all contact, negotiation, and communication with the end client. Communication between the translator and the end client is somewhat more complex as it always has to go through the intermediary. Payments are divided into percentages between the intermediary and the translator.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Both types of clients come with their own pros and cons. With direct clients, the advantage lies in better communication, and the translator sets the conditions, terms, and prices, negotiating them directly with the client. The payment goes solely to the translator (unless payment is made for revision services). The downside of this type of client is that if something goes wrong, such as the client refusing to pay for a completed translation, there is no agency to take responsibility and ensure payment. The translator must bear the consequences of trusting the client.
In the case of indirect clients, the advantage, as mentioned earlier, is that there is a backup plan if something goes awry. Professional agencies take on the responsibility. Another advantage is that you don't have to worry about finding clients; they come through agency contacts, which then simply send the work to be done. Additionally, some agencies have professional reviewers who ensure that your translation is in the best possible shape and free of errors. The disadvantages, as already indicated, include a lack of direct communication with the end client, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to clarify doubts with them. Furthermore, due to the confidentiality agreement you must sign, you cannot, under any circumstances, contact an end client to offer your services directly. You must adhere to the agreement. Another drawback is that the total value of the translation work is divided into percentages among the agency, and possibly the reviewer, if they have one, and the translator.
How to Reach Out to Clients and Introduce Yourself:
There are various ways to meet or contact clients, but I'll categorize them into two groups: real-life interactions and online contact (via email).
This type of contact occurs in normal, non-virtual circumstances, usually in academic or work settings, and even informally with friends. Seize the opportunities (if you're in search of clients, of course). Whether it's a friendly gathering, a conference, or a talk on a topic of interest, find out who will be there and who could be a potential valuable contact. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be overly formal, and your reason for approaching someone shouldn't solely be to sell your services. The idea behind building a network is to create strong, human relationships based on trust.
Try to carry your business cards with you so that when the conversation turns to the type of work you do, you can offer your card in case they ever need your services. Take advantage of that moment to explain what you do and how it could be beneficial for them.
The internet provides us with an infinite number of possibilities, and the options are limitless; you can reach far distances, unlike real-life interactions.
A comprehensive yet concise self-introduction should include essential aspects such as your name, the language pair(s) you work with, and your area of expertise. For example: "Hi, I'm Karen, an English-Spanish translator specializing in the fields of video games, subtitling, and literature."
When reaching out through email or potential clients' websites, it's crucial to research and understand the client and their company, if applicable. What do they do? What is their focus? How do they express themselves? Are they friendly and informal, or formal and distant? Utilize all this information to craft your email.
Once again, include essential information. While an email allows more space to develop ideas, keep in mind that the person you're addressing is likely very busy and has little time to read emails. Therefore, the information should be concise and to the point.
A well-crafted introductory email should include:
A personalized greeting, an introduction stating who you are and your language pair, your specialization, and the purpose of the email are crucial components of a good introductory email.
The body should be precise and concise, including additional information about yourself, your experience, the most interesting recent projects you've worked on, the CAT tools you are proficient in, how your services could be beneficial (if not contacting a translation agency), and, if possible, your service rates.
The closing should feature a sentence that prompts the recipient to take action, a call to action. For instance, encouraging them to inform you if they are currently accepting applications, if they need your services; inviting them to check out your website and contact you for any questions, comments, or requests.
Useful tips: leverage formatting to your advantage. Bulleted lists enhance organization, bolding helps highlight important information and quickly identify each main point in the message. Use Gmail's automatic signature feature to add links to your website, ProZ profile, or other professional profiles (LinkedIn, Translators Café, etc.). Pay attention to your spelling and grammar.
Your resume is one of the most crucial items you should have prepared and ready to provide to potential clients. It should be concise and precise, containing the most important information without delving into unnecessary details. The resume should only include information relevant to the position and profession you are interested in promoting, excluding unrelated previous jobs (waiter, salesperson, cashier, etc.).
Information to include:
Native language and language pairs
Contact information (phone, email, Skype)
Professional information and notable experiences (volunteer work)
Social and professional networks (ProZ, LinkedIn, etc.).
It is essential to have your resume in both English and Spanish, considering that future clients will primarily speak English. Of course, aim to have the English version reviewed by a native speaker to ensure the writing is as natural and correct as possible. Save your resume in PDF format to prevent modifications and ensure compatibility with any platform. Also, name the file in a way that facilitates easy identification: KarenPérez_EN_SP.
After initiating contact, be it in person or online, resist the urge to become complacent. Stay engaged, follow up, reach out again after a while to jog their memory about your presence, and share updates on your recent activities—highlighting projects, courses, and more.
Don't hesitate to approach individuals to showcase your services. As long as you uphold professionalism, show respect, articulate your thoughts carefully, and maintain good spelling, there is absolutely nothing to lose. Our profession thrives on self-promotion and networking, which requires time, unwavering consistency, and dedication. Establish a schedule for yourself and start without delay.