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25 Marketing Tips for Freelance Translators


 freelance translator

Language translators must consistently churn out quality translations, but equally important to their success is how well they market themselves and connect with others in the field. Below you’ll find 25 simple steps you can take to successfully (and tastefully) promote your translation business. These tips have been adapted from M. Eta Trabing’s 2006 article, Running Your Translating/Interpreting Business From Home.

  • Print business cards and make sure that they are both unique and consistently branded. In other words, your business card design should align with branding you use on your website and blog 

  • Write an error-free curriculum vitae. Translators need a resume for translators; you really shouldn’t use the same CV you used to get hired at all of your other jobs. If you are looking for a step-by-step guide to putting together a translation CV, Corinne McKay’s book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator can walk you through the entire process. Here’s a little secret though: Almost as helpful, not to mention entirely free, is Translators Café: Here you browse hundreds of resumes posted by active freelance translators. See how an experienced translator has done it first and model yours after the pros

  • Don’t wait for opportunities—create your own! Start by making cold calls to companies in your specialty

  • Don’t believe the hype: “Networking” is not a dirty word

  • When you meet good prospects, don’t sit on them. Make calls and write follow-up emails

  • Send thank you cards to clients at the end of the year

  • Ask others (anyone!) to refer you and refer others!

  • Help other translators. They will help you back

  • Ask busy translators if you can subcontract for them, but never “steal” their clients

  • When you are not translating, tweak your marketing strategy. This means, revisiting your CV, writing blog posts, reaching out to potential clients and connecting with other translators

  • Send out reminders about your services to clients you haven’t heard from in a while

  • Invest in dictionaries for particular services. They will pay for themselves in the long run

  • Never oversell your services—especially if you are not qualified for a specific kind of service

  • Prepare your rates and terms of payment. Rates can vary for different types of clients (agencies, direct clients, pro bono). Occasionally, you can barter your services

  • Realize that you are not limited by geographic boundaries. Thanks to the Internet, clients are everywhere

  • Be available in your clients’ time zones

  • Deliver strong, consistent work every single time, regardless of what you are getting paid and how you feel about the client

  • Never stop learning. Never stop honing your skills

  • Research the area you live in for prospective clients

  • Check the Blue Pages of the telephone book (listing all the government, federal, state, county, and city agencies) for potential sources for jobs

  • Read foreign newspapers online, watch foreign films, listen to foreign music, and keep up with business information and terminology

  • Let everyone know when you move or change email addresses or telephone numbers
  • Be available upon short notice, but never take on a job if you have concerns about deadlines

  • Offer alternate solutions that will save clients money

  • Keep track of your clients’ accomplishments and congratulate them when necessary

Download our exclusive guide: Translation and the Empathetic Imagination


I love the idea of sending thank you cards. That came up recently in a discussion with some colleagues about freelance marketing in general, and it's nice to see the recommendation. It's such an under-used tactic, it's an overall nice thing to do, and it really does help you stand out.  
On the other side, I've also hired freelance translators for a few projects over the years. And in each case I found them via social media (usually Twitter). The first time I made a comment in passing that I needed to have something translated, and the woman I hired got the job because she saw a need, she reached out via the social network, and she wasn't afraid to pitch me. If it was an unsolicited pitch I might not have responded as well because I'm sensitive to those (pitched all the time by other business owners). But when you see a need and you genuinely try to help, sometimes that's all it takes to land the gig. After that if I needed a translator for something she couldn't handle I would simply put out a call via my social networks and I've always found great freelancers that way.  
If you want to find clients that way, subscribe to searches (such as using TweetDeck to subscribe to hashtag feeds from Twitter). Then you'll never miss a prospect you can help.
Posted @ Monday, June 30, 2014 9:28 AM by Jennifer Mattern
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