The biggest concern for translators just starting out is finding clients.
I don’t get many questions about how to set up a website, or how to establish an online social media presence.
That’s because these things are easy.
You can pay someone to build you a website if you can’t do it yourself.
Everyone I know has set up a social media account (or 50).
It takes 2 minutes tops (and most of that time is spent trying to think of a clever username that hasn’t been taken already).
But easy things are easy for a reason.
They feel good when you do them, because you trick yourself into thinking that they constitute work, but really, they aren’t.
These things in reality are unimportant for most translators. But most “experts” today will tell you the exact opposite.
And why are they unimportant? Because they don’t bring in money.
And if the activity you’re engaged in does not bring in money, then you’re wasting your time.
Instead, I most often get asked about the best way to find clients.
The problem is that most translators just starting out think that the only way to find clients is by running around posting on Twitter or Facebook.
Not to mention a complete waste of time.
The most important thing to remember when building your client list is to look for them where they are.
Don’t waste your time on doing things that are not helping you get in front of clients.
Let’s take Twitter for example.
You think you’re supposed to post on Twitter 100 times a day to find translation clients?
How many potential clients are hanging out on Twitter actively trying to find a translator?
Sure, you may build up likes and retweets, but who are those coming from?
Most likely other translators.
Not people interested in your business.
So then why are you doing it?
Because when you post on Twitter, you trick yourself into thinking that it’s work, when it really isn’t.
You’re no closer to finding clients than you were before you started posting.
What about Facebook?
Maybe you’re posting status updates or longer article-type posts.
But who are they directed to? And who is reading them?
Not the people you want or need to grow your translation business.
Look at your own life as an example.
When was the last time you went on Facebook to buy a service?
Let’s say you need your pool cleaned or your piano tuned.
Is Facebook the first place you’re going to go to look?
You’re not going to type “piano tuner” into Facebook.
So why would anyone type “Spanish translator?”
So if Facebook and Twitter don’t work, then what does?
Well, for every translator it’s a little different, but the important thing is this:
Get yourself in front of clients where they are looking for a translator.
Most social media networks can be discarded, then.
If you feel like you have to be connected as part of your business, the only site I would recommend at all for translators is LinkedIn.
Employers do look at profiles on the site.
If you have one and it’s got what someone is looking for, it might lead to a job.
If you’re more interested in an in-house translator position than doing it freelance, then you should definitely be on LinkedIn.
But if you want to stick with being a freelancer, it’s not necessary.
It could help, but it’s not going to give you a stable-full of clients.
Where else do clients find translators?
One the Internet.
Can you be found on the Internet?
Do you have a website advertising yourself as a freelance translator?
If not, how do you expect anyone to find you?
If you don’t have a website, you’re nobody.
Two of my longest-standing clients found me through my website.
If you don’t have one yet, now’s the time to start.
I run a bunch of websites, and the hosting provider I use for nearly every one of them is Bluehost.
They make it easy to set up your site, run it, update it, and get traffic to it.
I highly recommend them.
If you don’t have a website, sign up at Bluehost to get started.
A website is good but it’s still passive.
With a website, you’re still waiting to be found.
One way to actually get in front of clients is to apply at translation agencies.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
“Translation agencies are the devil!”
“Translation agencies like to rip off translators!”
“Translation agencies are the scum of the whole earth!”
That’s the kind of stuff you’ll read if you waste your time in translation forums.
Here’s the truth.
Some agencies are terrible.
But most are trying to make money, just like you are.
And getting in with one or a few can really jumpstart your freelance translation business.
You will have to apply to a lot of them.
Don’t let that discourage you.
Take a Saturday and commit to sending out 50 applications to translation agencies.
Do that every Saturday for six months.
You’ll have sent out 1,200 requests to translation agencies in that time.
They won’t know about you otherwise.
The other way to get in front of potential clients is to market to players in your area of specialization.
Are you a real-estate translator?
Have you contacted any real-estate agents in your city to offer your services?
How will they know about you if they don’t know about you?
The first thing to do is figure out your areas of expertise.
Then figure out which clients need your expertise to put their materials in another language.
Then you need to contact those people.
Call them on the phone.
Set up an appointment to meet with them in their office.
Email them (if there’s no other way).
But get in front of them.
And tell them what problem of theirs you can solve.
If they see they have a problem, and you’re the solution, you’ve just found yourself a client.
But you have to be actively engaged.
Don’t expect people to come to you.
You have to take the initiative.
You have to get out of your comfort zone.
You have to market yourself.
If not, you won’t be a translator for very long.
Until next time.