While reading the November/December 2013 edition of the ITI Bulletin, I was extremely excited when I saw the name of Chris Durban in the body of the advert for the NWTN Boost your Skills Day in Manchester. As a newcomer to the industry, I had avidly read her book The Prosperous Translator.
The workshop was held at the Manchester YHA and the room turned out to be almost too small for the number of translators in attendance.
The day started with Chris Durban’s presentation, which lasted for most of the morning. Chris is very well known for encouraging translators to work with direct clients, and her presentation was prepared in this context.
How to recognise good clients
One useful topic was how we can recognise good clients. We need to look for people who are not only passionate about what they do, but who also have budgets for translation projects. It is pointless to waste precious, unbillable, marketing time with people that do not or will not have “credit approval” for translation. The other interesting aspect was that clients should not be the only ones making a choice; we should also be selective and try to work for clients who share our values and approach. At the end of the day, we are entering into a partnership with them so we should feel that we are a good match. In a nutshell, maximise your chances of doing work you like, with people you enjoy working with and who are more likely to pay you on time.
How to meet and win over new clients
Another helpful topic was how to meet new clients and interact with them. This is covered extensively in Chris Durban’s book but it was very useful to hear real scenarios and be given good icebreakers.
Her approach is as follows. The first step is preparation: really do your homework on the industry you are targeting; then read a daily newspaper like the Financial Time to see who is doing business in your language pairs; if possible, research the internal structure and personnel of targeted clients. The second step is creating the opportunity: find out which events these targeted clients are attending and invest some time and money in going along. The final step is to talk to them. No one likes cold networking but conferences are a great way to meet people because you can always talk about what the speakers discussed. The other useful tip Chris gave was not to fall in a sales pitch immediately but to listen to the potential client, show interest and demonstrate knowledge of the industry, and of this client in particular, with carefully chosen questions and remarks. The bottom line is to get them interested in you and to guide them to the realisation that they need you. Finally, one very good piece of advice is not to outstay your welcome and to know when you need to move to the next person. After all, these events are for networking too.
Chris’ presentation was followed by a short talk by Graham Cross, a translator with at least five source languages, who discussed the pros and cons of acquiring many languages, and his experience of working with agencies. This led to lunch, which was a great opportunity to meet some fellow translators and rebuild our energy levels for the afternoon session.
The three core business skill sets
The big surprise for me was meeting the final speaker, Nick Rosenthal. His enthusiasm and positivity were contagious. He covered the three skillsets that a translator needs: sale skills, management skills and production skills. Even though most translators hate sales, this is a core aspect of the job. I was interested to hear that it took him four years to win over one of his best clients. It shows that patience and perseverance are rewarded. The other key point for me was what to take into account when quoting fees and deciding what is a sufficient profit for a project. It is not only the time spent translating; it is also the time spent making the first contacts, addressing the client’s internal requirements, dealing with various queries and revisions after the translation has been submitted, and then invoicing and maybe chasing payment.
The day ended with a long Q&A session during which the attendees were able to ask the three speakers questions. Topics such as agreeing terms and conditions, offering free trial offers (for which Chris kindly send us a sample after the event) and forms for quoting fees were covered.
Proud to be a translator
One of the key messages from Chris, which was shared by the other speakers, was that translators need to change their attitude and lose their inferiority complex in order to present themselves as the highly skilled professionals they are. We can all agree that these are wise words we should all strive to follow.