No pain, no gain

This year, Judy Jenner from Twin Translations presented her popular “No pain, no gain” workshop organised by the NWTN at the Manchester Conference Centre. This workshop is a must for any translator wishing to work with direct clients. I had read about last year’s event in Sarah Pybus’ very detailed article published in the November-December 2013 issue of the ITI Bulletin and I was determined not to miss this opportunity.

In this article, I will focus on the main areas of the talk that I found particularly helpful if you wish to work with direct clients.

  1. Do not expect immediate results

Acquiring direct clients and keeping them is a long-term investment, not an overnight success. It requires patience, perseverance and the ability to “kiss some frogs” on the way.  Sometimes, the first piece of work will only materialise months after the first contact. What is important is to keep yourself on people’s minds (sending Christmas cards for example) so that they think of you when their translation need does arise. Even then, your marketing efforts may only lead to one piece of work. Judy estimated that 75% of their clients were repeat customers and 25% were one-off clients.

  1. Develop your skills

Acquiring direct clients requires specific skills. The good news is that any translator can develop these. Judy helpfully provided a list of these skills, such as (i) having a good memory (if you don’t, make sure you write down what you have learned about a client); (ii) knowing your limits and being honest about what you can and cannot do (you may need to refer the client to some qualified colleagues); (iii) being diplomatic and flexible (never make the client feel stupid and do not criticize the source text, however poor; merely point out possible improvements); (iv) being a confident public speaker (now that is one skill most of us have given up on. But it can be learned. The only way is to practise and learn from your mistakes or successes. Judy suggested doing a toastmaster course to that end); (v) being able to offer solutions to a client’s problem.

  1. Give clients a marketing brochure, not a CV

You are pitching for work, not applying for a job. A marketing brochure should be short (one page) and outline the services you offer, the reasons why the client needs you and information about yourself. Judy recommended adding a professional picture and preparing various samples based on the type of clients targeted and the specialisation offered. You can have the brochure printed out so you can hand it out at events but Judy suggested it was better to leave a business card and ask the potential client if you can send more information by email. You can then follow up with a pdf brochure.

  1. No cold emails

Do you like receiving unsolicited emails? The likelihood is that these go straight to your recycling bin. So do not contact potential clients this way. Instead, use what Judy calls the “Latin America strategy”: research the person you would like to be introduced to, check any common contacts (LinkedIn offers various degrees of connections) and get introduced. If you do not have any remote connection, do not contact this client.

  1. Pricing tactics for first-time clients

Be careful about offering a discount to first-time clients on the basis of a promise that a lot more work will follow. The future work rarely materialises. Instead propose a discount for future transactions if they become a repeat customer. However, if it is important for your client to show their boss that they negotiated the price, you may want to offer a very small discount as a gesture, but ideally not more than 3%. A suggestion from the audience was to present any first-job discount as a welcome gift to avoid setting the client’s price expectations at a low level for future jobs. Of course, you should always send your first quote with your terms and conditions as a pdf file and not start working before the client has countersigned it.

  1. Use the right strategy for the right market

When doing a pitch, you need to adapt your strategy to the market you are trying to reach. For global clients, you need to build your presence online, use search engine optimization for your website or perhaps write a blog. For local clients, learn how your local industry works and always carry business cards, even at baby showers. As for tradeshows, we had a great performance from Judy and Dagmar about the wrong approach (approaching the stand without warning, not listening to the representative and even interrupting them, only talking about your company) and the right approach (arranging a brief meeting at a convenient time for them through a contact, bringing fruits or refreshments, being personal and listening to them).

Click here to download a pdf of the article as published in the ITI Bulletin.

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