Finding translation clients is hard.

You can’t deny it. As a translator, you know what the feast and famine cycle is all about. So, when you (finally) get some good clients, you don’t want them to go away, do you?

The problem is, you are not the only translator out there providing services in your language pair. There are many others offering technical, medical or business translation expertise. Sadly, your colleagues are also your competitors.

Have you ever Googled for translators offering similar services in your city/country? If not try with this operator: [language pair] translators in [city/country]. Remember to remove square brackets and use actual text values (e.g. turkish-french translators in cameroon).

finding-translation-competitors_cdlancer

Your search will return a list of directories, corporate websites, translator associations, social media groups or online platforms – including the well-known Proz and Translators Café.

From the client’s point of view, there are too many choices.

This makes them wonder whom to trust. They may want to try their luck with any translator and would expect them to prove they’re worthy. If you are the lucky one, you must be the best translator they have ever worked with, so they can keep providing you with projects.

Below are 7 shortcuts to making your translation clients love you.

1. Be a Professional

With a projected annual growth rate of 6.5-7.5% through 2018, the translation business should be worth $45 billion by 2020. If you don’t take yourself seriously, maybe you should quit translating. Be the professional you are expected to be and play by the game rules.

From the onset of any potential collaboration, show your expertise. Be responsive, trustworthy and knowledgeable about your profession. Be well informed about:

  • industry standards and best practices (contract, rates, invoicing, LQA, etc.)
  • the most common professional tools and resources
  • new trends and the contribution of global stakeholders
  • key facts and industry developments (PEMT, machine learning, cloud-based TM, etc).

A good command of such aspects helps you build trust in your potential clients. They should feel you are the professional they have been looking for. And they will (eventually) fall in love with you.

2. Be Bold

Working with clients has a lot to do with psychology.

This is not a master-slave relationship (unless you want it to be), but a win-win collaboration between two parties having both rights and duties. You bring in your language expertise to solve their translation, editing/proofreading or interpreting problems; they offer you a compensation in return.

They can always look for another linguist, and there will be other clients in need of your solutions.

Make sure you say what you mean and mean what you say. Remember that knowing your value and being bold prevent you from being abused.

This applies to the following:

Translation Rates

If you work with direct clients, feel free to suggest what you usually charge as standard rates. This is to make them understand you are not working for peanuts. One of the best ways is to let them consider the time spent and efforts invested producing the document, website content or app help file they want translated. Focus on the value of the translatables and highlight the importance of the translation phase – regarded not as an isolated solution, but as part of a broader communication campaign.

With translation companies, you are more likely to face resistance if you charge particularly high rates. Because they need to keep a percentage from what they charge to end clients. But, your experience, specialisations and software literacy may help you secure a good rate.

Be prepared to be flexible, but draw beforehand a threshold under which no collaboration is possible. As Corinne McKay puts it, don’t market to direct clients in the same way you market to agencies.

translation-ratemeter_cdlancer
Carlos Djomo. No unauthorized reproduction allowed

Working hours/days

Some translation clients – mostly translation companies – do not respect the translator’s work/life balance and expect them to be operating 24/7. Remember you can always let them know when you are available and when you’re not.

Avoid being the guy who always says “YES”. Don’t be afraid to turn down some projects or ask for a deadline extension, but you’d better use good arguments (unforeseen circumstances, poorly written source contents, format-related issues, or whatever fits your particular context).

Conflict Resolution

When two humans start any relationship, they are bound to face conflicts. Translation is no exception. Conflict resolution implies that both parties make concessions. If you feel all is on you, consider looking elsewhere, because you may not be as valuable to your client as you think.

3. Be Unique

Invest in your Personal Brand.

It is the best way to stand out in the ocean of freelance translators. Get yourself a corporate identity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-person business owner. Indeed, a study by IbisWorld shows that about 95.1% of the language industry operators in the USA are sole proprietors.

List key values that (will) drive your business, set up a website and design other online/offline marketing materials.

Besides, make sure your branding efforts are consistent across all platforms by:

  • Use the same colour scheme all over your documentation.
  • Feature your logo or corporate symbols on your print and electronic assets.
  • Use custom social media covers to advertise your business.
  • Contribute to business groups (focus on helping others, instead of over-promoting your business).

As you must know, you never have a second chance to make a first impression.

Think about it, please.

All in all, a translator with a brand looks more professional than one without.

cdlancer-brand-allin1

4. Go the Extra Mile

Clients will love you if you are more than a translator.

Humans always demand more; being able to meet such expectations set some people apart. Don’t just trade your time or knowledge for money. Instead, endeavour to be a key professional or – better still – a partner clients can rely on.

Instead of providing services, help clients find solutions and they will love you for that:

  • advise them on how to improve their processes or your collaboration (what file format is more manageable, how to keep their documentation consistent with their whole corporate vision, etc.)
  • Show them you care about their business (for instance, highlight unclear source contents found, discuss potential solutions and how it would impact the translation, provide some target country facts they could leverage, etc.).
  • Promise less and do more (deliver before the set deadline, provide a PDF version of the target file for quick viewing, share QA insights/reports about the project).

Behaving as such makes you different and more likeable loveable.

online-search-book_cdlancer

5. Be friendly

Translation is a serious business, but this is no reason to behave like a (ro)bot. Nowadays, people are more and more distinguishing between “human translators” and automated ones.

So, let your “humanity” appear in the way you interact with your clients.

  • For instance, send them electronic greeting cards on special events (Christmas Day, Easter period, Ramadan Day, etc.).
  • Remember to thank them for “doing business with you” as often as possible. For instance, do it whenever you complete a project and at the end of each year. Bonus tip: include a “Thank you for doing business with us” line at the bottom of your invoices.

The point is making your clients know there is a real person on the other side. A person who cares and cherish the professional relationship. Try this and you’ll rank up on the “client lovability index”.

6. Be Humble

No human is perfect.

Always be prompt to acknowledge when you are faulty and take the blame on you. You cannot be a good translator/editor/proofreader all the time. One day or another, you’ll perform poorly.

When clients point it out, refrain from shouting at them or throwing your qualifications at their face. Instead:

  • Keep calm (or try your best to) and listen to what makes them angry with you.
  • Promise to look further into the issue(s).
  • Objectively reassess your performance. Feel free to ask for a second opinion from a colleague.
  • Get back to your client and react accordingly: if they were right, apologise and take corrective measures. If they were wrong, be a diplomat. Use reference sources to back your points and show the way forward. Your goal should be to keep your collaboration.

Below is a real-life example where I had to apologise for not being up to the task. Luckily, things went well and I’m still working with that client. 🙂

humble-translator-if-faulty_cdlancer

7. Be Yourself

You will never be someone else, so there is no need to try.

Be yourself and let people like you for the best you have to offer. It is better to be hated for whom you are than be loved for who you’re not.

How does this relate to the relationship with your translation clients?

Hold on a minute, you’ll understand.

On a piece of paper, draw up a two-column table.

List your (personal and professional) qualities in the first column, then your faults in the second. Take enough time and be serious throughout this exercise.

Request some help from your friends, relatives and colleagues. You may use a simple script like this:

asking-for-review_cdlancer

After receiving feedback from your colleagues or relatives, complete the table and analyse result patterns. Build on your qualities to improve your relationship with translation clients. Remember, improvement is a journey, not a destination.

From time to time:

  • ask if there is anything you can do to make the collaboration smoother
  • request your clients to point out what they like/dislike about you assess
  • how better you are now from who you were 5/10 years ago.

For a few minutes now, we have been reviewing some ways to make your clients love you.

There must be other ways to please your translation clients that I don’t know. I would be grateful if you shared your thoughts. After all, translators edify one another, don’t they?

As from early December every year, there seems to be something unique in the air as we slowly – but steadily – get closer and closer to Christmas Day. Sure, it is a magical season, full of excitement and stories about Santa Claus, elves, carols, etc.

But translators are said to be from a different planet. At times, all of this Xmas buzz is part of some faraway, external universe we seem to be disconnected from (unless you have kids to entertain).

Some of us keep themselves busy ahead of the D-Day (or X day), with eyes glued on computer screens until January 3. Neighbours singing carols and fireworks bursting outside can’t disturb them. They consider Christmas a dream period. Not because of the enchantment, but just as it brings in a flow of high-paying, urgent or turned down projects. They make big money and like it. Sorry, Father Christmas, we’re grownups here.

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Another group consider the year-end period as time for anything but work. It’s holiday, after all, and checking emails is a crime. They set up autoresponder, fly away to some white-sand beach and enjoy life like crazy. They are often referred to by colleagues as the “lucky ones”, who can “afford to go on holiday”. Maybe because they don’t know what feast and famine means. Or maybe they cherish work/life balance and care enough to live a healthy life.

Other linguists feel so lonely they seek company at all costs. Any gathering is just perfect: bars, churches, concert halls, malls, stadiums, etc. They usually realise they have been locked down all year long and think this is an opportunity to meet people – but not for (business) networking purposes. They just want to relax. To feel the “real” world.

A fourth group is a blend of previous categories. If there is work to do, they do it. If there isn’t, they enjoy some good time with friends and family members.

I’m curious to know about you. Before you set your new year’s goals, tell me how you celebrate end-of-year periods. Whom do you celebrate with? At home or abroad? In your home-based office?

I’m interested and am sure other linguists will also be glad to learn from your experience.

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Translation is a multi-billion industry which provides jobs to millions of qualified professionals and empowers millions of companies (from startups to Fortune 500) and brands through bilingual and/or multilingual communications. Translation offers several career choices, including freelance – i.e. work-from-home – as well as in-house positions (usually referred to as 9-to-5 jobs). If you are a translator or often work as such, chances are that you’ve experienced the versatility and dealt with the complexities of that profession. If you have ever thought about quitting translation, review these warning signs to make sure you decide wisely.

You consider translation as a hobby

Some people regard translation as a hobby or second-choice, extra source of income. This, certainly justifies why they claim to be translator because they understand a few words in another language and can struggle to form one or two correct sentences. They rely on dictionaries, provide word-for-word rendering and mostly opt for “translation software” like Power Translator or free, online services such as Google Translate. If you recognized yourself in this description, please, do yourself a favor and quit translating now!

You are not passionate about translation

I blame you if you never realized that translation is first and foremost about passion. Sure, you need to pay bills, but above all, you must be passionate to be part of a “bigger” thing. Have you ever thought about how the technical manuals you translate help millions of end users operate their devices? Can you feel consumers’ satisfaction whenever they glance at your (translated) copy on a huge billboard and keep loyal to a given brand? What about books, articles, website copy that you translate to help people and nations meet and cross language borders? If all of this means nothing to you, please quit translating!

You don’t get in the business mood

Passion is what fuels your translation business. Did I just say “business”? Yes. Translation is a business and you are a business person. As a translator/small business owner, you must get into the “business mood” or you won’t survive. So, you ought to search for clients, suggest language solutions to their problems, negotiate rates, charge for services provided, market your expertise, get posted on industry news, attend events, plan for office supplies, get software equipment, buy CAT tools and try them, translate, edit, proofread, keep your family happy. And there are much more to do. If this is too much for you, fine. You know where the exit is.

[tweetshare tweet=”Translation is a business and every translator is a business owner. #xl8″ username=”carlosdjomo”]

You never meet set deadlines

Deadlines are capital. This sounds like a Gospel truth within the translation world. I don’t know about other trades, but when you consistently miss set deadlines, there must be something wrong with you. It is true that unforeseen circumstances exist, but a professional translator is trained to mitigate them. Your background and field experience must have taught you how to take precautionary measures to deal with possible obstacles. Keeping in touch with your Project manager is a way to discuss possible deadline extensions based on justifiable reasons. Setting priorities and implementing time management strategies are other ways to ensure you deliver on time.

You always complain about stress

Stress is part of our trade, buddy. Nothing else to add. Either you deal with stress or you stop calling yourself a translator. As simple as that.

[tweetshare tweet=”Either you deal with stress or you stop calling yourself a translator! #xl8″ username=”carlosdjomo”]

You don’t care about confidentiality

Are you sharing the same computer with your old friends who read your mails and documents? Do you discuss the details of your translation projects in bars or during after-work parties? Do you boast about the manuals you just translated for company X, or brand Y’s new brochure? Do you remember you signed NDAs? Have you even read them? Translation may not be your best fit. This is just my humble opinion. After suffering two judicial cases and severe fines, you may not say I didn’t tell you. Reconsider your relationship with confidentiality or quit translating!

[tweetshare tweet=”A translator who doesn’t care about confidentiality should quit translating. #xl8″ username=”carlosdjomo”]

Technology is your worst enemy

When St Jerome translated the Holy Bible, there was no Internet at the time. There is no point in working nowadays as back then. Things have evolved and we should adapt. Better still, as translators, we ought to leverage the power of technology to work smarter and faster. If you think CAT tools are what entertain felines, or believe Twitter is the name of an endangered species, you might not be fit for the translation world. Do yourself a favour.

You always say “No”

No matter the project scope, domain(s) to tackle or timeframe, whatever opportunity coming your way is rejected. You always say “No” to stressful situations related to translation project management, you don’t like complicated texts, you hate learning new software or dislike working under pressure. In such a context, I just wonder “Why on earth did you become a translator?” It may not be late to consider a career in football (soccer) or mechanics.

[tweetshare tweet=”You hate #technology and dislike working under pressure. Are you really a translator? #xl8″ username=”cdlancer”]

You always say “Yes”

You are always prompt to accept any jobs, in any language combination. After all, you are a translator, aren’t you? Wrong. Professional translators work into their native language only and decline offers involving domains they might not have a good command of. Plus, nothing forces you accept rubbish services like #PEMT (Post-editing machine translation) or to translate 100 words buried in 25 thousand non-paid repetitions.

I may have forgotten some warning signs. Depending on your experience and that of other colleagues, you can have additional stories to tell. Feel free to share in the comments.

At the beginning of each year, it is a ritual to take resolutions and set goals for the next 12 months. Translators are no exception to this tradition. But it proves worthless to set unattainable goals. New Year resolutions are to be supported by well-thought considerations. Below are a few tips on how you can set yours.

Assessment – Achievements & failures

1. Never plan for a new year without assessing the previous one. 2. Be as objective as possible as you list past failures and successes. You may use the 5-question approach by Corinne McKay. 3. Try to understand the cause(s) of your previous year failures and the factors that have helped you succeed. 4. Understand that each year is unique and set attainable goals. Consider the SMART approach for more efficiency.

Branding – How do people perceive you?

5. Define a few core values you want to be associated with (professionalism, creativ0ity, reliability, etc.) and reflect them in whatever you do during the year.

6. If you don’t have a logo, ask a graphic designer create yours.

7. Use consistently your brand colour(s) across all your communication (letterheads, business cards, email signature, social media covers, blog illustrations, etc.).

[bctt tweet=”Use your #translator brand consistently in all your contents”]

8. Include hashtags (e.g. #cdlancer) related to your brand in some news you share on social media.

9. Let your audience (blog readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, for instance) comment on brand-related activities: industry events (you may be interested in the Open Translation Day), courses or other Continuous Professional Development activities you organise.

Marketing – Translator’s Expertise for Sale

10. Draw up a marketing calendar and review/update it on a regular basis. Get started by downloading this one-page marketing plan for freelance translators.

11. Analyse both your online and offline marketing channels and try to intensify the most efficient ones.

[bctt tweet=”Review your #translator’s marketing channels & intensify the most efficient ones”]

12. At least once a month, seize or create an opportunity to market your services solutions to a given audience.

13. Encourage people to spread the world about your expertise (via word-of-mouth, blog sharing, social media referrals, etc.).

Capacity Building – Keep Learning

14. Point out your weaknesses as a professional translator (time management, CAT proficiency, QA checks, client search, etc.) and plan for remedial actions.

15. Plan to attend a given number of translator training opportunities (webinars, online tutorials, e-courses, etc.) and set your agenda accordingly.

16. Plan to search and follow influencers within the language industry. Consume what they write and say (on blogs or social media) and feel free to react (questions or suggestions). Follow this guide and you’re good to go.

Client Base – Review Sources of Income

17. List all your clients and classify them per status (prospects, past, current), type(translation companies, direct clients, individuals).

18. Pledge to contact past clients and try to reactivate them.

[bctt tweet=”Always contact past #translation clients to reactivate them”]

19. Draw up a personal checklist to ensure you always give the best as a professional translator (email receipt and confirmation, awesome services, post-delivery suggestions, etc.).

20. Review your payment methods and align them with client preferences.

21. Review and update your payment terms, as well as frequent accounting issues. If necessary, set new directions.

22. Plan for weekly/monthly expenses as well as long-term investments.

Authority – Be(com)ing the Expert

23. If you have a blog, think about packing your best posts into a downloadable asset.

[bctt tweet=”Packing your (best) #translation blog posts into a downloadable asset is a good idea”]

24. If you don’t have a blog, consider writing guest posts on other people’s blogs.

25. Think about organising at least one event that will profit translators and/or other linguists (informal meeting, online gathering, conference, webinar, podcast, etc.

26. Plan to write an e-book or run a mini-course. This guide may come in handy.

Work/Life – Work Happily

27. (Re)Arrange your workplace and make it more ergonomic. You may want to follow the OSHA guidelines.

28. Plan for holidays and make sure you go really go in OFF mode when you take them. This is important to avoid burnout.

29. Offer your spouse meaningful gifts to calm her/him down and remind her/him about your love (emphasise that your computer isn’t a lover).

[bctt tweet=”(Re)Arrange your #translator’s workplace and make it ergonomic!”]

Well, I didn’t realize I would give so many tips to help you take your New Year resolutions. I still believe there may be aspects I forgot or didn’t emphasize enough. Feel free to add them by commenting below.

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PDF Translation Course Outcomes

At the end of this course, any participant should be able to:

  • Identify the main types of PDFs
  • List the properties on any PDF file
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P.S. Share the link and invite your friends and colleagues to take our free course.

Believe it or not, translation companies are main sources of income for translators, editors, and desktop publishing (DTP) specialists all over the world. As the number of these companies is always growing, unscrupulous people tend to create their own under the same umbrella in a bid to scam linguists, stealing their work, time and/or identity. You don’t want to be one their victims, do you? Below are some aspects that will help you spot an untrustworthy company in less than 10 minutes.

1. No website

Seriously, nowadays, anyone can afford a professional website! Can you imagine a translation company hiring people, doing business, earning money, but not affording to set up an online interface that tells a bit about its history, values, references, and shows its contact details? As soon as you’re approached by a recruiting/vendor/talent manager, just google their company’s name and start checking before even replying to the offer. Better safe than sorry.

Never work with a #translation company that has no website! Click To Tweet

 

2. Gmail/Yahoo/AOL addresses

Professional website packages usually include a hosting plan with Cpanel and several built-in features: custom email addresses, FTP access, website builder/importer, script auto-installers, etc. The point here is that if a translation company does not care to get custom email addresses (e.g. info@companyabc.com), then it is not taking business seriously. Why should you give them credit?

Custom email addresses are part of a #translation company’s reliability indicators. Click To Tweet

3. No Clear Recruitment Process

From the first contact (either you applied or they got in touch with you), the translation company representative (recruitment/vendor manager) should provide you with some information about their standard recruitment process. This usually feature some basic steps, including but not limited to: CV review, test piece, reference check, legal formalities, full registration into the database, and start of work, etc. If the Manager is itching to start working with you right away, your inner red lights should switch on.

A #translation company having no clear recruitment process isn’t serious, is it? Click To Tweet

4. NDA or Contract

When starting business with any contractor, serious translation companies usually required their external vendors/suppliers to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and/or a contract as part of their recruitment procedure. In general, the NDA informs the freelancer about how confidential data should be treated and states the remedies/penalties relating to any unauthorized disclosure. Contracts complement NDAs by specifying rates, payment terms and methods, working conditions, termination clauses, etc. Upon signing these documents, both the translator and the company are legally bound.

5. Amazingly Low Rates

Serious translation agencies value translators’ work and expertise. They consider translators as their most valuable assets and understand the importance of human resources in the success of their business. On the contrary, untrustworthy companies don’t care to know whether translation is a business or a hobby. They hire bilinguals as translators and when they get in touch with professional linguists, they offer them terrible rates. From the onset, you’d better run away from these. I recently received a “request” from a world’s leading translation agency offering incredibly low rates. I couldn’t believe how bad they treat their translators. In a subsequent post, I’ll share the reply I served them.

6. Multiple Identities

Please, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying some companies are suffering from schizophrenia. But some are close to. Seriously. I sometimes receive “offers” from “leading translation companies” having multiple identities. The name indicated in the email signature is different from that on the email address. The Vendor Manager claims they are based in a country, but their address is pointing to a city in another country, plus their IP address is from a third country. Well, once you notice all this inconsistent information, you know what to do, don’t you?

You may have your own signs that usually ring the alarm bells and make you run away from translation agencies. Share these in your comments and let others benefit from your experience.

 

It is an open secret that blogging is a trending activity nowadays. But, believe it or not, there are some people out there who are still afraid of taking the leap into blogging and all sorts of reasons are used to justify their choice: I am really busy; I don’t know what to blog about; how can I make people read (and enjoy) my posts on a regular basis; how to be inspired so as to keep my blog up and running; and so on. I myself have gone through this and if you are reading me right now, it means I’ve somehow overcome my “blogophobia”.

Translation, writing and blogging
Being a professional translator, I must say I earn a living by rewriting English content in French. From another perspective, I am always writing and, basically, I meet the requirements to be blogging (writing for a blog). Besides, I wrote a guest post about handling issues relating to the translation of PDF documents and another post on translator’s visibility. I am grateful to both blog authors (Olga Arakelyan and Catherine Christaki) for accepting my guest posts. I have been passionately reading their articles, as well as those from many other leading authors in the translation blogosphere. I felt so honored when the second guest post won the 2015 Proz Community Choice Awards (#ProzCCA) for Best translation-related article. This motivated me into letting the inner blogger shine.

Just another blog?
All blogs are not created the same, although many specialize in the same industry and target the same kind of readers. Most of the time, the reader wonders “Is this just another blog?” The direct answer is No! Each blogger has their stories to tell, with special emphasis, a particular style and approach that make them unique.

[bctt tweet=”All blogs aren’t created equal, each blogger is unique. #blogging”]

In this quest for uniqueness, I will focus on a visual approach to all stories published here. Remember the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand word”? Well, I’ll be dealing this way. More pictures, few texts, as inspired by Mox blog and Zen pencils. So get ready to start a new adventure in the wonderful worlds of translators as entrepreneurial linguists, freelancers, and related writing professions. Feel free to suggest topics, blog posts, ideas, pictures, so we can make it together.