How can freelancers find new clients?

According to the International Freelancers Academy, translators and interpreters are the fifth largest population of freelancers. Yet, besides being extremely rewarding, such a great entrepreneurship characterising our industry leads to a series of challenges. I would say that the very first challenge is how to find clients, especially in a period of economic downturn.

This issue can significantly vary from case to case due to the countless factors that may come into play (e.g. country, personal situation, language combination, specialisation, professional connections, etc.). Consequently, in order to approach this topic from a wide perspective, there is no better way to learn more about it than asking different opinions of whom I call “red carpet guests” of the translation and interpreting community, namely, Marta Stelmaszak, Xosé Castro Roig, Valeria Aliperta, Gabriel Cabrera Méndez, Scheherezade Surià López and Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

The question they kindly accepted to answer to shed light on this topic is the following:

How was your first client hunting? 

Three tips for translators/interpreters-to-be or those who are struggling due to the crisis?

Marta Stelmaszak

Marta Stelmaszak“I concentrated on reaching out to people who needed translation services. I spent a bit of time attending client events, talking to prospects and building connections. I think this is essential when you’re starting out.

Don’t forget about your existing network: make sure that everybody you know is aware that you’re a translator or interpreter and spreads the word further. This includes your doctors, dentists, gardeners and local florist.

Plus, don’t try to translate everything for everybody. Specialise and concentrate on becoming really good, your clients will notice that.”

Xosé Castro Roig

Xosé Castro“Literally using a board and quite a few pushpins to locate all my prospects and organize them into areas I can visit in a working day.

It was true back then and I think it is even truer nowadays: you need to shorten the distances with your prospects and clients; you definitely need more facetime. I literally came out there to grab them, shake them and make them want me. And the failure was my lesson: I was jilted so many times that I learned the lesson the hard way: you need to get used to no’s. As they say, you need nine no’s in order to get one solid ‘yes’. So dear rookies: be persistent.

Despite the use of more passive client-hunting methods —like a nice site or a mailing—, you definitely have to find more creative ways to get to your clients.”

 Valeria Aliperta

“I started with contacts from uni or friends, but then I eventually used the market place platform that for some still work well today. Then now… I just suggest everyone should network, network and network.  So to recap:

Valeria Aliperta

  • visibility (online and at events)
  • networking with both colleagues and prospects (I know it’s daunting but do it!)
  • never give up.

And if you really struggle, get some CPD done and give yourself a timed goal ie. I shall find a new client by next month.”

Gabriel Cabrera Méndez

Gabriel Cabrera Méndez“My first client hunting was a mistakes fishing in fact because I decided to spend one week visiting every hotel, restaurant, museum, city council, monument of the region where I live, collecting their brochures and having a deep look to their Web sites in other languages, in order to assess the quality of translations and when these translation included mistakes or typos I reprinted the materials and sent them back, free of charge, with my contact details. I had such a good success that the Regional Government of Extremadura decided to turn this story into a fairy tale, which was distributed in buses to promote reading in the region. You can have a look to the tale here.”

Scheherezade Surià López

Scheherezade Surià“Way before I finished the degree I started looking for agencies on the Internet and sending e-mails with my résumé. I sent lots of them and tried not to despair if I got no answer. One of my best customers is an agency I’ve been working with since the very beginning, and they replied my e-mail almost one year after I sent it.

Also I always tried hard and made an effort in all my essays and translations, and it paid off. One of my teachers in the post graduate course helped me contact a publishing house and I translated my first book with them.

 My advice:

  • Insist and try not to despair (yes, I know, easier said than done).
  • Look for local, national and international customers.
  • Send e-mails periodically (for example, devote one day a week to do just that) and keep track of their names, date of contact and date of reply (if they do; if not, maybe you could send them an e-mail again asking politely if they received it).
  • Keep your eyes open in forums and websites such as Proz, Translators’ Café, etc.
  • Let everybody know you are a translator. Chances are someone you know hears about a translation job that can be interesting.”

Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

Pablo Muñoz“Maybe my answer is a little bit atypical, but to be honest, I haven’t done a lot of client hunting in the few past years. A little bit of background—I started working as a full-time in-house translator in a translation agency and then I started working for Nintendo of Europe (in Frankfurt, Germany) for two years. After that, I started working part-time for a very big client related to technology and Internet searches, and I work for some other clients in the rest of my time.

But the truth is that I didn’t contact any of these employers—they were the ones who approached me first. How did I do it? Well, while being a student, I created a translation blog in Spanish called Algo más que traducir, and several clients have contacted me thanks to it. I think marketing yourself online is crucial nowadays, and that’s why I decided to invest in a professional website. And yes, it works! I also think that having a good LinkedIn profile is a must, as well as being in, because translation agency and clients are looking for people like you in those sites.

So in a nutshell, what three tips would I recommend?

  • Build a strong online presence. You can use WordPress and a professional template to create a good-looking website that will attract your client’s attention. Blogging can help you reach more clients (please don’t write for translators, but for clients), but it’s not necessary because you can’t imagine how much time you will need to benefit from it. But if you accept the challenge, I can guarantee you it’s worth the effort.
  • Personalize the emails you send to clients. Stop using Dear Sir/Madame. Clients receive a lot of these generic emails. If you don’t invest enough time to look for the name of the person you need to contact, why should they bother reading your CV when everybody is doing the same thing?
  • Be charming. Work is work and clients are clients. But at the end of the day, we are all just normal people trying to live our lives. Don’t just personalize your emails—show that you care about you clients. Show them that you are unique and that you love what you do. I know this is easier said than done, but do your best to “seduce” them. Clients may love you if you care enough to localize a part of their website and you send them a screenshot as a sample of your good work. That’s just an example. Now try to be creative to be charming!”

I thank them very much for the answers and tips, which I am sure will be extremely useful both for translators/interpreters-to-be and for professionals in their client-hunting process.

This first post is just the beginning of a series of posts with “red carpet guests”. Don’t miss the in-house counterpart, featuring Clara Guelbenzu, Lloyd Bingham and Merche García Lledó: you can find it here.

Any readers’ comment and additional tips are more than welcome! Alessandra

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