Quality is Your Best Marketing
Blog post by Thomas
Marketing is an essential part of any freelancer’s business. No question about it. Nobody knows you exist unless you make yourself and your services known to the world. The internet is literally flooded with blog posts, videos, podcasts, slide decks offering ‘tips & tricks’ about the best marketing strategies to freelancers in general and freelance linguists in particular. Much of this content is flashy (if not downright gaudy) for monetization purposes. What I would like to do with this blog post then is give freelancers who are just starting out in the translation business some down-to-earth, pragmatic advice about how to market themselves.
If you’re spending significantly more time marketing than translating, you’re not doing a very good job
Your main job as a translator is to translate, never forget that! When you’re not translating, you’re not making any money—unless you’re also paid to do marketing work, that is. When you don’t allocate enough time to the actual translation process, the quality of your work will suffer, which means that your client might be unhappy with the final outcome, and as a result, they will not come back to you the next time. On the contrary, if you do deliver a good translation, the client will be more likely to hire your services for their next job that matches your profile. Not only that, but they might even give you a recommendation or agree to be one of your referrals on your CV. As you progress in your profession, you will see that word-of-mouth marketing and recommendations are the best means to win over new clients. No matter what people tell you, quality is your best marketing driver.
Be a smart, lean marketer
It’s very important to have an online profile where prospects can find you and learn about the services you offer. Nowadays, there are countless platforms where you can design a decent landing page. Whether you use LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook or even ProZ.com, try to make your page as lean as possible. Be concise, add only the details that are necessary and essential. Having a crowded profile page will not help you much.
It is equally important to have a good CV/resume that you can send out to customers in case they ask for one. I would advise avoiding the Europass model, unless it’s really necessary. You can easily find beautiful and more straightforward templates that will take you farther than the boring and cluttered European template (I might be biased, but I really dislike the Europass model…).
Once you have created an appealing profile for yourself (which should not take you more than a couple of days), you’re ready to hunt for your first clients. I know, it’s every junior translator’s dream to land a premium client from the very start, but the truth is that very few are that lucky. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just hard to skip stages. Instead, try going to where the work is. Depending on your field expertise and location (i.e. country), this place might be local shops, companies and entrepreneurs that actively seek translation services, lawyers, legal experts, virtual translation marketplaces (like ProZ.com, Translators Cafe) or even… multinational LSPs. Regarding the latter, despite what some might say, there are agencies which can offer steady work at decent rates. Research, ask for advice from peers, do your due diligence and you shall find them.
Since what you want as a beginner is the shortest path to projects, keep in mind that it’s much easier finding translation work in a place where people actively look for translations. Only after gaining relevant experience with LSPs or smaller, less premium clients and having a steady workflow can you actually aim higher. Which, no doubt, you must do! But, once you reach a certain level of proficiency, you’ll naturally learn about the more in-depth and sophisticated marketing strategies that can take you to the final professional destination: the premium market.
Adapt your marketing goals and strategy to your own experience level and avoid marketing traps
As I said earlier, if you’re just starting out as a freelance language professional, no matter how good, how trained or how gifted of a translator or interpreter you are, you can’t expect to break directly into the premium market (I’m not saying that you should underestimate yourself and accept peanuts as payment, though). Experience is essential, I can’t stress this enough! A while ago, I stumbled upon an older translation of mine, and you know what? I wasn’t very happy with what I read. It’s incredible to what extent experience helped me become a better translator. And, mind you, I still have a lot to learn! So before you take the advice of this and that marketing guru to, say, present at events because this increases your visibility and your chance of being noticed by a high-profile client, take a step back and think whether you really have anything meaningful to talk about and you’re really prepared for this. You know what they say, be careful what you wish for, it might come true. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re overwhelmed by the challenges of a well-paid job. And let me just paraphrase here Chris Durban’s presentation at BP20—the responsibility of working on the premium market is high, and there is very little room for error!
In conclusion, as far as marketing for freelancers is concerned, you should follow a simple thumb rule: focus on the activities that are likely to bring you the jobs you want. And avoid traps—before accepting advice from somebody, try to find out what their experience is, for how long they’ve been on the market and what they base their advice on.