Marketing directly to clients and convincing them that you are worthy of their business is going to require some extra effort on your end. You will need a different mindset: no longer are you simply just the translator at the desk, you are now the consultant as well. This means that your job is to relate to the client, educate them, market your services and close the deal. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the end result can be a very rewarding and personal client relationship.
A freelance translator who positions him- or herself as an expert or consultant is likely to work with the client long-term. The translator is not just working with a client to translate a website or marketing packet, but is solving a business language problem, or helping the client communicate with a new market in order to increase profits. As a freelance translator, you are not simply providing a client with a piece of paper in a new language; you are providing a solution to a problem that previously limited their business.
Find your best existing clients
Start by examining your client base and find your best clients. The 80/20 rule is a good way to think about this. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your client base. Your best clients generate the most revenue while demanding the least expenditure of resources. When you have identified the 20% of your current clients that generate 80% of your income, or that you simply enjoy working with the best, try to go out and find similar ones. You can ask them for referrals or do some research online to find companies with the same types of needs and that are the same size, etc.
Decide on a niche
Decide on a niche and the type of companies in a specific industry that you want to target. Be specific: consider size, location, type of company, etc. (I recommend writing this down so that you can always use it for future reference.)
Identify where these companies hang out
Identify where these companies “hang out” online and in your community. Understand how you can contact them – through LinkedIn, a local chamber of commerce, international industry events, and so on. For example, a legal translator in London might find legal associations, or “meetups” to go to. Or you can find a group dealing with the translators’ legal specialization on LinkedIn. You can join this group, participate in the discussions, or contact other potential clients in that group.
Identify existing contacts
Another way is to determine whether you have existing contacts in the industry that you can use to get in touch with your target clients. You can ask this contact if they can refer you to your prospective client.
Look for networking events
Look for industry specific events in your niche that you can attend. Many translators find new clients by going to translation conferences such as the ITI or ATA Conference and networking with colleagues there. However, you have the potential of reaching more target clients by going to a conference or local networking event in your specialization area. For example, it can be rewarding to attend a pharmaceutical sales conference if you specialize in medical or pharmaceutical translations, or CEBIT or LocWorld if you specialize in software localization. These are usually more expensive than the translation industry conference, but can be well worth it. You will learn so much more about the industry, your target clients and how to connect with them. If you cannot afford to go to a large, international conference, you can instead use the list of attendees if that is available.
Subscribe/follow relevant trade journals/websites/blogs
Subscribe to relevant trade journals in the niche or target area and become a member in a relevant trade association. For example, a financial/legal translator might consider subscribing to “International Banking and Finance Law”. Many trade journals also have an online version available these days, which you can partly access for free.
You might consider using a list broker to find prospects with your preferred set of qualifications. Prepare a list of favorite current clients, and let a broker generate a new list, in a defined market or geographic region, which mirrors your current list. These prospects are most likely to buy from you because they match your current client demographics.
It is good to narrow down to a specific area or specialization, but don’t break down your target too far! Remember, you can have more than one niche market. Consider if your marketing message should be different for each niche market. If you can effectively reach multiple niches with the same message, then you may have broken down your market too far. Also, if you find that there are only 50 people that fit all your criteria, maybe you should re-evaluate your target. The trick is to find that perfect balance.
You may be asking, “How do I find all this information?” Try searching online for research on your target already conducted by others. Search for magazine articles and blogs that talk about your target market or that talk to your target market. Search for blogs and forums where people in your target market communicate their opinions. Look for survey results, or consider conducting a survey of your own. Ask your current clients for feedback.
Here is a link to a worksheet for the steps described above: FIND YOUR TARGET CLIENTS