Freelancers have been saying for a long time that they offer companies flexibility and savings, and it seems that the recession and a prolonged "jobless recovery" have shown this to be true. The following article refers to data for the UK, but it could be just as applicable to the US. Mid-size and large companies, it seems, are finally changing their perceptions of freelancers and independent contractors and recognizing the value we bring:
REL Translations experienced its third quarter of explosive growth in 2013, recording record year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter revenue growth. We continued to add new clients during the quarter and have kept up our marketing efforts, both on the ground and through social media and through search engine optimization, to ensure ongoing expansion of our client network.
We are very excited about the launch of our Facebook community page, Capital Region Cultural Oasis. On September 18 we launched this page as a means of thanking all of the local small businesses that support REL Translations through passive marketing. Capital Region Cultural Oasis helps these businesses to build their social media audience and promote their products/services for free, demonstrating the power of reciprocal marketing, especially for small businesses.
You can view our community page at http://www.facebook.com/capitalculturaloasis. You can also access it directly by clicking on the "Capital Region Cultural Oasis" tab under "What's New" here on the RELTranslations.com website.
REL Translations achieved another quarter of explosive revenue growth in the second quarter of 2013, compared to the second quarter of 2012. Our relationships continue to expand both with existing clients and with new ones, as a result of the high quality of the work we deliver. Our business is growing through client referrals and as a result of our continued focus on search engine
optimization, promotion of our website, and marketing through social media. In addition, accounts receivables for the month of July suggest that if the third quarter of 2013 remains on track, the company will beat its revenue goals for a
third consecutive quarter this year.
Integrity and values win clients. Choose your mentors carefully. Yes, you need to learn how to close sales and build a business. Most importantly, however, you need to remember why you decided to build your business in the first place: to help the people you know and care about – because you have a set of skills and a knowledge base from which they can benefit. Relationships are gold. It is through people and referrals that you will build your business. You must show people that you are worthy of their trust and that you have their best interest at heart.
REL Translations reported explosive growth in revenues for the first quarter of 2013, both on a quarter to quarter basis compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, and on a year-over-year basis. The company also won three substantial new clients in the first quarter and is extremely proud to have expanded its presence both locally and throughout the U.S., as well as globally. This is attributable largely to marketing efforts put in place the in the second half of 2012. Consequently, 2013 is looking like it will be the company's best year since its creation in January 2009.
An Introduction to Marketing, Self-Promotion and Search Engine Optimization: How to Win Direct Clients
Finding a Path to Direct Clients
When I first started building out a business as a freelance translator at the very end of 2007, I did what every translator does: I set up my profile on the ATA website and other similar professional association websites serving to match up agencies with freelance translators.
The problem I soon found was that I had very little control over the kind of work I received. After spending what I felt was a disproportionate amount of time printing, signing, scanning and e-mailing back all kinds of legal paperwork before even starting a project for a new agency (new as in one I had never worked with before), I could finally settle down to work on a project. It never seemed like my per-wordrate
was really adequate to cover all of these other costs: administrative paperwork, translation time, billing and accounting, marketing and self-promotion, time spent at industry conferences, continuing education, etc. I felt like other people – agencies – were calling the shots. Moreover, how much could I raise my rates in the face of cyclical pressures from things like a contracting global economy and massive structural changes like the emergence and growing importance of machine translation and cloud-based translation solutions, just to offer a
It did not take me long to realize that I would need to go after direct clients. The profit margins were more attractive on work that I could bring in myself and outsource to other translators, and I could have direct control. The question I had to address, of course, was how to do this.
This article is for freelance translators and interpreters, or language service providers more generally, who want to expand their businesses but do not quite know how, or who are seeking ways to improve the reach of their
marketing and self-promotion. Of course you do not need to be interested in outsourcing the work you get to other translators (i.e., fulfilling the role of a project manager). These marketing and self-promotion tips will be just as useful if you are a freelancer seeking direct clients – not for the purpose of outsourcing the translation work but rather for eliminating the middleman (the agency) – and are not sure how to get the clients.
What I am going to tell you about here is not a reinvention of the wheel, because I have not done that. It makes no sense to do that; it is not efficient. Other people have already figured this stuff out, so why not draw on their expertise? That’s what I have tried to do, and now I am going to share that with you, because I want every freelance translator in our community to be able to benefit from this and to be able to find new ways to attract direct clients through marketing, self-promotion and search engine optimization.
Your Business is Marketing
First and foremost you must remember that you are a walking self-promotion, press release, or advertisement for what you do and the product or service you provide. Your business is the business of translation or language service provider, right? Wrong! In actuality, you are in the business of marketing translation or language-based solutions. Whatever you do, you’re in the business of marketing. Then, there is your product or service. In your mind you may equate being self-promoting with bragging, but this is a something you hold to be true that may not actually be true.
Look at it another way. By not telling people about what you do and the service you provide, you may be depriving people of a valuable service that they need. I am not talking about standing at the entrance of Grand Central Station and handing out business cards, although that is a strategy I have seen people use. I have no idea whether it is effective. What I am suggesting, rather, is that whenever you see people you know – at your corner drugstore, at your dentist, your neighbor, your office mate, etc. – you respond to the query, “So, what’s up?” with something along the lines of:
-“Well, actually, I’m very excited about a new business plan I’ve got going. I am branching out and trying to take in direct clients now.”
-“Yes, well, you know I’m a Turkish to English translator, and, well, I usually get work from agencies, but I would love to be able to interact with clients in a more direct way. It’s so much more personal….”
I will grant that this approach may be more effective for me in Upstate NY where the communities tend to be smaller and have a very small town feel. This is true even in the suburbs and in cities like Albany. However, we all live in communities – belong to clubs or have gym memberships or take our kids to nursery school or daycare. In other words, we all interact with what are called natural networks that we can utilize as a means of communicating our marketing message. And remember,marketing is about letting people know you exist. Nobody knows you exist except the people who know you exist.
Marketing is about letting people know you exist. Nobody knows you exist except the people who know you exist.
That is really all marketing is. No one is going to know you are out there and available unless you tell them and that is especially true of all those potential direct clients. The easiest ones to get may be the ones right there in your own community, available to you through your own natural network. But there is only one way they are going to find out about you: you have to tell them.
You need to have conversations – real, live, in-person conversations with people – the people who will end up referring you to potential clients. I am not talking about LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter. That has its place. Social media can be extremely valuable, especially in the virtual world of the translation business, but if you want to get direct clients – people from your own community, for example – you need to reach out to that community in person. There is no substitute.
It is so tempting in our business, because we spend so much of our day locked down, so to speak, in front of a PC, to restrict the vast majority of our interactions to e-mail, Skype, and various forms of social media. But reaching direct clients will mean interacting face-to-face with people. It will probably mean getting out into the real world in a real way – one that many translators – unless they are also interpreters – are not necessarily entirely comfortable with. You are not alone. This is not as hard as you think. It really is as easy as the conversation example shown above. You can have it with anyone anywhere. The everyday people you know and interact with when you are dropping your kids off or picking them up or running to your local drycleaner – the places where you know people. And if you were to sit down in front of your computer with a spreadsheet or at a table with a pad and pen and make a list of all the people you know locally, you probably know many more people than you realize.
You might even want to try that exercise. It is called putting together your natural network, and it can really help you feel confident that you have the means to market yourself locally.
Do you have business cards?
And don’t ever forget your business cards! The first question is, do you have them and do you carry them with you at all times? And I mean at all times. That means even when you are working out at the gym. I have a second business card folder that I keep in the bag where I carry my I-Pod and extra water bottle and other essentials in the cardio room at the gym. I am never ever without it.
If you absolutely do not want to pay a printer to make up business cards for you, you can simply Google “free business cards” and find numerous websites that will allow you to select free ones that you can design yourself, so long as you are willing to carry that company’s logo on your card. It really does not matter. You just need to make sure that you can always provide your contact information to people easily.You want people to remember who you are and to know how to contact you when a need arises.
Marketing and sales are numbers games.
Marketing and sales are numbers games. You need to talk to –that is, have live conversations with – so many people in order for that to yield so many potential project bids, which will then result in so many actual sales –i.e., closed deals.
A different approach: Waiting around to be contacted by agencies is one approach, but it takes the control out of your hands. Contacting the immigration attorney whose office is in your neighborhood and telling him you would like to offer a fixed price package on translation of all immigration related paperwork through him to his clients is a much more direct approach. Contacting five immigration attorneys might generate one actual lead in the form of a face-to-face meeting. Contacting 15 might generate three actual face-to-face meetings, of which one might lead to an actual business arrangement, from which you might actually start to get translation work referrals. Direct marketing and sales are numbers games, so start having conversations.
Or let’s say you have made up brochures and arranged with local businesses and restaurant owners to display them in your neighborhood, you need to check back in, say, ten days or two weeks to see whether they are still
there. What has happened to them?
·Is the restaurant window sill too crowded for all the brochures being displayed?
·Are one or two restaurants generating business for you, while others are not?
·Are none of them?
·Is this a worthwhile expenditure for you?
We have whizzed through some of the basics of Marketing 101, but when a person you have talked to or who has picked up your brochure is thinking about working with you, the first thing s/he may do is look for you on the internet and try to find your website.
Do you have a website? Have you thought about your website? I created mine through Weebly.com, which I found to be inexpensive and user-friendly, but there are ways to do it directly through Google or other vendors. However, if you are not the most IT-savvy person around, your time may be better spent on revenue-generating activities, such as translation work, or even handling your accounts receivables. You should consider outsourcing the creation of a website. Post the job on Elance.com or use a Google search to find vendors who will build a website for you and compare prices. But make sure you have a website. It is unlikely nowadays that someone picking up your business card or brochure, who has not met you first, will not try to find your website before contacting you.
Search Engine Optimization Basics and Promoting Your Website
Search engine optimization is highly complex, and I am not going to pretend to be an expert. However, there are certain basics that anyone can learn, and Google has provided its users with a starter’s manual that is easily
downloadable from the Google Webmaster Central Blog: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. You can also type into a Google search, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” and you will come to the appropriate webpage with a link to the downloadable PDF.
What is search engine optimization? Search engine optimization is about making small modifications to the content of your website so that it is easier for search engines, such as Google, to index and understand your content, thereby allowing your website to move higher in search engine results when potential customers look up terms related to the product or service you provide.
So how do you figure out which words to use? Do a Google search and type in “Google Adwords Keyword Tool.” Click on the lick that appears near the top of the list. Using the module that appears on that page will help you to start to figure out which terms are searched the most frequently by people seeking your particular type of translation service (e.g., “legal translations,” or “Spanish to English translations) so that you can begin – and I mean begin – to understand how the terminology you use on your site affects the ranking of your site in Google and other search engines.
The next step – and usually the easiest way to implement the results of the Google Adwords Keyword Tool – is by blogging. Blogging does not have to be an exercise in expository writing. There are many different approaches, and a format like Twitter is designed to accommodate so-called micro-blogging. Ultimately what you want is to be redirecting people to your website on a regular basis through the posting of new or updated content so that your website is always receiving enough traffic to appear on the first page of a Google search.
Optimally, I try to blog twice a month, but I usually am able to blog once a month. The important thing is that you choose a frequency and stick with it. My blog has its own name, “Turkish Dynamite!” and can be found under its own tab on my website. Immediately after publishing each new blog post, I alert my personal followers on Facebook and those people following the REL Translations Facebook page, and I post an alert on LinkedIn and Google+. Both the LinkedIn and Facebook page feed automatically to Twitter.
As I said earlier in this article, I am hardly an expert in any of this, and I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I am just trying to share with all of you – my community of fellow translators, freelancers, project managers, and language service providers – what I have learned about marketing, self-promotion, and building out a business.
The next step for me in terms of blogging will be to focus on promoting my blog. As Diana Adams, author of the infographic found at the attached link points out, weekly or monthly blogging is great, but what about blog promotion? Once you feel like you have gotten the hang of blogging, there are numerous sites available for promoting your blog, beyond mere social media: http://www.bitrebels.com/social/30-ways-to-promote-your-blog/.
So get out there and start having conversations! Start marketing and promoting yourself. Do not be afraid to be a walking advertisement because the service you provide is necessary and useful. People need to know about it. Remember that even long-established companies like Coca Cola and Nike advertise. They just have sufficient resources to pay someone else to do the advertising for them, but even they understand that marketing and brand promotion are something that you never, ever stop having to do. You always want to be the first name that comes to mind. Just do it!
The exceptionally smart folks at GlobalVision International, Inc. have done it again. I am sharing their blog post, originally published on their website on 12/10/12, entitled, "Options in Translations Services." Whether you are a corporate decision maker or an individual seeking translation services, this blog post is short and sweet, telling you everything you need to know about whether the right choice for you is machine translation, cloud-based translation, or full-service translation. Read and enjoy:
Have you been checking out REL Translations' updates and discussions on our Facebook page? You should! We talk about Turkish culture and cuisine but also all kinds of fun linguistics and language topics. Find out more: http://www.facebook.com/pages/REL-Translations-Turkish-to-English-Business-Services-LLC/253883987963403
Translating Turkish Academic Paper Topics: Financial & Risk Management, Stock Market Performance, & Forecasting Volatility
Readers of this blog may not be aware that prior to becoming a full-time translator, primarily from Turkish into English, and becoming Director of Translations for REL Translations, I spent ten years in the investment management profession. For seven of those years I was an equity research analyst,
devoted to following large and mid-capitalization companies and building detailed financial models to forecast those companies’ near, intermediate, and long-term results.
As an analyst, I was also trained to understand probabilities and statistics, as they relate to financial
and risk management, and I even utilized event trees when grappling with an uncertain economic outlook. This allowed me to extrovert precisely how certain I felt about a company’s ability to manage through a difficult economic environment, as the case might have been.
I had to understand a wide variety of models used in economics and financial management for understanding risk, forecasting volatility, and interpreting stock market performance.
Why am I writing about this? It occurred to me that I have marketed REL Translations very effectively as a translations company, but there could be many potential clients in the academic arena – specifically, in financial management and economics – who do not realize the valuable synergy that my background and expertise bring to a project. A Google Scholar search for “VaR GARCH EGARCH” – three types of risk models – brings up over 5,300 academic articles and references in English, alone. How many Turkish scholars are out there, trying to get their papers published in English, who are unable to find translators with matching expertise?
So if you are looking for not only translation from Turkish into English, but also for a translator who understands a highly specialized academic area, such as economics or financial management, you need not look any further. Just use the following link to send me some information about your project, and I will provide a free price quote: http://www.reltranslations.com/rates.html
Freelance translators, despite the fact that they are independent contractors and sole proprietors, very often forget that they are running a business. I do not say this to be critical of them as a group. They are among
the brightest and most talented people I know: multilingual with graduate degrees in advanced fields that required years of study. What they do for a living requires tremendous skill and should not be treated as a
commodity, but rather as a high-level, value-added service.
When I say that they often lose site of the fact that they are running a business, I mean that they do not always focus on the entrepreneurial aspect of sole proprietorship. As a freelance translator, one’s business might
earn a certain level of revenue year after year on a pretty stable basis – whatever that is – as sort of a steady state. But has this person ever asked her/himself, “How do I get myself to the next level?”
One aspect of being an entrepreneur and a successful one, at that, is networking. This term, “networking,” often carries a negative connotation, but in the following article, first published on James Clear’s blog, Passive Panda, and then reprinted in The ATA Chronicle (American Translators Association), you will see how simple networking really can be, and how essential it is to any entrepreneur. It is an integral part of relationship building, which, of course, is part of marketing and self-promotion, and that, my friends, is what eventually leads to increased sales.
24 Networking Tips that Actually Work
By James Clear
(The following originally appeared on James Clear’s blog, Passive Panda, http://passivepanda.com.)
The idea of networking makes many people uncomfortable—or confused.
It is easy to see why.
When most people think about networking, it seems insincere at best—and selfish at worst. This, of course, is the complete opposite of what networking is supposed to be—friendly, useful, and genuine.
It is easy for most of us to be friendly and useful with people we know. However, because networking is a “business activity,” it is easy to think that we need to act in a different way.
Unfortunately, most networking strategies come across as pushy, needy, or self-serving—even though the people using them rarely act that way in day-to-day life.
Do not worry. There are definitely genuine ways to self-promote. So, in the spirit of helping everyone become a better networker, here are 24 networking tips that, from my experience, actually work.
The Real Goal of Networking
1. The goal of networking should be to help other people. Yes, it would be nice if they helped you out as well, but networking is a two-way street. And your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you. Asking for favors should only become a possibility once you have learned more about the person and provided some value to them.
2. It is far more important to understand other people’s needs before you tell them about your needs. Your goals should not be on the forefront of your mind. You are trying to develop a relationship with others, which means you should be thinking about them. It is your job to understand the people in your network, including where they are coming from and what is important to them.
3. You do not need to know the most people, just the right people. There is no need to shotgun your business cards across the industry or to pepper everyone with e-mail. Instead, focus on finding people who are relevant to you. As time passes, you can decide if the interests that you share with someone are worth pursuing further. It is better to have five people willing to help you than to have 500 who simply know your name.
4. Do not expect anything. The fact that you reached out and made contact with someone does not put them in your debt. No one is required to “pay you back.” Instead of approaching networking with the goal of gaining favors, try reaching out with curiosity.
Contact interesting and relevant people and see what happens. Some of them will respond and some of them will not. Learn about the people who follow up. Find out what makes them interesting and how you can help them—and do not expect anything in return.
5. Do not leave networking to chance. Take some time and define what you are looking for in your network. Occasionally you will stumble across someone amazing by accident, but it is a lot easier to find
who you are looking for if you know who they are in the first place. Be proactive and create a list of people whom you want to contact on purpose.
6. Go beyond your industry. Connect with people on a variety of levels from a wide range of areas. By growing your network outside of the usual areas you will be more valuable to people who are in your immediate industry. The people with whom you work have personalities and multiple interests, right? With a broad network you can be the person who connects people across industries.
7. Do not dismiss anyone as irrelevant. Maybe you do not think a local blogger would be a good contact because you work at a medical practice. However, when you open a new branch and want to let people
know about it, you will be glad you reached out to someone with an audience.
How to Reach Out to Someone New
8. Quantify how much time you are going to take. People are busy and when someone new starts talking to them, the first thing that comes to mind is, “How much time is this going to take?”
Address those concerns from the start by saying something like, “Hi. I have one item that I’d like to discuss with you briefly. It should only take two minutes. Do you have time now?” Asking questions like this not only shows that you respect their time, it also gives you the option of speaking with them later if they are too busy now.
9. Start by offering praise, not requesting help. Unless you have a mutual contact who is putting you in touch for a specific reason, it is best to avoid asking for anything when you meet for the first time. Do not
ask for favors, for promotion, for advice, or even to meet up for lunch or coffee. Simply start by offering a short compliment. After they respond to this initial contact, you can begin moving things toward a lengthier
10. Keep e-mail short. If your first contact is via e-mail, split the message into smaller segments. Instead of reaching out to someone new with a long-winded, five-paragraph xplanation of why you are contacting them, use that first e-mail to focus on a small bit of praise. You can send further details to them after they reply. Keep that first message friendly and short.
11. If you must ask for a favor, then ask for permission to continue. There are some situations where you need to ask for something, but do not have the luxury of time to get to know your contact. Most situations do not fall under this category, but if you must ask for something, then weave in requests for permission before you make a request. Here is a real example.
I was talking to the director of an organization recently about offering a new course to his clients. I started by asking for permission to continue. “I’ve run successful courses on X before. Would you like to know more?” He was interested and we ended up having a great conversation.
An additional benefit of this strategy is that you are getting the other party to say “Yes” to you. As a general rule, if you can get people to say yes three times, then the odds of your offer being accepted by them drastically increase. You do not need to ask permission for everything, but if you are opening a conversation where you will need to make a request, then it can work wonders.
How to Build the Relationship
12. Try to provide as much value as you possibly can. The more value you create, the more it will come back to you many times over. Focus all of your networking efforts on helping the people you contact.
13. Start by focusing on being friendly and helpful. This is the number one tactic you can use to build your network. Simply spread information in a friendly and helpful way. Did you read a book that others in your network will enjoy? Tell them about it or send them a copy. Are you using a resource that would help a friend with a project on which he or she is working? E-mail the information to your friend. Hear some new music that others might enjoy? Send it their way. Building your network is the same as building friends. Be interested in what they are doing and offer friendly suggestions when you can.
14. Develop the habit of introducing people. Connecting like-minded people is a powerful way to enhance your network. The idea of doing this seems foreign to many people, but it is actually quite easy. Do you know
two people who enjoy reading the same type of books? Or like the same sports teams? Or love reading about history? Or work in the same industry? You get the point. Do not make it hard. Just introduce the two of them by sharing their common interest. They can decide if they want to pursue the relationship further.
15. Ask if people want to be connected. If you are apprehensive about connecting two people, then ask one of them if they want to be connected. “I know another person that’s doing Y. Would you like for me to introduce you sometime?” Even if they are not interested, they will appreciate the offer.
16. Nurture your current network. Most people think of networking as reaching out to new people, but do not forget about the network that you already have. (Hint: You probably call them your friends and co-workers.) There is no need to wait to meet new people to start connecting others or sharing useful information. Network within the groups that are already close by.
Making Networking a Habit
17. Try to contact one person per day. If you reach out to five new people every week, that would be about 250 per year. Sending an e-mail or making a quick call will only take about five minutes of your day. Not everyone is going to get back to you, but if you contact that many new people, then you are bound to make significant progress.
18. Do not take “No” personally. Everyone is busy. For most people, it is simply a matter of timing. If you catch them on a good day, then they will happily talk or meet with you. If they are swamped, however, then a simple “No” might be all you get. Do not take it personally. In most cases, it is not a reflection of you or what you said.
19. Make it a point to follow up. One or two days after meeting someone for the first time, follow up with a brief e-mail or note. This is an opportunity to develop the relationship by bringing up something you discussed before or making a comment on an interesting topic. Following up with relevant conversation helps to anchor your previous interaction in their mind and displays more personality than just sending a message that says “Thanks for talking!”
20. Did you fail? Try reaching out in a different way. You do not want to pester anyone, but if you give the person a few weeks and do not hear a response, then there is nothing wrong with being persistent. For example, dropping in to talk face-to-face has resulted in great conversations with people who ignored my e-mail previously. Sometimes switching it up is all you need to do.
Things to Remember
21. Network with the intention of helping other people, not yourself. People enjoy doing business with those they trust and like. The only way to build that trust is to engage with others in a helpful way. Yes, trust takes a long time to build, but insincerity takes even longer to overcome. Once you have developed a
relationship and created a bond, then you can move on to negotiating for favors and asking for help.
22. Networking is more about listening to what people say than saying the right things. Take the time to listen to people’s stories. You can only provide something of value to them if you listen to who they are and what they do.
23. Sometimes the best networking opportunities involve real work. Volunteer for events, committees, or projects that will involve interesting people. Working on a project or task with someone is one of the best ways to develop a relationship. For example, volunteering for a nonprofit can be a great way to
get to know an organization’s influential board members.
24. E-mail is easy to send—and ignore. Yes, e-mail is quick, simple, and can be sent to anyone, anywhere. E-mail is also very easy to filter out and ignore. If you really want to meet someone, then do not be afraid to pick up the phone, propose a video chat, or arrange a face-to-face meeting. These communication channels are usually less crowded and more personal, which means that your message will be more memorable. E-mail can
be a great tool, but do not be afraid to mix it up.
Take the First Step: Reach Out
You do not need to be a master to start building your network. Just taking a moment to reach out is a big step that will help most people. Sharing useful information and connecting likeminded people are simple actions that everyone will appreciate. Focus on being useful and do not make networking harder than it has to be.
(Link to the article: https://www.atanet.org/chronicle/feature_article_nov_dec2011.php )
About Rachel's blog, Turkish Dynamite!:
I love absolutely everything about language, and languages: learning and studying them, their evolution and history, their anthropological significance…linguistics and language acquisition…proto-languages, ancient languages, modern languages…. And so this blog is not only about translation, the translation industry and business but also about all those things and so much more. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it!