This is a guest post by Neil Payne.
Being a freelance translator is tough. I know. I only lasted 3 months before changing tact having completed an MA including translation many moons ago.
Among the various trials faced by a freelance translator is the challenge of finding new opportunities when starting out in the career or when old wells run dry.
Without question one of the more difficult tasks is catching an agency’s attention due to the competition.
There are various means of differentiating yourself from the crowd such as your costs, subject specialisations, use of MT and of course the quality of your work. However, many of these means can only be adopted or used once work has been secured, i.e. they don’t necessarily help you get noticed above tens or hundreds of others competing with you.
One approach adopted by very few is that of Customer Experience (a.k.a. CX). CX is all about how you make customers, established or potential, feel – the emotional impact you have on a client, how you connect with them and what associations they draw with you.
Simply put, many translators do not offer a good Customer Experience when soliciting work from agencies; or one could also say that the experience offered is standard – i.e. the vast majority of translators will send a translation agency an email with a CV, maybe with some samples attached.
Think about what sort of experience this gives the person receiving that email? I can tell you having run a translation agency that is it hard work! The emphasis is placed on the Project Manager or Resourcing team to try and identify what sort of fit you would be for their organisation. Unfortunately, I am sure a lot of good translators don’t find work due to this experience.
So, what can be done differently I hear you asking? Well, this is exactly the point – you must do something different! Try to think of other means and ways of catching an agency’s eye but using the Customer Experience approach to inform your strategy.
For one, don’t send an email! Well not at first anyway. Try and think of other methods of making contact that best reflect you, your services, personality, skills and offering – that may be picking up the phone, making a video about yourself, creating an awesome presentation or producing a stunning piece of work the agency might use as part of its marketing collateral. There are lots of creative and impactful ways of introducing yourself other than an email.
If you have an agency in mind that you want to target, consider other ways of bringing yourself to their attention as opposed to the more direct ‘I want translation work’ approach cited above. For example, write a blog about a topic in which you can mention the target organisation or quote them; make sure they come across it via social media and you’ve completely changed their experience as to who and what you are! You are no longer one of many translators, you are also someone who can offer them an advocate with other skills and benefits.
Touch and feel have an incredible impact on the brain and on association. Using physical and sensual means of establishing a connection with a translation agency or their staff can be a fun and innovative way of sowing the seeds of a relationship. Think about things like quality postcards, chocolates, games, puzzles, fruit, smelly treats or things that may make the whole office laugh, share or talk. Profiling your potential customers will help you identify things that you can use to resonate with them and develop a positive association with your name.
Exploring Customer Experience can offer freelance translators fresh and alternative ideas for approaching new clients. Thinking differently, exploring alternatives to standard practices and concentrating on the emotional impact you can have are three very simple yet stunningly effective ways of standing out from the crowd.
Neil Payne started his career as an English teacher in the Middle East before attempting and failing to become a freelance Turkish to English translator. The failure let to him setting up a successful translation agency which he ran for 12 years before leaving the industry. He now runs a niche cultural awareness training company, Commisceo Global, as well as spending far too much time in the greenhouse.