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Acquisition a real weakness
Thread poster: GeorginaW
GeorginaW  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:37
German to English
Jun 27, 2008

I've been freelancing successfully as an editor and translator for ten years now and suddenly my business has gone into a dip. I know part of the problem is me - I am doing an English Literature degree via distance learning which is quite distracting, but the main problem is my pathological inability to ring up/approach a client and remind them of my existence. I am really unprofessional in this area - how can I give myself a kick start?

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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:37
English to Dutch
+ ...
Non-personal Jun 27, 2008

If by 'pathological inablility' you mean that you don't like to personally 'sell' your services, than you should find some methods that are less personal.

A few ideas:
- Build a nice-looking, relevant website and add the URL to your business cards and correspondence. Some people here on ProZ add their URL every time they say so much as 'hi' in the forums...

- Write a good CV (updated!) and add descriptions of recent/major projects. Then write a nice, but short accompanying letter and send it out. Whether you do this on paper or e-mail is entirely up to you, but if you do it by e-mail, make sure you don't send them as mass e-mails. Address people using their name, if possible.

- Yellow Pages? Google ads?

Good luck!

P.S. This works best for new clients, but the first two options are useful for your existing clients as well. Send them a note saying something along the lines of: updated information available, check out my new website (with proper enthusiasm, of course). Add some info about your availabilty during the summer (holidays, vacation). Any excuse is good enough, as long as it looks good and professional.
I've even seen 'newsletters' from companies about their recent activities that were obviously meant to remind customers of their existence, but made a good impression anyway.

[Edited at 2008-06-27 08:12]

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:37
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Remind them in a way that doesn't sound like desperation Jun 27, 2008

Why don't you compile a group address list of all your clients, and send something like "This is to notify all concerned that I have returned from holiday and am now available for work." This would remind them of your existence without sounding desperate.

[Edited at 2008-06-27 08:04]

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Pompeo Lattanzi
Local time: 20:37
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't be shy Jun 27, 2008

I suffer from the same "illness", I hate telephones and I hate trying to convince a Client he can get a better and cheaper job by choosing me.
Yet 30 years in business have taught me that Customers won't even think about their needs until they start drowning in them. So you should think that:
1. you give them a real service they wouldn't have otherwise;
2. you get them to save money by offering a well-done job;
3. you save them from themselves by playing secretary to those who wouldn't remember to blow their own noses if left alone.
OK, so you have to "go the extra mile" and will never be rich, but I am sure being lazy and getting rich are not your primary objectives anyway. And finally, my secret weapon:
Don't talk to them, WRITE!
Mailings, e-mail, website, ProZ, there is a million ways!...

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:37
Member (2003)
German to English
Better, not cheaper please Jun 27, 2008

Pompeo Lattanzi wrote:
... I hate trying to convince a Client he can get a better and cheaper job by choosing me.

I'd emphasize the "better" aspect and the ultimate savings through investing in quality and getting it right the first time. Forget "cheaper". I recently increased rates for new clients by 20%, but the grocery prices on my last shopping trip made it clear to me that more increases will be on the agenda before long.

The others are right... a good web site or profile as well as listing in certain directories can go a long way toward making active acquisition efforts unnecessary. This has a downside, however. I have a whole folder full of links and contact data for companies - potential direct customers - in my favorite areas of work, and I almost never get around to using that information, because I spend so much time responding to inquiries from the "passive" acquisition channels or doing the projects I get from these. However, I am not sure what the "trick" is for the web sites and profiles: an acquaintance of mine works in the same language pairs, has similar specialties and three times as much experience (and is in my opinion a better translator) but gets far fewer results this way. On the other hand, she has a great personal touch and has lived off enthusiastic recommendations for a few decades. I suppose this just confirms the often-repeated and obvious statement that you have to discover what works best for you and your comfort zone.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:37
English to French
+ ...
You HAVE to stay in touch Jun 27, 2008

Staying in touch or not is not a choice to make - it is a real need. You don't have the option of not reminding your clients that you are there for them. Others do contact them regularly. Why would they go into the trouble of calling you for a job when someone already came forward asking to do the job, without your client having made any effort? The result is that most jobs will go to someone else, because they were there and you weren't. Like I said, it's not an option.

Of course, ringing them up constantly can turn you into a real pain in the butt, so you need to learn to do this in a non-invasive way. One method I find works well is to send "thinking of you" mail. When you browse the web and find content that you think would be valuable to one of your clients, or when you find out about a product/solution/event/whatever you know that particular client would like to know about, write a mail containing links to the relevant websites, telling your client you thought about them when you came across the website. Also tell them briefly that you value their business and that you would love to work with them again. Similarly, if you have a website and post new content on it, let all your clients know. They will most likely take a brief look at the new content, and chances are they will remember what a good job you did last time. They may not have any work for you at that moment - but when that contract rolls in next week, you'll be top of mind and they will therefore call you before calling the others.

You may not be naturally inclined to "touch base" time after time, but nonetheless, it's a skill you can learn.

For more information, read this short and sweet article:

You may need to open a free account to have access to it...

All the best!

[Edited at 2008-06-27 17:59]

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Partial member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
A sub-contractor approach Jun 28, 2008

GeorginaW wrote:
-----I am really unprofessional in this area - how can I give myself a kick start?

If you are too shy to do marketing activity, try being a sub-contractor of a big translation agency. You may get paid cheaply but get familiarity with how business runs.
One day you can stand on your own feets. OR you may go on with being an exclusive expert without contacts with any clients.

Soonthon L.

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GeorginaW  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:37
German to English
Great support Jun 30, 2008

Thank you all for your terrific support and really helpful suggestions. I will be getting down to work this week and hoping for a super second half of the year. I know that if I came out of my hole and contacted my clients I wouldn't feel so isolated after ten years of lone freelancing either, so I'll kill two birds with one stone!

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