Proven techniques for finding direct clients
Thread poster: Dawn Montague

Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
May 24, 2007

It appears that most of us work through agencies. Although I have had good experiences with a number of agencies, I would really like to increase my number of direct clients, and it seems that the ones I have came along by chance. Do any of you have suggestions for finding direct clients that have proven successful?

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:58
English to French
+ ...
Not everybody is willing to reveal that May 24, 2007

The very few translators who work mostly for direct clients don't all want to share their technique - it seems we evolve in a very competitive market and most of us are not willing to share clients

That said, so far, I feel the best approach is to go about it the old-fashioned way. First, you need to identify who are the people/companies who may need your services AND are willing to invest in them. Then, you need to find out who is the person inside the company who takes decisions that have to do with translation - sometimes, you need to speak with the manager or director, but often, you can also try the communications/documentation department if there is one. If not, human resources also sometimes handle contracts. You need to find the right person and find out their name and how you can reach the person. Some prefer to go meet them in person, but there are companies/people who would find it rude because to some, this would be soliciting and most of us can't stand soliciting. You can also call the person and either try to meet them if you think you are charming enough to fill 15 minutes of their time with a smart sales pitch, or you can pitch over the phone, and then switch to fax/e-mail/internet. You don't necessarily have to meet the person, but I'd say it's worth trying if you have a salesperson hat and can wear it in a confident manner. After that - time will tell...

With this method, you may be trying for six months without any results and you may also end up getting three direct clients within the same month. The results will be irregular, but you will eventually get somewhere with this. The problem is that you need to find the time to track down, investigate and approach these people. If you are busy like me, chances are you will only get to do one pitch per month. But if you are determined to get direct clients and are serious about it, even a pitch a month can produce good results.

I also recommend you search the article knowledge base - there are several good articles on precisely this subject.

All the best!

[Edited at 2007-05-24 03:29]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
Reveal May 24, 2007

I work mostly with direct clients and I am willing to reveal how I did it. But you don't even want to know.

It took many, many years and word-of-mouth referrals in a market where the need was very great and poorly served.

I would not recommend that to you. You'd starve first.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:58
English to German
+ ...
Specialisation + networking May 24, 2007

Hi Dawn,
There's no secret recipe, nor does the process happen quickly, of course.

On a medium to long-term horizon, I believe one needs to specialise, and to network within the target sector of specialisation. Gaining visibility is key - one of the ways to do that is to attend seminars or conferences in your chosen sector. As a specialist translator, you're bound to attract attention at an event dealing with financial law, for example.

Best regards,
Ralf


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 06:58
French to Dutch
+ ...
Print business cards May 24, 2007

and a nice brochure. Not on an inkjet printer but have it done by someone professional. Put yourself entirely in the position of a service provider and visit trade fairs.

Just a small tip: on the phone, always talk about "we" and be positive ("of course we can do that for you").


[Bijgewerkt op 2007-05-24 07:17]


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:58
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Yes - specialisation + networking May 24, 2007

I have a few direct clients and I think it is only interesting when you are a perfect match.

This means for me that my direct clients are either into yachting or organisations that need legal documents translated.

A website which illustrates your specialty subjects certainly helps. My direct clients found me on the Internet, either through the ProZ directory or through a Google search.

I am also a member of several translator groups, to which I actively contribute.

I suppose that is about the extent of my networking activities but it yields more than sufficient results.



[Edited at 2007-05-24 13:30]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:58
Flemish to English
+ ...
Cold Calling May 24, 2007

Cold Calling and follow up (average of 5-8 calls per customer in a time-span of a week) until your interlocutor knows you by your first name may have two effects:
either: Your are being turned down.
or : You get assignements.

[Edited at 2007-05-24 16:07]


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TranslateThis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
There are many things you could do... May 24, 2007

Here are my two cents based on my own experience, in no particular order:

- Personal contacts, networking, community involvement and volunteer work (not only is it fulfilling but it also gave me the opportunity to personally meet the “right” people), referrals;
- Proven track record, great references, a polished and updated CV;
- Translators’ association membership;
- Proz.com membership + a detailed profile;
- Business cards are essential; they come in handy on numerous occasions;
- And, of course, professionalism and a positive, can-do attitude will help you get repeat business.

Best of luck!


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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:58
German to French
+ ...
Do you really do this? May 24, 2007

Williamson wrote:

Cold Calling and follow up (average of 5-8 calls per customer in a time-span of a week) until your interlocutor knows you by your first name may have two effects:
either: Your are being turned down.
or : You get assignements.

[Edited at 2007-05-24 16:07]


I hang down the phone for less than that! phew! nearly 2 unsolicited calls a day just to offer your services - and I get upset with the same call center calling for the same thing every two weeks.
I may be one of the few making that I am starting not to answer undisclosed number because call centers are wasting my precious time.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:58
Flemish to English
+ ...
Not me. May 25, 2007

No, not me. But a friend of mine active in freelance IT-does.
He just keeps ringing until somebody picks-up and he doesn't care whether the person on the other side of the line is interested. He "nags" himself into an assignment.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:58
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My direct clients May 25, 2007

Dawn Montague wrote:
I would really like to increase my number of direct clients, and it seems that the ones I have came along by chance.


Almost all of my direct clients came to me by one of two ways: my web site, and word of mouth (references from other clients or other translators). One or two of my direct clients came via my profiles at sites like Proz.com.

The problem with approaching potential direct clients is that they are not really interested unless you happen to call at the exact moment that they actually need a translation done.


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Marikarmen
Local time: 23:58
English to Spanish
Maybe a good tip May 29, 2007

I have direct clients, but what I think is important to do, is to look for foreign companies in your country which might need translations in your language, then send a letter, call or send an e-mail (be careful so the e-mail does not look like spam, and you must not send lots of mails, just those you have studied which might work, it takes time).

These companies usually need to translate manuals, brochures, minutes, contracts, etc.

Best regards to everybody

Maricarmen


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 05:58
the thing about cold-calling... May 30, 2007

...is that you have to follow up on the call by sending the prospective client your CV/brochure/rates.

I get newbies calling me every so often and it is clear that they haven't got a clue about the business and they think it is a nice way to earn a little extra pocket money.

But I'm nice on the phone; I remember what it was like when I started. So I ask them to mail me their CV and I'll pass it on.

I think, out of all those people, only one of them actually sent me their CV, but I deleted it because it was riddled with appalling typos and spelling mistakes.

In other words, they've wasted my time and their money because they didn't follow through on their promotional campaign.

At least Williamson's friend shows that it can work if you keep trying. It is not a method that is going to work for everybody. I couldn't do it, that's for sure.

Remember, they didn't ask you to call them, so make the most of the call.

Networking worked for me. Spread the word amongst your friends, put an ad in the paper or the Yellow Pages.


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Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jun 2, 2007

Thank you everyone for your responses. Most of them were very helpful. One that I got over the telephone was to be more active in and contribute more to your professional organizations - which might lead to recommendations (if your contributions are valuable).

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redred  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:58
English to Chinese
+ ...
share Jun 20, 2007

It’s pleasurable to work for a direct client, they usually put 50% deposit in advance, I always think I can’t disappoint his/her kindness when I am translating, because agencies would let me wait a few weeks.

What is the operation for direct client regarding payment? Would somebody like to share experience with me?


[Edited at 2007-06-20 07:43]


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