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getting direct clients
Thread poster: Francesca moletta

Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 18:05
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 26, 2003

Hello dear colleagues,

do you have any suggestion on how to get direct clients?
I'm really fed up with agencies not paying me and cheating on me!
Do think direct clients are more honest? What's your experience?

I sent my cv to hundreds of firms (via their websites) but I only got 2 miserable "responses". I hope they will work!

They gave me some jobs this month ... but maybe it was just a case (moreover,I don't know if they're going to pay me!).

To whom should I send my cv?
Marketing department, communication ...?

For example: in a firm producing home appliances, who should be in charge of manuals translation?

Need some suggestions, thx

Francesca


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:05
English to German
+ ...
What do you have to offer? Nov 26, 2003

Hi Francesca,
With all due respect, what I'm missing in your post is a sense of respect for and appreciation of your potential customers.

You may want to start with putting yourself in the place of someone who you're trying to convince that he/she should buy your services:

- Is your communication customised - or does any of the "hundreds of firms" realise immediately that your message was sent to hundreds?

- Do you actively market your services (explaining the way you work, highlighting your areas of specialisation, stressing your USPs) - or do you simply "send your CV"? (Remember that someone purchasing your services isn't overly interested which university you went to, but what you have to offer.)

- Does your communication reflect that you conducted research in the target company's business?

- If you send electronic messages, do you attach your documentation as a PDF file, or in the body of your e-mail? (Remember that any MS Word document from an unknown source is a potential source of macro viruses - guess what happens to these messages...)

I get a fair amount of applications, CVs, etc. myself, and I'm continuously baffled by the sheer lack of effort people invest in what must constitute an essential part of their marketing. For instance, if someone praises his/her skills in medical and technical translations, I know immediately that they didn't even bother to look at our website (which clearly states our specialisation on financials...).

Finally, an important aspect to bear in mind when dealing with direct customers (particularly corporates) is that you should be prepared for their question as to how you're set to handle larger jobs, within a short period of time.

Good luck, and best regards,
Ralf


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Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Local time: 18:05
German to Romanian
+ ...
I agree with Ralf Nov 26, 2003

Ralf Lemster wrote:

With all due respect, what I'm missing in your post is a sense of respect for and appreciation of your potential customers.



Exactly what I've seen in your post.
Just imagine the reaction of those two companies who sent you the "miserable responses" (which I don't understand why were miserable, if they sent you work), if they see your opinion of them.
Maybe you should start by brushing up your social skills.
I've been working over the Internet for almost two years now, and no agency has cheated on me so far.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
German to English
+ ...
Agencies and end customers Nov 26, 2003

There are good agencies and bad, just as there are good end customers and bad. If you repeatedly fall victim to bad agencies, you're probably presenting yourself as inexperienced (whether you are or not) and looking like easy prey to the bad apples (how's that for a mixed metaphor).

You need to find out who to contact in the company, i.e. who is responsible for commissioning translation work: you've already figured that. Why not just phone the companies and ask?

Marc


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mbc
Spain
Local time: 18:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
ups and downs Nov 26, 2003

Hi Molly, I work in Spain and I try to work directly with clients because many agencies here pay 3 euro cents a word...and well after taxes that´s highway robbery!
Direct clients have always paid me, but I have to wait 60 and sometimes 90 days, with an agency I never felt bad pressuring for pay after 30 days, but if you pressure a client they might look for an agency who can afford to wait the three months...
However,they do put pay better rates. I´m not sure if it works that way in Italy.

Best of luck to you and even though some Proz were a bit harsh about the language you used in your post, I think you just sound frustrated and I totally understand how you feel. But keep in mind I´ve emailed my CV to clients who don´t call for 6 months and then one day they send a great project.

Regards,
Madeline


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Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 18:05
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thx Nov 26, 2003

Hi Francesca,
With all due respect, what I'm missing in your post is a sense of respect for and appreciation of your potential customers.

You may want to start with putting yourself in the place of someone who you're trying to convince that he/she should buy your services:

- Is your communication customised - or does any of the "hundreds of firms" realise immediately that your message was sent to hundreds?

>> my communication is customised: I make references to their sector and name.

- Do you actively market your services (explaining the way you work, highlighting your areas of specialisation, stressing your USPs) - or do you simply "send your CV"? (Remember that someone purchasing your services isn't overly interested which university you went to, but what you have to offer.)

>> No,I don't simply send my cv. I stress on my specialisation, skills, and on the advantage of working with a freelance translator vs agency. I didn't mention the way I work ... (thanks for your suggestion!). I know they're not that interested in studies.

- Does your communication reflect that you conducted research in the target company's business?

>> Well ... I say I've read they sell their products in Italy;

- If you send electronic messages, do you attach your documentation as a PDF file, or in the body of your e-mail? (Remember that any MS Word document from an unknown source is a potential source of macro viruses - guess what happens to these messages...)

>> I know that's problem! At the beginning I attached my cv as a PDF, but some people told me they couldn't open it. Do you suggest me to put my cv in the body of my e-mail?

I get a fair amount of applications, CVs, etc. myself, and I'm continuously baffled by the sheer lack of effort people invest in what must constitute an essential part of their marketing. For instance, if someone praises his/her skills in medical and technical translations, I know immediately that they didn't even bother to look at our website (which clearly states our specialisation on financials...).

>> Sorry if I said "miserable" (maybe I'm not fully aware of its connotation in English); I didn't mean to.

Finally, an important aspect to bear in mind when dealing with direct customers (particularly corporates) is that you should be prepared for their question as to how you're set to handle larger jobs, within a short period of time.

Good luck, and best regards,
Ralf[/quote]

Thanks Ralf!


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Other suggestions Nov 26, 2003

Hi Francesca,

I see you are speaking French, too.
So you might be interested in a recent thread about exactly the same question in the French forum:

http://www.proz.com/topic/16148

HTH,
Harry


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 11:05
Spanish to English
Great oaks from little acorns grow Nov 26, 2003

I personally find agencies easier to work for than the end customer, but then again I haven't yet had a problem of not being paid by any of them.

But what I wanted to say is that two small jobs from two separate companies could well grow into nearly full-time work. It takes time to build up a clientele.
Be patient and don't dispair


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:05
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
There are good agencies and bad direct clients Nov 26, 2003

Dear Francesca,

I hear the frustration in your tone and it is understandable. Been there, done that. Hang in there; it takes time to build up a clientele. It took me 3 years to build up my clientele.
This is what my experience is:
- I found out that it does not bring a lot of jobs to send out your CV to many companies. If they do not have work, they may even be annoyed that you bother them with
a letter and CV.
- Here I would suggest for you to check the ProZ jobs and if there is something in your language pairs (from an agency or direct client), send them your personalized letter and CV.
- Please make sure that you get a proper PO and work contract if it is an agency. The good ones always do; they send it to you before you start the job. If they don't, ask and do not start without it. Make sure that all is well on the contract and/or PO. If need be, have a legal person read it with you. After doing that once or twice you yourself will know what to look for. Pay especially attention to the payment period - 30 days after the job is delivered and the invoice is sent is proper. I even live with 45 days, but not much longer.

- With direct clients you will most likely not get a PO but insist on a contract. Send me an email and I will forward you a good sample one that I use. YOu will this out and have them return it to you signed. By fax and then sending the original in the mail has always worked for me.

- You will encounter good as well as bad agencies and good as well as bad clients. Cherish the good ones. They are your livelyhood. In these years I have only had one agency that did not pay me and it was one that I did not have a PO from or sent a contract to. Yes. stupid me!
- Sit and think carefully about your rates, for general jobs, so much a word, for specialized, so much a word and then stick by it. Do negotiate a bit of a discount for longer projects where you know that you will earn quite a bit.
- If you come across as unsure when quoting prices, unscrupulous agencies might wish to take advantage of you because they think that you are inexperienced.
- Insist on an advance for larger projects or divide the payment up in parts along the duration of the project.

Good luck and do not give up!
Lucinda


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Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 18:05
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks everybody Nov 26, 2003

thanks everybody (especially Lucinda Hollenberg) for your precious suggestions!

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Jeremy Smith  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:05
French to English
+ ...
Good direct clients = translator's Holy Grail Nov 27, 2003

Direct clients are obviously a better deal than agencies - the trick, as you rightly say, is finding them.

I've just started out as a freelancer myself. I've just finished my marketing to agencies, which basically consisted of the same e-mail being sent to many hundreds of agencies, with perhaps only minor changes in the occasional e-mail.

Now I'm moving on to the second phase in my marketing plan - those elusive direct clients. This is a whole different kettle of fish. Each potential customer will receive a brochure detailing my services, along with a stripped down "service provider" CV. Like another commenter said, the recipient of your mail at Joe Bloggs Electronics Company Ltd. isn't going to be even remotely interested where you went to school. He wants to know how fast, accurate and competitive you can be in your service.

I'm only a novice at this game, like I said, but a couple of strategies that I think may bear fruit are:
- target companies that have little or no translated material on offer for their international customers to see.
- target potential clients whose translated webpages/marketing material has been poorly translated. Point out the dreadful errors in their material (in the nicest possible way, of course), and demonstrate that you could do a much better job.
All this will take a while, so keep pestering the agencies for work too. But you already knew that, I'm sure.

Good luck, from a fellow struggler!

[Edited at 2003-11-27 00:02]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:05
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Try publishers also Nov 27, 2003

Nowadays, if someone wants to sell technical products in the EU with the CE-mark attached he/she needs instructions in the target language. So most producers work with agencies, which can provide services for the 11 or 15 languages in the EU or broader EU of the near future. A single translator can not do that.
So better contact big agencies. Try to find out who they are.
Not all translation work is done by translation agencies. My most important client is a firm, which does the publishing of technical manuals for a big producer of specialised equipment (part of Siemens). They handle all EU-languages with freelance translators, but befor publishing the files are proofread by local representatives in the target countries.
Good clients pay well, after all the part of the translator is only a small fraction of the costs of a finnished manual!


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Thomas Magnuson
Canada
Local time: 09:05
English to Japanese
+ ...
Just my 2 yen about getting direct clients Nov 27, 2003

...I'd say, above all else, be patient!

But other than that, you could also try:

- joining some kind of social / political / culture group that has nothing whatsoever to do with translation, but does have a good mix of people from professions which (even possibly) may sometime need something translated. Then just schmooze...press the flesh, have some fun, but leave a few business cards scattered around just in case that sometime happens to come around.

- the above, but on the internet (this can be boring, though)

- be unreasonably nice to the direct clients you have. Eventually, you'll find that this translates (sorry about the pun) into more directs through word of mouth.

Oh...And about sending CV's to agencies...
I think what Ralph said was absolutely on the mark, to the 187th power. I also get the odd CV, & it really turns me off when I can tell someone hasn't really took a good read through my site.
One other thing I might add too - be really careful about making sure your use of language in the email itself is correct, and polite. (This is a no brainer, but it's surprising how many people's mail has the odd boo-boo or really LOUD capitalization in it...'Kind of like an applicant for a dental hygenist job showing up with grimy teeth.)

Anyways, sorry for writing a book here but I hope it helps. Good luck!


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 18:05
Swedish to English
+ ...
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money Nov 27, 2003

It strikes me that the biggest problem facing translators is making potential clients aware of the value adding factor of a professional translation. Correct? Many companies figure that a secretary or co-worker who impresses everyone with his/her language skills can translate just as well, and heck, they 'save all that money'. Right?

The same thing applies for other professionals, as is in evidence here. Unless you have hands-on experience of advertising, or at least some type of schooling in advertising, chances are you're not going to get it right. That's why we have professionals, even in this area. Why not contact a local, small-sized agency, maybe someone just starting out, and get professional help. An advertising consultant can clearly define what factors are important to potential clients and prepare a professional presentation - a professional will know what to include and how to get clients' attention - a professional is interested in your satisfaction and you won't be satisfied unless you get results so you will probably get better results than if you try to 'save all that money' by doing it yourself.

Sometimes you just have to spend money to make money.

Good luck!


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Francesca moletta
Italy
Local time: 18:05
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thaaaanksss Nov 27, 2003

thank you everybody!
I have already used "bad translated site" strategy ... some results have come up.
I have also used the "nice site: do you want me to be translate it into Italian?" strategy > to hundreds of companies ... just one result (I translated their site and I did some other translations). The fact is that I always "feel" their are not going to be REAL future clients!
Maybe I'm not patient enough.
I KNOW THAT'S MY PROBLEM!!!
Anyway: yes... to make money, you have to spend money (that's right). So I will start calling potential clients (all abroad, because in Italy people need translations into foreign languages in 90% of the cases -not into italian) and asking who is incharged with translation matters!
I already work with a big agency that does manuals in 7437 languages and all that staff: the "little" problem is that ... they don't pay!
Bye


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