Best way to approach potential direct clients?
Thread poster: Olav Rixen

Olav Rixen
Canada
Local time: 07:22
English to German
+ ...
Apr 10, 2007

Hi all,

I've been working as a freelance translator in Germany for over 6 years now, but so far exclusively for translation agencies. I have recently bought myself a list of German mid-sized companies doing business with companies in English-speaking countries. Now I'm ready to contanct these and offer my services, but I'm not sure which approach would be the most promising. The questions I ask myself are these:

Is a letter sent by mail more likely to get a response tha
... See more
Hi all,

I've been working as a freelance translator in Germany for over 6 years now, but so far exclusively for translation agencies. I have recently bought myself a list of German mid-sized companies doing business with companies in English-speaking countries. Now I'm ready to contanct these and offer my services, but I'm not sure which approach would be the most promising. The questions I ask myself are these:

Is a letter sent by mail more likely to get a response than an e-mail? Who within the company should I address my letter to? So far I only got the names of the CEOs. What particular points in the cover letter are more likely to get a positive response?

Basically I'm asking for the benefit of your experience. When you first contacted potential direct clients, what approach did you take and which was the most successful? I would be very grateful for any suggestions.

Olav
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Maxi Inge
Local time: 10:22
German to English
+ ...
phone + follow-up Apr 10, 2007

Hi Olav,

I was once given invaluable advice by a colleague, albeit for approaching agencies. 1. First you phone, speak to the appropriate person if possible, ask if they would be interested in your services/receiving your info. If yes, to whom should it be addressed, in what form would they like it to be sent, is there any info. in particular they would like you to include. 2. You send the info, referring back to the phone conversation so they know that "they" requested the info
... See more
Hi Olav,

I was once given invaluable advice by a colleague, albeit for approaching agencies. 1. First you phone, speak to the appropriate person if possible, ask if they would be interested in your services/receiving your info. If yes, to whom should it be addressed, in what form would they like it to be sent, is there any info. in particular they would like you to include. 2. You send the info, referring back to the phone conversation so they know that "they" requested the info. 3. Possibly a single follow-up 2 - 3 weeks later, whether the info. was received.

Maxi
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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
Italian to English
Patience and stamina required Apr 10, 2007

Hi Olav

I've been through this exercise and found it both labour intensive and rather disheartening. The response rate is miniscule - as we were warned it would be - to the extent that you have to question the economics of the expenditure on postage and stationery, not to mention man-hours.
However, although I'm not speaking from a position of success, my advice is:
The benefit of sending something by post is that it may get put in a relevant file for future use. This
... See more
Hi Olav

I've been through this exercise and found it both labour intensive and rather disheartening. The response rate is miniscule - as we were warned it would be - to the extent that you have to question the economics of the expenditure on postage and stationery, not to mention man-hours.
However, although I'm not speaking from a position of success, my advice is:
The benefit of sending something by post is that it may get put in a relevant file for future use. This is more likely if you send a brochure or at least a flyer; the covering letter should be quite short - no one has time to read anything longer.
Concentrate on smaller and newer companies; large companies use purchasing departments to search for people when they need them, cold calls get binned (here I speak from experience in large companies).
Do your research on company websites; it may indicate future strategy. Otherwise, make an educated guess about the potential for foreign trade and which official is most likely to be involved.
Address them by name; evidence of prior research always makes a better impression; you may have chosen the wrong person but your letter is more likely to be redirected - ask the recipient to pass it on if appropriate.
Any successes we have had have arisen months or years after the initial approach. You need patience.
Best of luck.
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Claire Titchmarsh (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:22
Italian to English
+ ...
Why bother? Apr 10, 2007

Hi Olav

I'm inclined to agree with Russell. The grass is not always greener. In my case I have someone who makes the calls for me but not just for my language pairs, we can offer a wider service. Out of every 100 calls, 10 are interested, 2 or 3 have followed up and we now have about 10-15 regular clients from cold calling, including one local authority which sounds good on the CV but is the biggest nightmare of all when it comes to getting paid. Like agencies, not all private clien
... See more
Hi Olav

I'm inclined to agree with Russell. The grass is not always greener. In my case I have someone who makes the calls for me but not just for my language pairs, we can offer a wider service. Out of every 100 calls, 10 are interested, 2 or 3 have followed up and we now have about 10-15 regular clients from cold calling, including one local authority which sounds good on the CV but is the biggest nightmare of all when it comes to getting paid. Like agencies, not all private clients pay well, or on time, and with privates you have the headache of chasing them up for payment.

My 2 eurocents' worth: unless you're a go-getting marketing type who loves the hard sell, forget the direct approach and look for better-paying more efficient agencies.
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Jenns (X)
Local time: 08:22
English to French
+ ...
Email Jun 1, 2007

I think everyone these days must do things by email or you are going to find yourself left behind. Sometimes people ask me to a mail an invoice and I am not sure why with emailing PDF or faxing etc.

 

Frédéric Saouzanet
France
Local time: 16:22
English to French
Market yourself Jul 4, 2007

Hi,
All I did was posting ads on many sites and it works, once you state that you are a professional translator, show that you have a website... you will be receiving calls from clients. Many still find you too expensive but at least they are interested by your service and you have time to explain them what you exactly do.
So far- I started last year as a freelancer- I have 2 important direct clients. The first one is a bilingual magazine and the other one an association from my home
... See more
Hi,
All I did was posting ads on many sites and it works, once you state that you are a professional translator, show that you have a website... you will be receiving calls from clients. Many still find you too expensive but at least they are interested by your service and you have time to explain them what you exactly do.
So far- I started last year as a freelancer- I have 2 important direct clients. The first one is a bilingual magazine and the other one an association from my hometown and I have earned approximately 7000€ in a year with them.
Besides, it is much easier to negociate your rates with direct clients than with agencies who always have "tight budgets"!!
Good luck
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Radica Schenck  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:22
English to Macedonian
+ ...
no cold calls, no blind emailing Jul 16, 2007

Well, there are quite many things you might do to approach direct clients, but most important it is: What is your target group? Best is to meet them, either through specialised conferences, lectures, etc. Could think of many modes of approaching, if they are in need of translators, they are happy when they know someone and don't have to make time-consuming searches... but careful...

cold calls and "blind" emailing might get you into trouble here in Germany, as contrary to law... (s.
... See more
Well, there are quite many things you might do to approach direct clients, but most important it is: What is your target group? Best is to meet them, either through specialised conferences, lectures, etc. Could think of many modes of approaching, if they are in need of translators, they are happy when they know someone and don't have to make time-consuming searches... but careful...

cold calls and "blind" emailing might get you into trouble here in Germany, as contrary to law... (s. UWG 2004 § 7 Unzumutbare Belästigungen - can send you the text if you like)

Good luck,

R.
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wonita (X)
China
Local time: 11:22
Try the "Gelbeseite" Aug 6, 2007

Olav Rixen wrote:

Hi all,

I've been working as a freelance translator in Germany for over 6 years now, but so far exclusively for translation agencies. I have recently bought myself a list of German mid-sized companies doing business with companies in English-speaking countries. Now I'm ready to contanct these and offer my services, but I'm not sure which approach would be the most promising. The questions I ask myself are these:

Is a letter sent by mail more likely to get a response than an e-mail? Who within the company should I address my letter to? So far I only got the names of the CEOs. What particular points in the cover letter are more likely to get a positive response?

Basically I'm asking for the benefit of your experience. When you first contacted potential direct clients, what approach did you take and which was the most successful? I would be very grateful for any suggestions.

Olav




Hi Olaf,

Have you tried the Yellow Pages in your area?

I got my first direct client through the Yellow Pages, who turned out to be my biggest client so far. I bought an entry in the Yellow Pages with 3 fat lines at the price of 200 Euro (roughly) at the end of 2004. Nine months later, my client, a technical writer, made a call for a big translation project.

I personally believe the Yellow Page is a platform, which puts you, a service provider, and your client, who needs your service, at the same height. You are valued and respected as a translator; Whereas when making direct contact, I feel more or less I am prostituting myself to get a job.

Once I got an interpretating job through a local agency for the court in a nearby area. After I finished this job, I asked the person in charge why he hadn't contacted me directly, because my language pair could be easily found in the yellow pages as well as the translation agency, for which I had worked. The answer I got went:"We always contact this agency for interpreters."

Big companies or government offices normally have fixed translation agencies as their partner, which can offer them translation service in any language pair at any time. They are not so interested in freelance translators.

Best,
Bin


 

Neil Kendall (X)
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
Spanish to English
Translator question? Sep 11, 2019

I have recently bought myself a list of German mid-sized companies doing business with companies in English-speaking countries.


Where can I buy lists of foreign companies (in my case, Spanish) who do business with companies in English-speaking companies?

And how did your strategy work out for you?


 

Inez Ulrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:22
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
Direct approach May 12

I'd be interested if any of you turned to a more direct approach in times of corona. A colleague mentioned she does it now, but not how she does it.

I'm curious, because clearly workload has gone down tremendously which has never been the case since years now, and I need to get more jobs (as probably many of us do).


Tom in London
 

Yolande Hivart
Austria
Local time: 16:22
Member (2016)
German to French
The other way round May 12

In my experience this is next to useless to do mass mailing. Apart from a thank you before dusting into the bin this is the only reaction. Not worth the postage costs and the energy required to find the adresses and contact partners etc. Stay away from paid listings too, this is more than annoying.
The direct clients are only receptive when they need someone.
You should ensure you are there where they look for when they need someone. It can take time - sometimes months or years.
... See more
In my experience this is next to useless to do mass mailing. Apart from a thank you before dusting into the bin this is the only reaction. Not worth the postage costs and the energy required to find the adresses and contact partners etc. Stay away from paid listings too, this is more than annoying.
The direct clients are only receptive when they need someone.
You should ensure you are there where they look for when they need someone. It can take time - sometimes months or years.
I never got a client from the yellow pages - at least in my branch of activity - although the add resellers love to promise best rankings etc.
Some of my clients came from referenced listings, for instance from the embassy or someone who knows someone who knows someone, as well as being referenced from colleagues of other languages where I did some networking.
Helping some people out of a catastrophic situation got me some clients too.
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
Member (2008)
Italian to English
People you know May 12

Go through people you know. You must know people. Cast your mind back to maybe years ago, to people you might even have forgotten or had not connected to what you're doing now.

Partly because of the lockdown I recently made contact with an couple of old acquaintances in Italy who I haven't seen for 35 years. Apart from the mutual pleasure of finding one another again, this has created a potential new line of inquiry in my search to make contact with direct clients.

I t
... See more
Go through people you know. You must know people. Cast your mind back to maybe years ago, to people you might even have forgotten or had not connected to what you're doing now.

Partly because of the lockdown I recently made contact with an couple of old acquaintances in Italy who I haven't seen for 35 years. Apart from the mutual pleasure of finding one another again, this has created a potential new line of inquiry in my search to make contact with direct clients.

I think that if your ambition (like mine) is to get away from agencies and establish links with direct clients, you need to take the personal approach so that you end up working directly with the author of the text you are translating. This is so much more rewarding !
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