How to market to direct clients
Thread poster: Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Dec 10, 2009

I am not sure whether this topic has already been started before (after a quick search, I could not find anything here), but I believe that it is becoming more and more important for me to start marketing myself to direct clients, instead of working all the time for agencies, as it is been happening so far.

Since I have absolutely no experience in marketing to direct and local clients, especially here in U.S., I would really appreciate any kind of suggestions from colleague whose portfolio includes direct clients.

Thanks in advance
Giuseppina


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:47
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Please remember about business risk when marketing to direct clients Dec 10, 2009

Hi Giuseppina,

If you are looking for direct clients, they will most likely be the ones in your local community, so you need a conspicuous telephone book entry maybe, and otherwise you need to become visible in your community. For example, going to a lot of clubs or meetings and getting to know people locally could potentially bring you clients.

I have one or two direct clients, and some of them have had payment difficulties this year. I have also taken on one or two new direct clients in recent times, only to find out later that at least one of them was not capable of paying at all, and had not been in a position to pay at all also at the time of placing the order.

Some thought that I gave to the matter led me to the conclusion that, in the present economic climate, it would only be practical to market to direct clients if one were able to afford the high annual fee to a credit reference agency, to have access to the information that they provide about clients' creditworthiness in advance of accepting an order.

I have therefore developed a policy of charging all direct clients in advance. However, many of them will not agree to it - even though, a few minutes later, they will be clicking a button somewhere on the Internet to buy a book or a CD which they will have to pay for in advance, before it is despatched.

Good luck with your attempts at marketing to direct clients, nevertheless. I hope you will be luckier than I have been in recent times regarding creditworthiness issues.

Best regards,

Astrid


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
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We did have this one not long ago Dec 11, 2009

http://www.proz.com/forum/being_independent/148618-how_to_find_more_direct_clients.html

Good luck!


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:47
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An alternative to Astrid's approach Dec 11, 2009

I second all of the concerns Astrid has mentioned. But an alternative to advance payment that might be more amenable to the client while also protecting your interests would be requiring "fee in advance of delivery." What this means is that you can agree to do the work with the understanding that the client will send you the payment (i.e., in a guaranteed form) prior to your delivering the work. I have not had any client balk at these terms.

These arrangements work only for smaller jobs (which I would define as $500 or less; most of the work I get from direct clients falls well within that range). For any amount more than this, I ask for a certain percentage of money upfront, and the rest "in advance of delivery."


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:47
Spanish to English
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Something upfront Dec 11, 2009

I have always asked for a percentage in advance from new direct clients and freelance translation brokers. Nobody has yet refused. I believe that if a company, or individual, is prepared to pay something in advance then they are a good credit risk.

However, if the company is well established or state supported then I do not ask for anything upfront.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:47
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Conventions Dec 11, 2009

Giuseppina Gatta, MA wrote:
Since I have absolutely no experience in marketing to direct and local clients, especially here in U.S., I would really appreciate any kind of suggestions from colleague whose portfolio includes direct clients.


My portfolio doesn't include too many direct clients, but since you're in Las Vegas, why not try the conventions route for finding direct clients? There must be dozens of convention centres in Las Vegas, holding national and international conventions every week.

On the one hand you can approach potential clients at these conventions and hand them your card/brochure, but on the other hand many of these events publish a list of their exhibitors several weeks or months in advance, so you can contact the exhibitors to translate some of their materials.

It may also be an idea to cultivate relationships with local print shops so that you're able to help an exhibitor who is already in Las Vegas and needs a poster or banner for his booth or stall quickly, so that you can be of such assistance.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:47
Member (2002)
German to English
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Does it make a difference to the client if you have the product ready to send when they pay? Dec 11, 2009

I realise that there may be a psychological difference between making them pay before you start and making them pay once you have the product ready to send them. However, they still have to part with the money before they get it, so it cannot make much financial difference to them. Also, if they do not then send you the money, and you therefore cannot send them the product, you have still then wasted your time doing the job - even if they do not receive it. Would this be a better risk, nevertheless, than giving them credit?

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:47
German to English
+ ...
Trusting direct clients for payment Dec 11, 2009

In my 18 years of freelancing I have only had about half a dozen jobs where the client did not pay. All of these were direct clients, but compared with the number of direct clients that I work for, the effect has not been dramatic (and the last payment defaulter was about 5 years ago).

I am happy to work for new direct clients on my normal payment terms. For private persons (who come to me for private documents such as birth or marriage certificates) I usually take cash on delivery, but for commercial direct clients I usually state on the invoice that payment is 30 days net or 14 days with 3% discount.

I also tend to trust my "gut feeling", and I generally check on the Internet that the company has a plausible business identity, but I have not yet done any credit checks or demanded advance payment. The only credit checks I do are related to agencies (where I generally look at the BlueBoard and other sources).


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:47
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Astrid Dec 11, 2009

1.
In short: yes. Perhaps it is mainly a psychological difference, but it shows that I am willing to do the work prior to getting paid, so there is more of a "balancing of risks." It is important to remember in all of these cases that the client and I have never before dealt with one another. So some give and take is, I think, appropriate, provided that...

2.
...the job in question is relatively short (as I stated in my original post). All of my work involving direct clients involves some urgently needed personal document (e.g., translation of school transcripts, marriage certificate, etc.). In such circumstances, it is highly unlikely that the client would tell me after I've finished the translation that they did not need or want the translation, or that they were unable to pay for it. So I am comfortable taking such a risk. But if the work involves more than $500.00 or so, then I would ask for some money up front (with the percentage depending on the time/difficulty of the work involved, my intangible "feeling" about the creditworthiness of the customer etc.). I don't think I would every ask for less than 15%, and might ask for as much as 50%.

3.
Another thing I would consider doing to put a customer at their ease, and in situations where I thought there was a high risk involved, would be to require at least half of the money up front, but to explicitly assure them that I would not cash the bank draft/withdraw the money from PayPal, etc. until the work was completed, and that I would return all or part of the money in the event that circumstances prevented me from completing the work within the stated deadline.

******

So, a number of options. But as an independent operator, I think it important to assure that I am not in a position where I have to chase down people for money. I don't have the time or resources to do this, and we all know that contracting collection agencies means having to give them a big chunk of whatever is collected--if indeed they are able to collect anything!

As Victor states, I don't have a problem delivering prior to payment in instances of a business, law firm, etc. with a verifiable identity.

[Edited at 2009-12-11 12:37 GMT]


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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dec 11, 2009

Thanks everybody for your suggestions. At this stage I am not terribly concerned about payments and solvency of direct clients, since I believe my first problem is "How to get direct clients".

Furthermore, I have had direct clients in Italy (where, as for payment policies, generally speaking, everything is much worse than where I am now), and I never had a problem with payment, since they always paid on delivery and/or I decided payment methods and timings.

As for the conventions in Las Vegas, you cannot just "walk in" there, as far as I know, but I will further investigate this matter.

I was hoping to receive some general suggestions, based on experiences, on how to gain direct clients.


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