Best Ways to Attract Direct Customers ?
Thread poster: Evelyne Morel

Evelyne Morel  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
Member (2006)
English to French
Oct 5, 2006

Hi everyone,

I am back again after a while to ask you new questions.
I searched through the different forums in the hope to find some answers to one simple question.
How to attract direct clients ? But did not find excatly what I was looking for.

To find work, some things are easier than others:

1 - Replying to job offers (like those on proz) is easy
2 - Sending CVs to Translation Agencies is easy since you contact some people who are basically in need of translators (just have to adapt your CV according the the source language) and make sure they need your exact profile then wait for them to have some overwork and contact you.
3 – Marketing yourself by creating a personal website is not that difficult.
In my case the BIG next step in that area is to change my personal website to a much more PROFESSIONAL LOOKING site and to make sure it is visible (that people will one day or another have the opportunity to click on its link)…..something I do not quite manage yet. But I will learn and it will come.

So I come now to THE question:
How did you attract Direct Clients ?

Let’s take a concrete situation:

You have decided like me that you wanted to attract direct clients because:

1 – Replying to job offers is never a guarantee to have work on a regular basis (and the type of work you want)

2 – Working for agencies is interesting but of course you understand that without any intermediary you would earn more

So like me you have thought of it and you have come to the conclusion that:

1 – You know the type of business you want to target (let’s say Transport companies)

2 – You have selected one area (let’s say UK)

3 – You have found all the necessary information on the web (yellow pages, internet….) to have all the contact details of quite a lot of companies that would be interested by your services (or you assume so).

So the real questions are ?

How to make sure the information you will send them (by EMAIL) will be looked at and taken care of ?

How to make sure you will have them contact you ?

Should you call them first in order to have more information and know if they regularly need the type of work you provide, who you should contact in that case in order to be sure to reach the right person in the right department (of course, if you do so for each company, your budget for marketing yourself is going to blow !)

So as Sylver said once (the golden tips provider), when it comes to communication, the Volume is more important than Quality.

Does this mean you should send the advertised presentation of your skills by mail to the main email address you find on the website of the company ????

Well, if you could give me some useful tips on how you (experienced translators) did it, it would be priceless…..Thanks

Waiting for your replies…….



Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Optimise your site Oct 5, 2006

Hi Evelyne,

You wrote: "Marketing yourself by creating a personal website is not that difficult." I think you're wrong but don't wait and try to create a professional website as soon as you can anyway.

Maybe you should get rid of the beautiful but unreadable font. Give a meaningful title to all your pages. Good for Google and your clients. Make a website in English, Spanish, Italian and French. In every language, also create a special page to describe your specialities, and use all the keywords your clients would use to find you in Google.

If you want to be found by a (direct) client searching for: translator French English transport, make sure those words figure on a page of your site. Use alternative terms too, like automotive, trucks, trains, cars, manual, transportation, full-time, freelance etc.

These days, direct clients just google for a translator. Try to rank high for searches aimed at YOU.



Lars Jelking  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Simple is the best. Oct 5, 2006

I agree with Gerard, simplify your web site. Use common fonts like Arial, Tahoma or Verdana to ensure that it is presented on all computers (the font must be installed to display the text). Make the window smaller, 700 pixel, and position it on the middle. Try to compact so no scrolling is needed.

It's both good and bad to work directly with the end client. In some jurisdictions the last link in the chain, the one before the end client, is responsible for the content. A mistake can be very expensive indeed. With an agency between you and the final user the agency is liable for any claim for compensation.

I work exclusively with agencies and has built up good relationship with all of them. The jobs keep coming, and everybody is happy.

And in the end it's the quality of your work that attracts YOUR clients.

Good Luck.


Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
There's only one way to meet direct clients Oct 5, 2006

Hello Evelyne,

In my experience there is only one single way to meet direct clients: you meet them in person.

Whatever your field is, you need to go to meetings of potential clients in that field. In any case, you should keep yourself well informed on your chosen field, read all about it and keep up with the latest developments. In other words, make it your hobby. Then naturally you will also want to go to meetings concerning that subject. The people you meet, chat to, make friends with, will then become your direct clients.

Internet or no Internet, most direct clients prefer to trust someone whose face they know.



Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
Swedish to English
+ ...
With Astrid, but... Oct 5, 2006

...given your geographical situation I can see that meeting direct clients isn't always going to be feasible!

My best direct clients are not in fact the end clients, they are advertising agencies - often when a company needs PR material they hand over the entire job, translation, layout, proofing and printing to the agency. Build up a good relationship with them and you will also find that they pass your name on to others. I used to make regular rounds and "sell myself" to agencies in person - it's paid off and at least one agency now tells me to add another 200 euros on bill now and again as a bonus for the fact that we have built up a good relationship (they simply pass it on to their customer, so the goodwill is free for them)!

Other good ways to meet clients directly are local business/marketing groups. Go to the lunches and small talk - everybody is there to sell themselves and their business and on the look out for contacts, so you can do the same thing too.

I also agree with the others - make your website simple and professional (harder than it sounds). Invest in getting someone to do it for you, it will pay itself off. Mine is designed by one customer and hosted by another - another way of forming a business relationship...

Advertise in the local press - it doesn't have to be big, but something quirky that people will remember. If you can find Blair's French slip-up when talking to Chirac and get that in an ad it would be a good starting point (the one about desiring him in different positions rather than admiring him in many ways...).

E-mail advertising is illegal in Sweden - I don't know what the situation is in other countries, but I personally find it extremely annoying and dump it straight away. Try the old-fashioned paper and envelope, it's a bit more of an initial outlay but I think I'd be more inclined to file a letter rather than binning it straight away. Try to find a person to post things to - the marketing manager or an information officer, again, I think there's less risk of it ending up in the bin.

Anyway, these are just my ideas - I hope there's something useful in there!


pascie  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:14
English to French
+ ...
Simple but absolutely correct Oct 5, 2006

In that no mispelling, a proper use of upper case when needed, and showing through the above you are able to provide consistency...
You are a linguist or not....
Take some extra time to read again and again (and/or to have a third party to read it for you).


pascie  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:14
English to French
+ ...
and no grammatical errors Oct 5, 2006

I forgot to mention this.


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
An alternative to face-to-face Oct 5, 2006

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
In my experience there is only one single way to meet direct clients: you meet them in person.

Here's a different experience, to show that one size doesn't fit all. I haven't met any of my direct clients in person. They heard of me from word of mouth; in other words from other satisfied clients. So for me, the best way to get direct clients has been to do a good job. This has resulted in clients recommending me to others.


Percy Balemans  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:14
English to Dutch
+ ...
Networking Oct 6, 2006

GoodWords wrote:
Here's a different experience, to show that one size doesn't fit all. I haven't met any of my direct clients in person. They heard of me from word of mouth; in other words from other satisfied clients. So for me, the best way to get direct clients has been to do a good job. This has resulted in clients recommending me to others.

I have the same experience. Most of my direct clients were referred to me by other clients or by people who knew me and my work. You can help "spread the word" by joining business networks, either online or in your area, although this does require an investment, both in money and time.

In addition, just talk about your work to people around you. You probably already have a huge network without even realising it: friends, family, (former) colleagues, etc.

Contacting companies by email sometimes works as well. Most of the time, I never receive a replyicon_wink.gif, but in one case a company immediately gave me an assignment. However, I think this will only work if you target companies requiring specific experience which you can offer.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:14
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Go where they are looking for you Oct 6, 2006

I agree what has been said about your present site: use only sons-serif fonts, although many professional sites especially in the US still use serif fonts, which are ok on paper, but a pain on screen.
Less is more in most cases regarding web-ads.

Depending on the country whose firms you want to attract, find out where these clients look for translators. In Europe it is seldom Proz or other international sites but specialised directories of the country in question.
Most of my direct clients have found me through a directory which membership costs me 25 Euro a year. Or they stumbled over my website via Google.


Pundora  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:44
English to Hindi
+ ...
It happens, but slow process. Oct 6, 2006

GoodWords wrote:

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Here's a different experience, to show that one size doesn't fit all. I haven't met any of my direct clients in person. They heard of me from word of mouth; in other words from other satisfied clients. So for me, the best way to get direct clients has been to do a good job. This has resulted in clients recommending me to others.

True with me too Astrid. But it tends to be a slow, very slow process. The reason is not too difficult to guess. The regular clients are very selective about suggesting your name to other clients lest you should be unavailable next time they call you. They do suggest but perhaps only, when it is absolutely unavoidable. So I got a a very few clients only this way over many years. That's my experience here.



Ara Mkrtchyan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
English to Armenian
+ ...
Depends on where you are Oct 6, 2006

As correctly mentioned above, it depends on your location. In my case, for example, it is rather unlikely to meet a direct client in person because almost all of my clients are outside Armenia, hence I establish contacts and cooperate through the Internet.
But certainly, meeting clients personally, is an advantage, I agree.

Ara Mkrtchyan


Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Direct Clients Oct 6, 2006

And you can look for them too...

My first few clients were direct clients... and I worked with them for over six years. It was a publishing house and I did so much of translation work for them that I didn't even have time to search or think of other clients... and then I moved to France. I worked for them again after my return to India but then after two months here, I was back in France so...

How did I meet them?

They advertised in a local newspaper and believe me at least in India, there are quite a few such jobs that are advertised in Newspapers.

They asked me to do a small test, at home. I did it... and then we discussed and negotiated. And the price they offered was so much better than what many agencies offer today.

And considering the fact that I gave them hand-written manuscripts (in 1996). I bought my typewriter with the money that I earned from the work that I did for them.

Was I happy working with them?

Yes. They offered a good rate and their cheques always arrived on time. No default for six years. What else could I ask for. They were always courteous.

And I was still a studenticon_wink.gif of French. I did mostly English-Hindi-English work for them.


My second direct client
One of the editors moved to another publishing house. And when they needed a translator, he remembered me as he liked my work.

Moral of the story

Look in a local newspaper for direct clients. Or you can actually advertise in one too...

Hope this helps


[Edited at 2006-10-06 13:33]


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Networking is more than business associations Oct 6, 2006

Percy Balemans wrote:
In addition, just talk about your work to people around you. You probably already have a huge network without even realising it: friends, family, (former) colleagues, etc.

This is so crucial that it's worth repeating. In addition: in-laws (for those who have them), your children's (") friends' parents, neighbours, acquaintances (your seat-mate on the plane, bus or train), people you do business with (your local shopkeeper, dentist, plumber, interior decorator, accountant...) and so on. Then there are your leisure, cultural or spiritual activities; do you volunteer, play a sport or attend an exercise class, sing in a choir, participate in a religion? It's not a question of exploiting these activities to build your business, but rather that over the course of sharing common interests and getting to know each other, you will naturally come to a stage of acquaintanceship where you learn of each other's skills and professions.

As an example, my first major client learned of me by the following chain: my husband > his doctor > the doctor's wife > her friend > the friend's friend... who happened to be the creative director for a multimedia company and was looking for someone to translate a multimedia DVD advertising a major hotel chain.
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:14
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Unsolicited emails are illegal Oct 21, 2006

Clare is right, unsolicited emails are illegal, not only in Sweden but in the EU, EEA, USA, Australia and probably in most other countries, too.

A friend of mine works in a translation agency who still uses this form of advertising, and instead of getting new clients, she quite often gets angry replies from people pointing out that spamming is illegal and threatening to sue... I doubt it will ever come to that, but as you can see, it's probably not a good way to try to get new customers!


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