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What would be the best way to approach agencies?
Thread poster: Sandrine Ananie

Sandrine Ananie  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:44
Member (2009)
English to French
Nov 3, 2009

Hello,

I will start freelancing as an EN>FR translator in January and am currently thinking of the best way to approach agencies. How should it be done? Should I send emails with my CV attached? What information should I enclose in my email (obviously my language pair, my areas of expertise, my strengths... what about rates, software etc?)? How long should the email be?

Is giving a follow-up call a plus?

Are there any definite no-nos?

It would be much appreciated if you could tell me what will make an agency consider my offer worth considering.

Thanks in advance,
Sandrine

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-11-04 11:53 GMT]


 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:44
English to French
+ ...
A start Nov 3, 2009

To begin with, a healthy sense of marketing is very important here. Remember, you are not looking for a job, you are looking for a partnership. The agency who will work with you is not your employer, so don't use the usual cover letter and CV approach. Instead, create a list of agencies likely to be looking for translators like you (with matching language pairs, subject areas, etc.), then send them a letter, call them or e-mail them. Do attach your CV, but again, the classic CV used for job hunting will not do here. There is information in a classic CV that is of no benefit to translation agencies, and there is information a classic CV does not provide that agencies will be interested in.

I think your presentation is more important than your translator CV. What agencies want to know about you besides your education and experience is how easy (or difficult) it will be to work with you, how professional you are and how much skill you have. These notions are best demonstrated in your presentation, as your CV will not give them clues on these.

Most importantly, don't mass send batches of presentations and CVs to a bunch of agencies. Tailor each "application" to the agency you apply at. If you notice that an agency uses a quality system similar to yours, do mention it. If an agency lists a rare specialization you have, do mention it. Talk to the agency not just about you but about them as well so they can see the relevance of working with you (e.g., I have noticed that you use Star Transit--I have been using it for five years now).

Most agencies receive a lot of uncalled for applications. Many of them promptly trash these unless they are responding to a specific collaboration offer. Don't make the mistake of annoying agencies. Only apply where you know your application will be welcome.

To start, you could use the applications feature on this site--please, see the link below. Agencies that are "hiring" at the moment and who have declared their interest in receiving applications are listed on this page, and best of all, only the agencies who are a match for your language pairs and subject areas are listed (if you are logged in when viewing the list).

Also browse the web for agencies you would like to work with and look for pages on their sites where they invite you to contact them for potential collaboration (if there is no page for translators on those websites, try the Contact Us page--agencies often invite translators to contact them for work on that page). Pay close attention to the requirements listed and do not contact them if you cannot fulfill those requirements.

The e-mail should be short and sweet, and it should simply give arguments for the agency to work with you. It should basically outline your offer. This is more or less a sales letter. A three-paragraph message is usually the way to go. One paragraph about the basics (language pairs, subject areas, experience, education, etc.--don't get carried away, as your CV will contain all these details), another about how you ensure that your work is of the highest quality (access to specialized dictionaries, knowledge of specialized terminology, quality assurance methods, etc.), and a last paragraph about what it's like to work with you (are you team work oriented? do you accept rush, after-hours, week-end jobs? are you open to learning to use new software?). Again, short and sweet--a few sentences per paragraph will do. Remember, the point here is not to walk them through your services or to compete with other translators, but to engage their curiosity so that they will want to find out more, read your CV and contact you. Once you are in touch with a live person, you can be more explicit.

Don't mention rates and payment terms until you are asked. Rates and payment terms are part of negotiation, and this step only comes after you are in contact. Also, once the agency is hooked on your application, it will be easier to negotiate, and what they know about you at that point will help justify rates and payment terms.

Follow-up calls are not a good idea in general. Instead, if you get no reply, try again six months later with the same approach, mentioning that you have already contacted them some time ago, and adding any new aspect of your services (e.g., since my last application, I have successfully mastered such and such software and my website is now online).

http://www.proz.com/blueboard/?sp_mode=applications

All the best!


 

Wolfgang Jörissen  Identity Verified
Belize
Dutch to German
+ ...
Personal approach, no bulk e-mails Nov 3, 2009

Hi Sandrine!

First of all welcome in our midst, and I wish you as many agency contacts and as much business resulting from them as you can handle.
But one thing I would like to advise against is to do a bulk mailing to, let's say, 50-100 agencies with your CV attached (NEVER send unsollicited attachments, it is simply unprofessional).
I get mailings like this every now and then and I always wonder whether these people have the slightest reflection about how their service offer is seen by the recipients of their mail. In my case, I am not even a translation outsourcer but an ordinary freelancer, not doing too much (if anything) beyond his own language combinations. So when I get e-mails like this, I feel disrespected in some way: these people did not do the least research and just treat me like one-in-a-dozen. Even if I would need their services, I do not want to be treated like that, so why sould I choose them? Mostly I cannot find the DEL button quickly enough.

So how to do it? There probably is no standard way. My only advice is: taylor your offer to the potential client you want to reach. Invest time into every SINGLE e-mail you send. Get to know something about the client. Is it a larger scale agency or a mom-and-pop operation? Are they rather formal or unconventional people? Do they encourage applications and do you think you can add value to their business? Write individually, refer to things that might appeal to them, attach samples, maybe be creative but show them you do not only want their business, but you have something to offer to them. But do not start with saying "That French version of your website sucks, I could do it much better".

And maybe you should not focus on e-mail. Back in the 90s when I started, I had made a neat folder containing my CV and price information and I personally handed it out to agencies in my area. Some of them already turned me away at the door, in one case even in a quite rude way, others invited me in for tea and a chat. From some of them, I heard immediately, others had me on file and responded after 2-3 years. From others I have never heard ever since, although we had a nice chat. But as a matter of fact, many of these contacts are still my clients today.
Or maybe send some printed material by snail mail. At least it shows that you are serious about it, because it takes much more time than to just compose an e-mail.
Anyway, do get business cards and make use of networking opportunities at Powwows, conferences or other events for translators or freelancers in general.

And above all: be personal and self-confident. You'll make it!


 

Magdalene.P (X)
Local time: 05:44
Italian to Greek
+ ...
I just wanted to congratulate Wolfgang! Nov 3, 2009

I wish someone had given me these tips when I got started instead of learning the hard way.

[Edited at 2009-11-04 14:14 GMT]


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:44
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Personal visit often works best Nov 4, 2009

In larger towns you should be able to find a few agencies that specialise in the same subject matters as you do. So why not go around for coffee or tea and just ring the doorbel and say you where in the area, and looking to offer your services to agencies,
providing the personal attention every client needs.

This way you can generally find out how much work they have in your area, whether or not they hire people externally and see what kind of operation they run. If they do not have the time, just ask for their business card, and leave yours, contact them by mail later or make a new appointment. Generally agency directors are happy to meet potential freelancers, just to make sure they are not a couple of sandwiches short of a picknick (internet contacts are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're gonne get)

And you can chat a bit about your experience (and you will get free coffee everywhere!)...
... see what their office looks like and stuff...

At one time I visited an agency and they mentioned that if they interview somebody by phone, they ask all sorts of nasty questions to make the person feel inadequate, so they can lower the rates, suggesting these people still have a lot to learn...

Or on another occasion they mentioned they liked board games very much and showed me their collection, so we basically chatted about games and other none-translation related stuff the whole time...

===
Ed


 

Sandrine Ananie  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:44
Member (2009)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
thanks! Nov 4, 2009

Thank you so much for your helpful insight.

One thing I am confident in is I am not "applying" for a job (which is why I used the term "offer" and not "application"). I don't feel very comfortable with that idea of a "CV". As someone said on another helpful thread, it should be renamed as a "bio" or something like that.

Viktoria and Jorgen, you seem to disagree on whether or not to attach a CV (or a bio, for that matter). This is not the first time I have read that unsollicited attachments are not professional (though in all honesty I cannot figure out why). When then are you supposed to send that all important CV?

Another thing you may be able to help me with is the notion of "references" : what exactly is a freelancer expected to provide when s/he is asked for "at least 2 references"? Names of people s/he has worked with? Samples? Examples of websites translated? References are not something we French use a lot, so please excuse my naivity! Do agencies really contact your references?

Thanks again for your help!

Sandrine


 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:44
English to French
+ ...
Answers Nov 5, 2009

Sandrine A wrote:

As someone said on another helpful thread, it should be renamed as a "bio" or something like that.

There is no need to rename it--it doesn't have to have a name. Let prospects call it what they will. On the document per se, the title is optional. A good idea is to use a picture of yourself or a logo, and then write your name, with "translator" just under it. That will do.
Viktoria and Jorgen, you seem to disagree on whether or not to attach a CV (or a bio, for that matter). This is not the first time I have read that unsollicited attachments are not professional (though in all honesty I cannot figure out why). When then are you supposed to send that all important CV?

Jorgen is right that unsolicited attachments can be a turnoff. What you can--and should--do is paste the content of your CV directly in the e-mail (below the actual message, after your signature). That way, there is no attachment, but all the information is there. This is what many translators do.
Another thing you may be able to help me with is the notion of "references" : what exactly is a freelancer expected to provide when s/he is asked for "at least 2 references"?

I have never given any references. Do you ask your dentist, your attorney or your butcher for references? I refuse to let some prospect bother my established clients, and I do think it is an insult to ask a professional for references. I am not a cleaning lady! Those who ask for references are usually those who believe you are their employee, and those are usually less fun to work with as well (e.g., more likely to be rude, to ask you to lower your rate, etc.). Of course, there are always exceptions, but if you don't want to be treated like an employee minus the benefits, don't provide references.


 

Sandrine Ananie  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:44
Member (2009)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Viktoria Nov 5, 2009

ViktoriaG wrote:

Sandrine A wrote:

As someone said on another helpful thread, it should be renamed as a "bio" or something like that.

There is no need to rename it--it doesn't have to have a name. Let prospects call it what they will. On the document per se, the title is optional. A good idea is to use a picture of yourself or a logo, and then write your name, with "translator" just under it. That will do.
Viktoria and Jorgen, you seem to disagree on whether or not to attach a CV (or a bio, for that matter). This is not the first time I have read that unsollicited attachments are not professional (though in all honesty I cannot figure out why). When then are you supposed to send that all important CV?

Jorgen is right that unsolicited attachments can be a turnoff. What you can--and should--do is paste the content of your CV directly in the e-mail (below the actual message, after your signature). That way, there is no attachment, but all the information is there. This is what many translators do.
Another thing you may be able to help me with is the notion of "references" : what exactly is a freelancer expected to provide when s/he is asked for "at least 2 references"?

I have never given any references. Do you ask your dentist, your attorney or your butcher for references? I refuse to let some prospect bother my established clients, and I do think it is an insult to ask a professional for references. I am not a cleaning lady! Those who ask for references are usually those who believe you are their employee, and those are usually less fun to work with as well (e.g., more likely to be rude, to ask you to lower your rate, etc.). Of course, there are always exceptions, but if you don't want to be treated like an employee minus the benefits, don't provide references.


Great advice once again Viktoria. You're an inspiration!


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:44
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
on references Nov 5, 2009

When asked, I always say references can be given on request.
...and nobody every asked for them

Lately I inlcude my proz place and say. references can be for here WWA / Blue board.

I have only recently come across an agency's website which stated: References: please do not write "references given on request", those who will will not be considered, or something like that.

In general it woudl be rather complex and dagereous for you if another agency would contact your end client, or a competitor to ask you if you are any good. How would you make sure they do not steal your client (NDA's, paperwork, etc)


Ed


 

Eva Stoppa  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:44
Member
English to German
+ ...
How do I approach agencies outside my country then? Nov 5, 2009

This is a very interesting subject and I`d also like to thank you all for your coments and advice.

I must confess that I did it wrong having chosen some agencies from a database and addressing them just like you wrote it should not be done, not in a personal way.

But I still have a question considering the personal contact. This can be easily done when you approach agencies in your hometown or in your area.

But how do I approach agencies who are outside my country? The internet gives us all an opportunity to offer our native language to those agencies who might have difficulties finding someone with our native language in their country?

And then a question about references: I always ask myself what an agency who asks me for references wants to achieve. Do they want to save time and money on advertising by contacting clients of their potential translation partners knowing already that these clients do have a need for translations?

Best,

Eva


 

Lizette Britz  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:44
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
portfolio Nov 5, 2009

Hi,

I've been reading with interest all your comments and advise. I started working last year as a freelance translator, and slowly have been building up a client base. How do you present the list of translations you have done? I usually add the links of some of the webpages I have translated to the end of my job proposal, but I am not sure if this is the way to do it.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thank you!

Liz


 

Shane Wall  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Local time: 11:44
Vietnamese to English
+ ...
Do Your Agency Research! Nov 5, 2009

I manage a very small, boutique, language services company in Vietnam with a unique and very specific focus on the languages of Southeast Asia.

Our clients have NEVER requested any Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese, etc. or any other "exotic" languages for our region from us. We specialize in a very niche market: the languages of the ASEAN countries - 'niche' yes, but home to about 1.5 billion people.

And yet we continually get totally unsolicited emails from "hopeful" but ignorant translators. If anybody bothered to research our company, they would know that Czech to English is NOT something we do or are interested in!

For freelancers breaking into the industry, all I can say is to DO THE RESEARCH and ONLY send your information to organizations which fit your language combination(s), experience(s) and subject matter field(s).

Of the about 5,500+ unsolicited approaches (around 5 per day) we've had over the last 3 years, ONLY ONE (1) was suitable to us and received any work from us!

If the agency doesn't handle your language combination or specific knowledge skills, don't bother sending them anything. Save your own Internet charges. Here, we just automatically delete all emails which don't involve our language combinations!

For me, as the "human firewall" for vetting potential new freelancers, if you cannot even understand that we do not have any requirement for your language combination(s), then perhaps your research skills and quality of final delivery may also not be acceptable.

ULTIMATE UPSHOT: Target your agency approaches! Do not pay for useless bandwidth to send emails to agencies who will just delete you approach out of hand!

Shane Wall
www.translingualexpress.com


 

Eva Stoppa  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:44
Member
English to German
+ ...
What do you think of this one? Nov 5, 2009

Somebody contacted me through my profile with the following text:

"Good afternoon,I need the files in the .zip attached translated french-german for next Tuesday 10th November before end of business day or if not possible then for Wednesday first thing in the morning.You will see you will have to translate only one of the files...".

No question if I`m available or anything else. That`s how agencies should not approach translators. But I guess we could open a new thread on this one.

Shane, your advice is very helpful. But I`m interested in one thing. You write that you do not do any other languages than the one mentioned above.

What do you do in the other case? i.e. if a potential new client approaches you asking for a language combination you do not work in? How do you tell them that you just cannot help them?

Thanks in advance,

Eva


 

Brandis (X)
Local time: 05:44
English to German
+ ...
send out a circular offer. Nov 5, 2009

Hi! just send out a circular offer. If you need help contact me through profile page. Brandis

 

Mariela Diaz-Butler
United States
Local time: 23:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
On references Nov 6, 2009

Eva Stoppa wrote:

And then a question about references: I always ask myself what an agency who asks me for references wants to achieve. Do they want to save time and money on advertising by contacting clients of their potential translation partners knowing already that these clients do have a need for translations?


Wow. I am a bit amazed about the majorly negative reaction I have seen towards providing references. Speaking as someone who used to work as a project manager in an agency for many years, I can tell you that we NEVER used eferences to steal clients. It is quite unfortunate that so many translators think so poorly of the agencies they seek to work with.

I seldom requested references myself, but I understand the motivation behind the people who do. It is always reasuring to hear from others what kind of experience they have had dealing with you. Most times, the people you provide as eferences are the ones that you know are happy with your work, so what is there to be afraid of?

I, for one, would be delighted to provide references, because I know they will make me sound brilliant, since I know the kind of trusting relationship we have, and that they are ecstatic with my work. Shoot, I'm not dumb enough to provide the names of those who don't think highly of me.

An you know what, for those who think that only cleaning ladies have a need for references, think again. References are used in the professional world every single day. I cannot just take your word for it that you are a good translator, that's just plain arrogant and tells me that you are not an easy person to work with, a surefire way of making me NOT want to give you a try.

Just my 2 cents.


 
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