Finding direct clients
Thread poster: jenbikkal (X)

jenbikkal (X)

Local time: 06:24
French to English
+ ...
Mar 15, 2011

Hi everyone,

I am new to the business and was wondering how to approach direct clients. From what I understand, they pay better and working with them is also more convenient in terms any questions we may have regarding a project.

For ten years I worked in advertising/marketing and I would love to be able to specialize in this field and work directly with ad agencies or even with company's marketing departments.

So I have a couple of questions for you:

1)What percentage of your clients are direct clients (non agency clients)

2)How did you approach them?

3)How much regular work do you get from them?

4)Any original ideas/tips on how to approach them aside from social media, trade events...

Thanks everyone!


[Edited at 2011-03-15 00:34 GMT]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not necessarily true Mar 15, 2011

jenbikkal wrote:
I am new to the business and was wondering how to approach direct clients. From what I understand, they pay better and working with them is also more convenient in terms any questions we may have regarding a project.

I just wanted to point out that the sentence above is not necessarily true.

Agencies will give you a more stable flow of work if you become their preferred translator (i.e. if you give them a good service experience and your translations are accurate and good), and dealing with them is far more comfortable since you reduce paperwork and you deal with people who know the end customer and how to resolve issues. If the end customer does not respond on time, they can also decide and tell you what to do.

Also, agencies usually have a systematic approach to projects, which you can learn and integrate in your own processes and offer the opportunity to streamline things.

With end customers, although it is true that you might get higher rates, the flow of jobs will be less regular, each customer will have own specifications and requirements, and you will have more administrative work, as well as a higher risk in terms of payments (good agencies are really regular in this aspect since they want to keep their key translators happy).

Good luck!


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:24
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Really? Mar 15, 2011

I have to agree with the statement that direct clients are preferable.

As to how to find them... That's trickier. I haven't found a formula that works consistently. Ideally, I'd like to be doing about 2/3 of my work for direct clients and 1/3 for agencies.

[Edited at 2011-03-15 12:22 GMT]


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:24
German to English
marketing expertise? Mar 15, 2011

Hello Jen,
Most of my clients (in terms of quantity) are direct. Most of my money (in terms of sales figures) still comes from agencies.

Direct clients seem clearly preferable to me.

Not only the rates, but payment issues, customer (= agency) acquisition, and paperwork/workflow issues seem much worse in the case of new agencies than in the case of new direct clients. But, as Tomás says, the situation looks different if you have settled into a good working relationship with several good agencies.

As far as marketing goes, you can probably give better suggestions than I can: (1) Develop a substantial USP on the basis of your experience/qualifications/personality, (2) do market research (is there really a niche for freelancers in the fields you are interested in, what kinds of companies tend to hire freelancers, how do your competitors present themselves, etc.), and (3) use your knowledge to put together a convincing profile (website, etc.) and start regularly contacting companies that might be interested in your services... (4) Go back to (1) again until it works.

I would think seriously about initially developing your expertise with the help of agencies and their PMs. I would think seriously about investing money in the services of (other) marketing experts who know the translation market.


P.S.: I just saw that you're a student: Do as many internships as you can at potential clients and at translation agencies.

[Edited at 2011-03-15 13:52 GMT]


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