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How to find direct clients?
Thread poster: Eleonora_P

Eleonora_P  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:34
Member (2012)
English to Italian
+ ...
Jun 8

Hello everyone!

I know this is just the same old question but, really... is there a "better" way in your experience to find direct clients (not talking about agencies)?
I have been working as a freelance translator EN>IT mainly within the Italian dubbing industry in the last few years, and I have a couple of trustworthy clients I have met through the years who often offer me interesting projects, but now I would like to expand my business and find clients in other fields of expertise.
So my question is: is it really that hard (just for me)?
The only potential clients I met asked me to translate something from Italian INTO English, which I obviously declined.
Any suggestions you might want to share? That would be much appreciated.
Thank you in advance and have a nice day!

Eleonora


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DarwinE
United States
Local time: 07:34
Member (2016)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't find them, let them find you Jun 8

In my short time here I have learned that most of the clients you will earn will find you through the directory, instead of submitting quotes. A good profile with a wide reach to as many clients as possible in your language pair will get more e-mails in your inbox and potentially more jobs than submitting quotes ever will.

Seems like you have a lot more years of experience than I do! Maybe I should be asking you for advice instead .


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
English to Spanish
+ ...
The romantic way and the realistic way Jun 8

Eleonora,

In truth, there are many ways and strategies to find direct clients. But why are you so concerned about direct clients vs. agencies? Their money is as good as direct clients'. Remember that, while a direct client may pay you more, she may require more attention and/or services for the same amount of time.

The advantage of translation agencies is that they seek clients for you, the translator. You don't have to do the cold calling, visit offices, attend conferences and make all sorts of efforts. There is no one type of translation agencies, but several. I knew of one that catered only to the English to Spanish contractual document translations, nothing else. They hire only lawyers who also are translators, nobody else. So they have carved out a niche for themselves.

Going after direct clients requires a very long-term outlook, and it definitely requires making all sorts of efforts and mounting a well organized plan to gain each direct client. Of course, there are some translators who don't have to do all that advertising and outreach; clients find them via directories. But don't count that in as the best or the winning strategy.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:34
Member (2008)
French to English
Other translators who are employees Jun 8

Eleonora_P wrote:

Hello everyone!

I know this is just the same old question but, really... is there a "better" way in your experience to find direct clients (not talking about agencies)?
I have been working as a freelance translator EN>IT mainly within the Italian dubbing industry in the last few years, and I have a couple of trustworthy clients I have met through the years who often offer me interesting projects, but now I would like to expand my business and find clients in other fields of expertise.
So my question is: is it really that hard (just for me)?
The only potential clients I met asked me to translate something from Italian INTO English, which I obviously declined.
Any suggestions you might want to share? That would be much appreciated.
Thank you in advance and have a nice day!

Eleonora


The best way I have found to find direct clients is other translators who are employees of large multinational companies but in a different language pair or direction than mine. They are the ones likely to know what needs the company has in the way of translation and are likely to reach out to you if their company has a need that they can't fill.

The problem with finding direct clients is that translation is a business service that is relatively low in importance to companies, meaning that there is often no particular department or manager that can be identified as the point of contact.

However, once a company has reached a size to justify in-house translators they are a good prospect.

To find those translators, go to the list of licensed translators in your country and find those that are employees, not freelancers. They are probably not on proz.com and may not even know about it, or competing sites.

The benefit of this approach is that these end clients pay much more than agencies.

At least this has been my experience.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good advice Jun 8

John Fossey wrote:

Eleonora_P wrote:

Hello everyone!

I know this is just the same old question but, really... is there a "better" way in your experience to find direct clients (not talking about agencies)?
I have been working as a freelance translator EN>IT mainly within the Italian dubbing industry in the last few years, and I have a couple of trustworthy clients I have met through the years who often offer me interesting projects, but now I would like to expand my business and find clients in other fields of expertise.
So my question is: is it really that hard (just for me)?
The only potential clients I met asked me to translate something from Italian INTO English, which I obviously declined.
Any suggestions you might want to share? That would be much appreciated.
Thank you in advance and have a nice day!

Eleonora


The best way I have found to find direct clients is other translators who are employees of large multinational companies but in a different language pair or direction than mine. They are the ones likely to know what needs the company has in the way of translation and are likely to reach out to you if their company has a need that they can't fill.

The problem with finding direct clients is that translation is a business service that is relatively low in importance to companies, meaning that there is often no particular department or manager that can be identified as the point of contact.

However, once a company has reached a size to justify in-house translators they are a good prospect.

To find those translators, go to the list of licensed translators in your country and find those that are employees, not freelancers. They are probably not on proz.com and may not even know about it, or competing sites.

The benefit of this approach is that these end clients pay much more than agencies.

At least this has been my experience.


I remember being a translator employee and one time we needed a Korean translator. So, this advice is pretty good.


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Abumalek
Egypt
Local time: 15:34
English to Arabic
+ ...
that's exactly what I wanted to say Jun 8

DarwinE wrote:

In my short time here I have learned that most of the clients you will earn will find you through the directory, instead of submitting quotes. A good profile with a wide reach to as many clients as possible in your language pair will get more e-mails in your inbox and potentially more jobs than submitting quotes ever will.

Seems like you have a lot more years of experience than I do! Maybe I should be asking you for advice instead .



marketing then marketing, develop your and skills after that let clients find an esteemed profile that they will compete to contact


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Juliano Martins  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:34
Member (2008)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Why not? Jun 8


The only potential clients I met asked me to translate something from Italian INTO English, which I obviously declined.


I think you should consider IT into EN too.

My first job here (9 years ago) was from PT into FR. Of course that later on I changed to translating mostly into PT, since I am Brazilian. But I’ve done some jobs into foreign languages. It’s not the end of the world, you know!


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 20:34
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Extensive marketing activity Jun 8

I read on Internet 20 years ago about extensive marketing activities of a translator.
You must expose yourself to many potential customers.
You must sell your credentials.
You must actively show your quality orientation, ability and punctuality.

Dr. Soonthon Lupkitaro Ph.D.
Bangkok


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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:34
French to German
+ ...
Be visible Jun 9

Be very visible and let customers find you!

Do a lot of networking on internet and in real life.


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Texte Style
Local time: 14:34
French to English
trade fairs Jun 9

You can try going to trade fairs in the industries you're interested in. Get talking to people who look like they might want to export to Italy. Smoothly slide them a business card when they mention their difficulties finding someone to translate their documentation.

Point being that, unlike here, there won't be any competition for you, in that the other visitors will be potential clients rather than service providers. The people working there will love talking to you about their business, and if you show genuine interest, that's a huge plus. Ask thought-provoking questions that show that you know what you're talking about and are eager to learn more.

You then follow up with an e-mail to remind them of you. The card might just get battered in their pocket, but they often store the mail ready for later use, because they can just reply to get in touch with you.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
English to Spanish
+ ...
My experience with trade fairs Jun 9

Texte Style wrote:

You can try going to trade fairs in the industries you're interested in. Get talking to people who look like they might want to export to Italy. Smoothly slide them a business card when they mention their difficulties finding someone to translate their documentation.

Point being that, unlike here, there won't be any competition for you, in that the other visitors will be potential clients rather than service providers. The people working there will love talking to you about their business, and if you show genuine interest, that's a huge plus. Ask thought-provoking questions that show that you know what you're talking about and are eager to learn more.

You then follow up with an e-mail to remind them of you. The card might just get battered in their pocket, but they often store the mail ready for later use, because they can just reply to get in touch with you.


It's not that this is bad advice. It is very good advice, but it can turn into a very expensive one to follow. Many tradeshows have a free pass to all the exhibits, which can be handy (and free!) for a translator to connect and share his/her business card with exhibitors for later follow-up.

Even when I've introduced myself as a translator and explained what I do, most prospects will reply to me as if I were at their exhibit trying to buy something. So they send me sales materials. Waste of time.

Other tradeshows are worth going to but they are located in a distant city. I was able to go to a medical devices tradeshow in Minneapolis in 2016, the admission fee for students being only $30 or $35 (it was ten times that amount for regular attendees). But then I had to pay for my plane ticket and for hotel for the 3 days I was there. I did follow up as suggested by Texte Style and others, but it takes a long time to connect with someone who needs translation services.


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Eleonora_P  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:34
Member (2012)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Does a website help? Jun 12

Thank you for all your comments!
I do hope I'll be lucky enough to find some direct clients (nothing against agencies, of course, but you know better than me that a direct client is much more "desirable" than an agency for different reasons).
In your experiences, has having your own personal website helped you to find clients?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:34
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Having a web site DOES hel A LOT! Jun 12

Eleonora_P wrote:

Thank you for all your comments!
I do hope I'll be lucky enough to find some direct clients (nothing against agencies, of course, but you know better than me that a direct client is much more "desirable" than an agency for different reasons).
In your experiences, has having your own personal website helped you to find clients?


It took several years, however my web site is now my #1 source for new direct clients, referrals from colleagues and past clients being a close second.

First of all, it doesn't happen overnight. Secondly, people must be able to find you - earlier than others - via search engines. If a search using your proper keywords will put you on, say, the 20th page on Google, it's more likely that potential clients will find a dozen equally suitable translators before they find you.

So, how do you get to the top of Google searches?

I see three methods, maybe there are more.

I receive countless offers of SEO services, promising that for some pecuniary consideration they'll put me at the top of a number of search engines. No idea on how effective each one of them is, because I've never used any, but many of them offer free tips/analyses that will give you a clue on what you can/should do on your own to improve your ranking.

Direct payment to search engines. A friend of mine who ran a small advertising agency used to pay Google a bundle every month, in order to get a privileged advertised position there. It worked fine, brought her a steady stream of business, until a momentary downturn forced her to cut costs, and hence stop paying that fee. Her office phone went suddenly silent, to the point that - while being there - she would call it from her mobile, just to check whether that landline was working.

I never spent a dime on SEO. I gradually packed my website with useful, valuable, hard-to-find, or otherwise interesting content for my prospective customers. I carefully followed every sensible tip on how to improve my keywords and other SEO things. This gradually led to more visitors coming in all the time, and the search engines gradually improving my position on account of that traffic, until it got close to the top.

My conclusion is that the third option is obviously cheaper, however longer-lasting, and more self-sustaining than the previous ones. However in my specific case it took about 7-8 years to see its effect.

http://www.lamensdorf.com.br


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:34
Member (2008)
French to English
Yes, it helps Jun 12

But I would not call having a website the magic cure. It's rather like asking whether having a business card helps, because a website is like an online business card.

By using tracking analytics I can tell that some new clients who appeared out of the blue had left their electronic footprints on my website (i.e., their IP address showed up in my website's analytics) before they contacted me. Likewise, I have had at least one new client contact me through my "Contact Me" page.

So I might not have obtained those clients if I did not have a website, but at the same time, that's only two clients out of the many that I have.

Really, most of my direct clients have come from referrals from their staff translators.


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
sworn translator vs lambda translator Jun 12

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:


It took several years, however my web site is now my #1 source for new direct clients, referrals from colleagues and past clients being a close second.


I'm not sure it's relevant because you're a sworn translator
there are only several dozens of sworn translator for one language pair whereas
there are thousands of lambda translators


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