Survey responses: "Marketing as a freelance translator: how much a part of the job?"
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer

Henry Dotterer
Local time: 05:29
SITE FOUNDER
Dec 11, 2015

We posted a brief survey a few days ago, entitled "Marketing as a freelance translator: how much a part of the job?".

Thanks to the translators who took the time to reply. As promised, here are the results: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-DXJN5ZRJ/

If anyone has any follow-on questions they would like explored, feel free to suggest. We could run another survey.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:29
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Revealing Dec 11, 2015

Henry Dotterer wrote:
As promised, here are the results: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-DXJN5ZRJ/

Thank you for this.

I note in various responses that some freelancers make a clear distinction between "work" and "marketing"! I think I see why some freelancers complain about not having enough or the right clients...

Regards
Dan


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
Marketing, the bogeyman Dec 12, 2015

The best part of that survey (I just learned about it today) is the freefrom answers. I see no useful knowledge in the true/false questions because those questions require more thought and are not amenable to categorical definitions per se.

I believe that where a translator is coming from (not geographically, but professionally) as well as his/her personality type influence his/her views on marketing to an extent greater than it is accorded in most discussions about marketing.

The postings, articles, etc. on marketing activities are mostly reductive and focus more on the person giving advice. I would posit that some translators are pretty content with the number and type of customers they have, or they prefer to spend most of their time working and pursuing other activities rather than selling or marketing.

I would step away from the word and concept of marketing for a moment and focus on what a particular group of people (interpreters, translators, correctors, editors, etc.) consider useful activities or pursuits to capture more of the type of work they enjoy performing. Let me give you an example from a different profession: musicians.

A pianist who is starting out may know his instrument and scores of songs and genres. Let's say he wants to perform in intimate settings (think Norah Jones for a moment) and he's partial to doing his own pop interpretations of jazz standards. What would his career plan be? Maybe to get together with like-minded musicians, establish connections with more seasoned performers, receive advice on finding an appropriate agent, locate appropriate venues such as cafés, hotels, pubs, etc.

All of this sounds pretty disconnected from marketing, right? Well, it is not, because, for a professional, her way of marketing is her way to reach out to an audience that will appreciate her talents, her skills. How much money our pianist hero makes, how many venues or small concerts he does a year, etc. become secondary pursuits.

Some translators like to be considered entrepreneurs, marketing experts in the language services or coaches. That will largely depend on their particular goals. Our problem is that there are too many out there pushing marketing advice and marketing plans on us to a preposterous degree. It's too distracting and it leaves serious discussions on services marketing by the wayside.


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 05:29
SITE FOUNDER
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Mario Dec 12, 2015

Mario Chavez wrote:
Let me give you an example from a different profession: musicians.

A pianist who is starting out may know his instrument and scores of songs and genres. Let's say he wants to perform in intimate settings (think Norah Jones for a moment) and he's partial to doing his own pop interpretations of jazz standards. What would his career plan be? Maybe to get together with like-minded musicians, establish connections with more seasoned performers, receive advice on finding an appropriate agent, locate appropriate venues such as cafés, hotels, pubs, etc.

All of this sounds pretty disconnected from marketing, right? Well, it is not...

I agree.

Are there other questions you would like asked in a survey, Mario Chavez?

Or you, Dan Lucas?


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Chris E  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:29
Member (2013)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Part-time administrator needed Jan 29, 2016

Some time ago I realised that I translate because it gives me pleasure - I'm exposed to a wide variety of clients and knowledge that makes me feel I am, if not quite at the cutting edge of new science, then damn close to it.)

I hate marketing myself per se. In fact I never do. All my new clients come to me, either by word of mouth or through Proz. I like to think that my work itself is my greatest marketing tool. That being said I am a specialist and I should probably find the time to contact new potential clients. I know exactly who to target so there really is no excuse.

I also hate billing and admin. How is it that I can't bring myself to collect money at the end of the month? All my clients would tell you that I am notoriously bad at it. And then it struck me - what I need is a secretary cum admin/marketing assistant cum accountant. Actually, I need a tiny part of one such multi-talented individual. A tenth, maybe? Or a fifth? Like shared office space, I need a shared "person who does", who keeps me on the straight and narrow as far as deadlines, taxes and invoices are concerned, and who can send out the odd marketing letter every once in a while. After all, I'm not so successful (or expensive) that I can afford a whole one of these godsends all for my lonesome.

Having now read the responses of the 117 people who took the survey, many, many of whom said they do 90% translating and 10% marketing (now where do they find all the time to invoice, email clients and all that other drudgery, one wonders), I think that perhaps I am not the only one finding herself in such an awkward spot. And I stress: I'm a translator. It's what I do well. I never trained in marketing (or the Spanish Hacienda, come to that). I'm willing to pay someone to provide me with those special skills instead of botching the job myself and suffering while I pretend to be a jack-of-all-trades. SO my question is, is there really no other solution to self-marketing? Why does it have to be part of my job at all? If someone walked up to me today and offered to do all the stuff I hate I'd snatch their hand off. Or, at least, a tenth of it.

Anyone with me?


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Working with agencies Jan 30, 2016

I too hate marketing. However, it's not that bad if you do not work with end clients a lot. Finding a good agency is "on-off" marketing effort (or they find you). Then you simply do your job and do it well to sustain the relationship, for many years.

Using bookkeeping software helps too. You juts have a sort of checklist. Do the job, send/upload it, create an invoice and send/upload it (or invoice at the end of each month). The software tracks all the invoices for you. I'm using Xero. Not cheep, but multiple currency support is a must in our "metier", I'm afraid.

To file all those returns and to prepare final accounts you're better of if you hire an accountant. I have.

After all, how many hours can we work a day? Probably 10 on average. We juts need to fill in those 10 hours. So long we keep it B2B, it should not take huge marketing effort on our side (and when I say "marketing", I too include all those non-translation tasks, such as bookkeeping, email correspondence, etc.). After all, if you've been collaborating with an agency for a while, the email looks something like this:

PM: "2766 words (RU>ES). Can you turn it by tomorrow noon? If not, evening will work too. Please, confirm".

You: Thanks. "Safely received and confirmed for tomorrow noon".









[Edited at 2016-01-30 00:59 GMT]


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Chris E  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:29
Member (2013)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It pays to go private Feb 1, 2016

"However, it's not that bad if you do not work with end clients a lot."

Merab Dekano you make many good points. Agencies can work in our favour, in more ways than one. But I like private clients for the simple reason they pay me 2-3 cents per word above what I get from an agency. Say I do 2000 words a day, 5 days a week, that makes around 40,000 words a month. If I get 0.03 euros more per word from private clients, that means I earn a whopping 1200 euros more by having my own clients. Sure, there's more effort involved in maintaining the relationship, but I can put an awful lot of hours into "marketing" if I consider the financial benefit.

Obviously, I want the extra dosh, but the problem of not liking to market myself remains. Luckily, many of my emails with long-term private clients also go along the lines of:

Them: "Here's the next batch. Can I have it back by Monday?"

Me: "OK! No probs."

Them: "Cheers."

Never forget the power of a smiley face.







[Edited at 2016-02-02 05:18 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:29
English to Polish
+ ...
It's a waste of energy Feb 2, 2016

Marketing by freelancers is largely a waste of human capital, just like going through an MBA course simply to manage a one-man 'business' would be.

I have a love-and-hate relationship with it. I'm quite good at it, and I don't mean just writing, I could probably outdo your average above-average campaign director without much effort. Stuff I can pull off even without research… It even appeals to my intellectual curiosity. But I've no heart for it. There is something base about winning people's hearts and minds just so you can win their wallets. Or perhaps my own approach to it is too jaded.

In any case, I certainly didn't dream about selling anything when I went to school. I wish I didn't have to.

People should have agents and managers for that kind of thing or just hire an ad agency or a consultant, rather than diverting a chunk of their work time and mental resources into learning the basics and nothing more than basics of a different job line. That's what currency exists for. Earn money doing your normal work, pay money to someone else for doing his or her normal work.

I actually suspect some translators could have better marketing if they stopped investing time in it and instead spent that time on normal jobs, using the proceeds to pay a real marketer.

For example it's better to translate for a couple of days and use the proceeds to pay a professional web designer than to waste some 100 hours DIY-ing it, with an amateur result.

It would also be better to actually go and spend an afternoon with a business consultant than take time off work to ask for and sort through advice from random people on the Internet.


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