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Opinion: What makes a good translation affiliate program?
Thread poster: Alex Hughes

Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 8, 2015

Hello everyone,

Right now, I am working on creating an affiliate program through which translators can refer clients to us and receive an ongoing commission without doing any additional work. This would allow translators to earn money from any direct clients contacting them even if they don't provide the needed languages or services.

But, I want to see what you guys think. Have you had success working with LSP affiliate programs? What features would you like to see? What don't you like about affiliate programs?

Thanks for your help! I'm looking forward to hearing your responses.


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Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 09:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
There's no such thing as a 'free lunch'. Apr 8, 2015

Surely we already have more than enough intermediaries and 'hangers-on' pulling down translators' incomes...?

This is nothing more (nor less) than (yet) another scheme designed to confuse the proper pecking order, in which we, the translators, the language profesionals, the SPECIALIST SERVICE PROVIDERS, are at the top; not, as some would have us believe, at the bottom (or below...).


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The Misha
Local time: 08:42
Russian to English
+ ...
Bad idea Apr 9, 2015

The way I see it, there are three problems with this.

1) The number of cold calls one gets from direct clients or whoever about languages he or she does not translate from can be expected to be very small. Specifically, in my case it equals exactly zero over the course of my 25-year-long translating career.

2) Paid or not, I would never even consider referring anyone to "us" without knowing who "us" is or having had any experience working with or for this mysterious "us". A referral, by definition, should be to someone you know or trust because otherwise there is always a risk of you blowing it and the whole sorry mess coming around and biting me in you know where. No referral fee is worth tarnishing your reputation over, at least to me it isn't.

3) Finally, I think such an arrangement stinks from an ethical standpoint. Sure, referral fees are quite common in some industries, but to me this seems to be similar to what paid expert witnesses for the defense do during trials. Well, at least they get paid well. Then again, maybe your ethics are different from mine.

Ask yourself: are you really that desperate for workflow? Then maybe you have a bigger problem.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:42
Member (2008)
French to English
Follow the lead of other professions Apr 9, 2015

Perhaps you could do what the successful firms in other professions do, such as law or accountancy firms. How do their affiliate programs work? (Hint: They don't have any)

A profession such as translation is not generally sold via affiliate programs. It is based on trust and confidence developed between the client and the professional. Bringing in another party isn't going to help build that trust.

[Edited at 2015-04-09 02:18 GMT]


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Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the feedback Apr 9, 2015

Robin Levey wrote:

Surely we already have more than enough intermediaries and 'hangers-on' pulling down translators' incomes...?

This is nothing more (nor less) than (yet) another scheme designed to confuse the proper pecking order, in which we, the translators, the language profesionals, the SPECIALIST SERVICE PROVIDERS, are at the top; not, as some would have us believe, at the bottom (or below...).


I'm not sure how this would pull down translators' income since it would allow them to receive recurring revenue from clients they wouldn't otherwise be able to service. The overall idea here is to offer more value to translators that already work with our company while gaining marketing exposure.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:42
Chinese to English
Feedback Apr 9, 2015

I'm not quite as hostile to the idea as those above, though I can't imagine ever using such a scheme myself.

The problem is trust. I would never refer a client to you, because I don't know you and trust you. You say that it's aimed at your existing partners, and that's a good start. At the very least they know who you are. So I would suggest mechanisms for building trust within the program. First, limit it to those who are already working with you. Second, build in an obligatory feedback mechanism. E.g. if a company approaches Translator P, and P wants to refer to you, you give him a stock letter which tells the company about you, and informs them that they will be asked to give feedback on your service to P. It's a slight burden on the customer, but with a bit of luck it will be worth it to build a good feedback loop.


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Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good points, but... Apr 9, 2015

The Misha wrote:

The way I see it, there are three problems with this.

1) The number of cold calls one gets from direct clients or whoever about languages he or she does not translate from can be expected to be very small. Specifically, in my case it equals exactly zero over the course of my 25-year-long translating career.

2) Paid or not, I would never even consider referring anyone to "us" without knowing who "us" is or having had any experience working with or for this mysterious "us". A referral, by definition, should be to someone you know or trust because otherwise there is always a risk of you blowing it and the whole sorry mess coming around and biting me in you know where. No referral fee is worth tarnishing your reputation over, at least to me it isn't.

3) Finally, I think such an arrangement stinks from an ethical standpoint. Sure, referral fees are quite common in some industries, but to me this seems to be similar to what paid expert witnesses for the defense do during trials. Well, at least they get paid well. Then again, maybe your ethics are different from mine.

Ask yourself: are you really that desperate for workflow? Then maybe you have a bigger problem.


The number one rule of affiliate marketing is never promote a product that you wouldn't or haven't used yourself. In this case, we would be working with translators who know our company, standards and practices. There would be extensive marketing and background information for them to pass on to clients, so that they can make their own decision. Additionally, we offer a money back guarantee in case a client isn't satisfied with the service offered.

As regards cold calls from direct clients, there have been many times when I have received requests for language combinations or services that I didn't offer at the time. But, I tend to market more aggressively than others.

Finally, I'm not sure what you mean about ethics. Could you elaborate?


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Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Affiliate marketing is becoming more common in all professions Apr 9, 2015

John Fossey wrote:

Perhaps you could do what the successful firms in other professions do, such as law or accountancy firms. How do their affiliate programs work? (Hint: They don't have any)

A profession such as translation is not generally sold via affiliate programs. It is based on trust and confidence developed between the client and the professional. Bringing in another party isn't going to help build that trust.

[Edited at 2015-04-09 02:18 GMT]


I agree that many industries do not take well to affiliate marketing, but that doesn't mean that it can't be successfully implemented. For instance, if you search for "translation affiliate program", "lawyer affiliate program" or even "dental referral program", you will find a long list of companies who do work with this type of program.

I think the real issue is that as translators we tend to be squeamish about new untested marketing techniques. But, I think the idea of receiving an ongoing sales commission for simply making a referral could have a very positive impact on a translator's cash flow. That alone makes the idea worth exploring and playing with.

[Edited at 2015-04-09 03:53 GMT]


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Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is an excellent idea Apr 9, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:

I'm not quite as hostile to the idea as those above, though I can't imagine ever using such a scheme myself.

The problem is trust. I would never refer a client to you, because I don't know you and trust you. You say that it's aimed at your existing partners, and that's a good start. At the very least they know who you are. So I would suggest mechanisms for building trust within the program. First, limit it to those who are already working with you. Second, build in an obligatory feedback mechanism. E.g. if a company approaches Translator P, and P wants to refer to you, you give him a stock letter which tells the company about you, and informs them that they will be asked to give feedback on your service to P. It's a slight burden on the customer, but with a bit of luck it will be worth it to build a good feedback loop.


Hi Phil,

I appreciate your calm approach to this topic

You're right, the number one issue for making any sale is trust. Getting translators on board with this idea will also require trust. I very much like your suggestion of passing client feedback on to affiliates and I will definitely look into implementing it.

I think that this type of program will take a large amount of affiliate education since many translators are unfamiliar with how these programs work.


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Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Like John already said Apr 9, 2015

It's all about confidence.
Hi Alex. I have never participated in this business model (and wouldn't, frankly speaking). This is surely for a Grow Big plan, to work with hundreds of translators, otherwise this strategy would be uneffective. This requires necessary staff increase and again, would contribute to losing confidence among translators. It's impossible to run a small company, for instance, and serve lots of service providers efficiently, at least very long.
In my opinion, there are two approaches only: Either simply outsourcing or something versatile that makes me feel we are in a trading environment with "options" on translation services, pips, spreads

[Edited at 2015-04-09 03:55 GMT]


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Alex Hughes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Option 2 for sure Apr 9, 2015

Radian Yazynin wrote:

It's all about confidence.
Hi Alex. I have never participated in this business model (and wouldn't, frankly speaking). This is surely for a Grow Big plan, to work with hundreds of translators, otherwise this strategy would be uneffective. This requires necessary staff increase and again, would contribute to losing confidence among translators. It's impossible to run a small company, for instance, and serve lots of service providers efficiently, at least very long.
In my opinion, there are two approaches only: Either simply outsourcing or something versatile that makes me feel we are in a trading environment with "options" on translation services, pips, spreads

[Edited at 2015-04-09 03:55 GMT]


Hi Radian,

Our goal is to add value within each step of a project and not simply be an outsourcer. This focus on quality means extensive controls and checks of each project and satisfied customers. This sounds more like your second option to me.

Also, the plan is definitely to grow the company. This affiliate program would only be a small part of that growth, but I feel that providing translators with additional income sources will help to increase loyalty and strengthen the company.


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Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:42
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Yes but Apr 9, 2015

the most important aspect will stay put -- you should always be struggling with two "variables":
tight deadlines (translation jobs are perishable goods) plus unstable LSP's availability.


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
much ado about AdSense/AdWords Apr 9, 2015

Frankly, I don't think that it would fall in place, not only because such a referral ad funding scheme is unclear and hazy from the start, but also who would pay what and who--for what exactly? Then, per view, per some action, per registering/referring (recruiting aka sponsoring), per cont(r)act, per successful contract, per per?... And what makes the deal, conditions, and possible disputes, I wonder?

I want no referrals.

Therefore I believe it would just overflow sexy 'translation' banners to 'add (illusion) value', which would surely make the process more complicated and costy, alas.

Alex, could you demonstrate a short client-affiliating-referral-translator communication in estimated numbers, e.g. who gets or pays how much and for what, ok?

TY


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:42
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
sort of unsure Apr 9, 2015

I do get requests for other language combinations or subject fields and clients do ask for recommendations if I don't offer a service. In the past year, I have referred 4 direct clients to colleagues of mine - 2 for a different language combination, 1 for a different subject field and 1 because they needed a certified translation. One of the colleagues was actually unknown to me, but a regular collaborator thought highly of her. On top of that, I have explained to 2 direct clients in the past 18 months that they would be better served with an agency, as their availability demands exceeded what I as an individual can provide. And I have pointed 3 agencies towards a different proofreader, either because I didn't have capacity, or because they wanted a different language variant.
All of these client remained loyal to me for our regular type of assignment.

But I would be rather wary if I was actually asked to do that by a third party, even if I have worked with them. A referral fee would not be relevant in the face of a potential loss of a client. You say, you market quite aggressively - that would be enough to put me off!
Most of my direct clients have come to me through referral and I'm happy to refer them on if I cannot provide a service myself. I don't want to see heavy marketing thrown into that relationship.


[Edited at 2015-04-09 09:51 GMT]


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xxxbrg
Netherlands
Ethical isues Apr 9, 2015

I have been sending clients to other translators. Either they don't like the idea, either they are disappointed afterwards. Too much hassle, especially because it was free and I don't like complaints.

The ethical issue is the following: do you like to earn money over someone's else's body?

And afterwards, it takes the direction of a MLM scheme. Remember that MLM schemes in which no real products or services are sold and only commissions are perceived, are forbidden in some countries.


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