Hate marketing your translation business? Try these 7 simple steps

Hate marketing your translation business? Try these 7 simple steps

You’ve got a nagging feeling that you should be marketing your translation business more proactively. If just one more low-paying offer comes into your inbox addressed Dear Vendor, you might just scream. In part because there are too few interesting enquiries from clients you’d love to work with.

Occasionally you get a juicy project you can’t wait to get stuck into and sometimes you can negotiate a decent deadline. But you often find yourself agreeing to tight turnarounds or unsatisfactory conditions because you need to pay the bills and you don’t have anything else to work on right now. Who knows what’s around the corner, right?

You became a translator for the love of languages but the business side of things comes with the freelance territory. If something doesn’t change you could end up becoming more and more resentful and frustrated with translation, with the downward price pressure and demands from less-than-ideal clients. When you’re at the whims of clients, it can feel like you’ve lost the freedom in the freelance adventure.

Marketing your business gives you back control

Investing time and energy in your marketing means you can call the shots. You can focus on the clients and projects you want to work with instead of hoping they come to you. You can also say no to the work you don’t want to do instead of saying yes because you’re not sure where the next client is coming from. The types of companies you have on your wish list don’t know you exist right now so let’s change that.

With a world of options and strategies, knowing where to start is part of the problem. Never fear, I’ve broken down the essential steps to marketing your translation business right here.

1. Do a quick marketing audit and understand your starting point

What have you got in terms of marketing assets and what do you really need? Many translators put off marketing because they don’t have a website (or the perfect website) or a portfolio. They have a barebones LinkedIn profile and are overwhelmed with everything they want to have in place before they start contacting people. Most of this is nice to have and not essential for getting clients.

If you have a few years of experience as a translator then you’ve won clients without those assets and can do it again. Some of those marketing assets are certainly helpful but you can whip up a one-page profile or jazz up your LinkedIn profile in a couple of hours and then there’s nothing holding you back from taking action. What do you have already?

Make a list of what marketing assets you do have, and make sure to include your network of clients and contacts. Your list might also include, for example, public profiles in various directories, a CV (that you can turn into a client-focused profile), a website, a blog, social media accounts, a portfolio, email templates that you can repurpose, anything you’ve used to attract business and communicate with your target audience.

2. Get clear on your goals

There are two parts to this. First, you want to understand what’s not working and what exactly you want to change. Then we can move to the fun part of how you want your business to look and serve you in the near future.

This gives you clarity over your business as it stands today and a baseline to build on. It might add motivation if you’re not happy with where things stand. But if you’re feeling frustrated with your business right now, try and take a step back and view your insights as an outsider would – as neutral data to inform. Now for the fun part.

Do you have an income goal, a taking every Friday off goal, a regular monthly income goal from clients who put a smile on your face? Knowing your ideal scenario focuses the mind when you start looking for clients to match. If you want regular monthly work then you don’t want to target a small business that only needs a translator sporadically. Consider the type of regular content you enjoy in your chosen sector e.g. a journal publisher, companies with blogs and newsletters, press releases, app updates, insurance claims, white papers. Or do you prefer bigger projects? Note down a few details because next up is your future client.

3. Who exactly do you want to work with?

At this point, you might be thinking that you love variety, you work with a range of different clients and so you don’t have one particular type of client you can focus on. I’m not here to tell you that you have to have a niche within a niche and you should be an expert in one subject area only. Not at all. But you do need to pick one sub-sector or type of company to focus on for a period of time when you’re marketing because it will save you so much time when finding people to contact and make your marketing infinitely more compelling. And it also helps you pinpoint where to naturally meet these people instead of spreading yourself too thin and trying to cover all possible bases.

Pinpoint where your ideal clients are
Narrow down your search area of potential clients

4. Where can you find your ideal clients?

Find out where the types of clients you identified in (3) are most active. What are they looking for and where are they looking for it? Are they on social media? Do they attend specific events online or in person? Do they publish their research or write articles or advertise in industry journals? There’s no point focusing all your attention on LinkedIn with the aim of getting clients if your ideal clients have a minimal profile and log in twice a year. And yes, I know there are other benefits of social media but I’m focusing on directly engaging with your target audience here.

5. Match your marketing strategy to the person and your goal

When you know where your ideal clients are most active, you can choose the most effective type of marketing.

There may be cultural considerations, for example if you work with Japanese clients, who are less open to a direct approach but welcome introductions. In which case, look at who you know and are connected with already who could make those introductions.

Could you attend the same events at your ideal clients? I’ve made some good contacts by attending client-facing webinars advertised on LinkedIn so you don’t always have to leave your office to use this approach – and you’re gaining some subject-matter knowledge and market insights at the same time.

If you’re already connected with some promising people on your business wish list, you could head straight into their email inbox. Physical mail is another option that’s often well received and helps you bypass a busy digital inbox.

6. Decide what you want people to do when you contact them

Now you know the person, where they hang out, and how you want to contact them, take a little time to consider the reason for your contact. You’re going to work backwards from this to ensure your marketing actually gets results and responses.

I know your ultimate aim is to get a translation project but that’s a big ask on your first contact. The other person barely knows you; they don’t have all the information they need to make a decision and most of all, they won’t have a project just sitting on their desk waiting for you to get in touch. So if you ask them whether they need translation, the answer is likely to be a perfectly reasonable ‘no’.

Present a small step for your potential client to take to start working with you
Ask your future client to take a small step first

Decide on a small step they could take to get to know you better, which would help build your relationship. Maybe you have a free resource to share, you could invite them on a call, encourage them to tell you something about their company and their plans, a must-attend upcoming event. Think small and something to keep the conversation going. Now you know what the end goal is, you’re ready to…

7. Have a conversation. And then another.

How many conversations you have with people in your target audience is the number one marker of your marketing results. The more conversations you have, the more you understand what the other person needs and how you can feasibly help. You get to hear the language they use and the way they explain their requirements and struggles. You get insights to help you adjust your messaging and the way you talk about your services. And the more people you talk to, the more likely it is that you’ll get a positive response when you ask about a potential collaboration.

What do I mean by a conversation? An email exchange, messages back and forth on LinkedIn, a telephone or video call conversation, an in-person meeting… basically any form of communication (so if you hate the telephone, it’s all good).

And keep the conversation going. When you first contact someone they might not be ready to work together for various reasons. That’s why keeping in touch is so important because then you’ve built a relationship, however small at first. A sustainable marketing strategy is little and often, each contact point building on the next rather than trying to do everything at once like asking for a 4-figure translation project right off the bat. The long-term nature of outreach means that the sooner you start, the better.

It’s time to act, let’s get marketing!

If you ever feel stuck and you don’t know what to do next, spend a few minutes identifying your starting point and what you want to change. You’ve worked with clients before, you can find new (and improved versions of these) clients again. Above all else, focus on the people. Who you want to work with and where you can find them. Then it’s time to get strategic. How can you best reach these potential clients? What small step could you ask them to take on your first contact? And then keep having conversations.

Those conversations will help you fill in any gaps between what you think your ideal clients need and what they actually want. They’ll get easier and more natural over time and the more you have, the more people know translators like you exist and how you can help. You’ll be the person they come to when they need a translation. And the quicker you start, the quicker you’ll be able to move away from those frustrating clients you’re only working with to pay the bills because no other option is available.

If you’d like regular tips on marketing your translation business, you can get a weekly email from me by adding your details below. You’ll get a firm but gentle nudge to take action right now with a few tips and resources to help you along the way.


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