I heard the following years ago at an American Translators Association conference: “If you’re not marketing, you’re dying.” That’s been my experience over the past sixteen years. Marketing can provide a continuous source of clients and income for us translators and interpreters.
Several newcomers to the field ask “how can I find work?”. The following article might provide guidance.
John P. Shaklee
The most frequently asked questions of mentors in the American Translators Association mentoring program have to do with marketing: How can I market my services? Where do I begin? What works? This article will describe a marketing tip shared with me by one of my mentors. It sounds simple: contact one hundred potential clients, and follow up three, ten, thirty and ninety days later. The prediction is that ten of those contacts will become clients.
Sound hokey? Maybe. But, it worked for me. I left a full-time interpreting job last year to become a freelancer last year and profited from the 1/3/10/30/90 marketing tool.
Here’s a breakdown of what I did:
Day 1: I sent out a cover letter, resumé and notification of my court certification status by snail mail. The letter included my availability, experience and recent assignments. At the end I wrote “as part of my ongoing training … “(fill in the blank). This notifies the client that I’m not stagnating and that I am willing to continue to learn. I asked another of my mentors, who happens to be an agency owner, to review my resumé for content and mechanical errors. Jill Sommer, President of the Northern Ohio Translators Association and a frequent contributor to American Translators Association conferences and publications, provided a template for the cover letter. If you would like a copy of my resumé or cover letter, please write email@example.com.
Day 3: I contacted the recipient of my mailing to see if the information arrived. Be it by snail mail, email or a phone call, this is another opportunity to make personal contact with a potential client. When a job crosses someone’s desk, I want “John Shaklee, Interpreter” to be the first name to come to mind. If the recipient says that the information didn’t arrive, politely offer to submit it once again and hang up quickly. On day ten contact the recipient again to see if the information arrived yet. Find out who actually decides which interpreters to call so that your information gets to the right person. Be pleasant and polite no matter who answers. Remember, they are doing you a favor: “May I speak to the person in charge of XXX? I appreciate your time today.” A frazzled secretary will remember you if you are warm and nice instead of huffy and is more likely to see that your information is passed on.
Day 10: Send a brief letter to explain what has happened since your last contact. For example, “I recently translated XXX” or “I attended a workshop on interpreter ethics through the Community and Court Interpreters of the Ohio Valley.” Mention job-related activities since the last call and that you look forward to your first assignment with them. Have you written an article for publication? As a court interpreter I mention which new court I’ve worked in lately. The network grows with each effort you make.
Day 30: If you haven’t been called by this time, not to fret. Here is a sample of a day 30 letter: “Dear Mr. Smith … I appreciate the email from your secretary who mentioned my information is already on file. Most recently I interpreted for a lengthy pre-sentence report in Columbiana County. Also, I’ve been assigned to team interpret for a trial in Judge Lucci’s court in Painesville. Should you have the need for a state certified court interpreter, please call me at XXX.XXX.XXX.” I’m willing to travel and my rates are competitive.” Short, simple, to the point. Once again, the potential client hears my name. Tailor the letter to reflect your experience.
Day 90: You can review assignments, workshops, recent credentials or anything that you have done in the past time period related to why they ought to hire you. Did you build a website? Blog? Present at a conference? Attend a workshop? Again, make the letter brief.
Do I enjoy this disciplined exercise? No. Frankly I don’t like this any more than balancing the checkbook. Yet, since I started to work freelance, my work load has increased. I am working harder for shorter periods of time and earning more.
The 1/3/10/30/90 tool has put my name in the hands of judges and court administrators throughout northeast Ohio. When a case comes up, they know to contact “that guy from North Canton who keeps contacting us and is certified.” Have your rates and availability at hand as the client will call. Join me in the abundance.
NOTE: Another form of marketing is to send handwritten cards, be they for Christmas or a simple thank-you. Thanks to my colleague Jill Sommer for that hint.