Everyone knows that getting direct clients is not as easy as it seems. Honestly, I don't think there's some sort of big secret only a few huge translation companies seem to know while the rest of us are walking in the dark. A few very basic concepts help a lot when it comes to making direct clients.
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1. You have to spend money to make money. Invest in a nice logo, animations, business cards, presentations, publicity, anything that will catch your prospective client's attention. Do-it-yourself is way cool if you're the creative type and know lots about marketing, but if like me you're "just a translator," then you might need a little help from the pros.
2. Don't imitate, innovate. We've all heard this phrase a million times, how about applying it to our webpages?
3. Get exposure. Make sure people know who you are and what you do. If you know how to do something really different and really well, teach a class somewhere. Figure out where your prospective clients go and follow suit. Take your business card everywhere you go, and give it to everyone. I worked in sales for a major multinational and managed to become top seller by ALWAYS assuming the sale and NEVER assuming the person I was speaking to was not going to buy.
4. Specialize. NO, you can't translate into a million languages, and NO you don't know everything! So be really good at the things you do know how to do and be honest when selling yourself. Find an area you would like to specialize in and try to know as much about it as you can. Take classes related to your area of expertise, not simply translation in that area. For instance, if you specialize in Art and Literature, take a couple of Art classes at your local museum, stop by art supply shops and jot down what things are called, be familiar with art tools and techniques. Find leading brands and check out what they advertise and what everything is called. Basically, what I'm trying to say is specialize in something and get to know that market like the palm of your hand.
5. Find your competitive edge. I worked side by side with the CEO of a major multinational lab and he taught me what I believe to be the rule of thumb of any business, "a successful business can only offer one of three things: price, quality, or service." At most, if you're really lucky and very smart you'll be able to offer quality and service, but very cheap rates will automatically affect one of the three. Figure out what you want to be: really good or really cheap?
6. Keep them coming back. This means offer great service. You want your good clients to keep coming back, for that you have to be able to meet all their needs and that includes quality work delivered in reasonable time and in whatever format they need. Don't accept impossible deadlines, they may say quality is not important and they understand they're asking a lot from you, but the truth is, they don't! Quality is always a big deal. So if you plan to take on more work than you can handle, get backup, and if you're going to use backup, tell your client. Remember, if they are hiring you because they trust you, sub-hiring and not telling may come back to haunt you.
7. Word of Mouth. If you keep your current clients happy not only will they come back, but they will recommend you, and that's the cheapest, most effective type of publicity ever!
Disappointed? I'm sure you are. Making new clients is not rocket science, there is no secret formula. It's all about how hard you're willing to work, how much you're willing to invest, what you're willing to learn and painfully, what you're willing to give up along the way. I guess, it all comes back to what my old gym teacher used to say, "No pain, no gain."