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I do a pretty brisk business translating for individual clients (anything from birth certificates through self-published books). It’s a niche that many agencies and freelancers avoid, so it can be a good niche to address if you’re interested. In this six-minute video, I give you some thoughts on what’s appealing about the individual-client market and how to dive in if you’d like to.

I’m excited to announce that ATA is now accepting session proposals for our 56th annual conference, to be held in Miami in November, 2015. Yes, you read that correctly: Miami in November…we’re expecting a large crowd!

ATA depends on volunteer presenters for the bulk of the conference sessions. You can submit a proposal for a three-hour preconference seminar or a one-hour session during the conference; there are some financial incentives for each of those options, and you can read about them on the proposal form. Especially needed are *advanced-level sessions* and topics that have not been covered at previous conferences. Here’s the online information.

If you’ve never submitted a session presentation before, you might find some useful information in this free webinar that I presented for ATA last year, entitled “How to write a winning ATA conference proposal.”

Thanks, and let’s make Miami the best conference yet!

In 2014, I listened to two episodes of Tess Whitty’s podcast Marketing Tips for Translators that got me thinking about the whole “warm e-mail marketing” idea. Tess interviewed Joanne Archambault about marketing to direct clients that you can’t meet in person and then interviewed Ed Gandia about his warm e-mail marketing system, including his online class on the topic. I’ve always been a bit wary of e-mail marketing (seems spammy, hard to find the right contact person, hard to know what to say), and I’ve generally stuck with letters, postcards,  in-person networking and referrals to find my direct clients. But these two podcast episodes made me think a) maybe it’s just that I’m approaching e-mail marketing in the wrong way, b) it’s good to evolve and try new things and c) now that I travel for the ATA Board, I have less time to travel to client conferences, so e-mail marketing might be worth a shot.

First, I downloaded Ed’s free cheat sheet on warm e-mail marketing. The whole idea, drastically simplified, is to send short, highly personalized e-mails to potential clients, and to hopefully create a meaningful connection that might lead to some work. The concept appealed to me, so I signed up for the next session of Ed’s warm e-mail marketing class. Again, I was a little skeptical: I’m not a huge fan of pre-packaged online classes where there’s no interaction with the instructor, but the registration fee of under $200 was low-risk, and I forced myself to carve out the time to listen to all of the audio lessons over the course of a couple of weeks. Then, it was time to give the system a try.

My first two e-mails were to potential international development clients who had recently won a big contract involving French-speaking countries; I felt positive about what I wrote, but got no response from the recipients. But I forged on, surmising that I needed to send at least 10 e-mails before I could get a representative sample. My next e-mail was to a publishing house that I’d contacted a couple of years ago with a book translation idea. At that time, the publisher was interested, but the foreign rights arrangement was complicated and the project ultimately fizzled. Flash forward to a few months ago, when I read an excerpt from an interesting book by a French author, and out of curiosity I went to her website to learn more about her. Whoa; right there on the “News” page, the author (whose books are selling really well in Europe), stated that she was actively looking for an English-language publisher, and her books struck me as being right up the alley of the publishing house I’d contacted back in 2012. So, I composed a warm e-mail to my contact person, along the lines of, “I’m not presuming that you’d hire me, but here’s a potential translation that looks like a great fit for your audience.”

Within a day, I got a response from my contact person, saying that she’d look into the book I had suggested, and that as luck would have it, the publishing house had just acquired the translation rights to another French book on a similar topic, and would I be interested in submitting a sample? Well, right there, I knew that the time and money I invested in Ed’s class had just paid off: I had resisted the urge to write a long e-mail, to be overly self-promotional, or to just ping my contact person for no apparent reason (“Got any work for me?”). I had shared a piece of useful information, and it had really paid off. So, I’m excited to say that I submitted a sample, the publisher was happy with it, and I’m now under contract to translate the book between now and May…at which point I can tell you the details instead of referring to the project in veiled terms! But the point being, give warm e-mail marketing a try…

A new video! I felt more like talking than writing today…

Lots of people ask why a freelance translator needs a partner, and how to find the right person. Here’s part I, in which I briefly answer those questions; in part II, Eve Bodeux and I will talk about how we work together.

I’m pretty meticulous about my IT procedures, and luckily I’ve never had a major IT catastrophe. But here’s a minor IT annoyance that has heretofore sucked up an inordinate amount of my time: unsaved Gmail attachments. And now, there’s a solution!

As I’ve written about before, I use Gmail with my own domain name, to take advantage of the Gmail features without having to use a Gmail address for work. I’m not sure if this oddity is specific to Gmail, but here we go: if someone sends you a Word document as an attachment and it’s in .doc format (i.e. pre-Word 2007), Gmail will not open the document directly, and forces you to save it…so this issue does not occur. But if someone sends you a Word document as an attachment and it’s in .docx format (i.e. Word 2007 or later), Gmail gives you the option to either open the document or save it, and I most often just go ahead and open the attachment so that I can read it right away.

Here’s where you can tell that a key variable in this situation is me: I could simply train myself to *never* use the direct-open feature, but so far I haven’t succeeded at that either. Let’s continue on: you’re happily reading your direct-opened .docx document, and, here’s where I maintain that the issue isn’t just my stupidity, you’re even clicking “Save” periodically and Word is happily appearing to save (actually Word is happily saving, just not where you think it’s saving). Word does not give you the “Save As” dialog box as it would if you were trying to save a previously unsaved document. This most often happens to me when students in my classes send me their homework as a Word document; I want to get back to them right away, so I pop the thing open, type lots of comments, press Save lots of times, and then close the document, and again, there’s no prompt to choose a folder for the document (because Word is stashing it away in an undisclosed location)…the document just closes. Then when you go to reopen it, it’s not in the folder where you fantasize that you saved it (insert an image of me, frantically searching that student’s folder for their Lesson 3 homework that I just spent an hour commenting on…) and the document is not in the “Recent” tab in Word. Where the bleep is the thing?

Well, those of you who are more IT-savvy than I am probably already know that it’s in a deep, dark folder reserved for temporary documents downloaded from the Internet. I promise you, it’s there: but do not muck around and do stupid, panicky things like trying to reopen the attachment from the original e-mail in hopes that your changes will be there (they’re not there, and you’ll only overwrite the copy of the document you’re looking for: don’t ask me how I learned that). Instead, follow the instructions in this post from Oded Ran’s blog “Tech Chutzpah” and breathe a sigh of relief. Seeing that this post has eleven hundred comments made me feel better, because at least it’s not just me. Basically you need to locate the folder where your web browser stores your temporary files, and there you’ll find your meticulously edited Word document, and you can open it and finally hit Save As; Oded’s post will walk you step-by-step through what you need to do to find that folder. Thank you!!!

Hello and happy 2015 to everyone! If you’re looking to start the new year by working toward your freelance goals, the next session of my online course “Getting Started as a Freelance Translator” starts tomorrow (Wednesday 1/7) and I still have three spots open. Here’s the course web page.

This course is for translators with little or no freelance experience, who want to launch and run a successful freelance business. It runs for four weeks, and everyone gets individual feedback from me on four targeted assignments: your resume and cover letter, marketing plan, rates/billable hours sheet, and online presence (association directory profiles, LinkedIn, website, etc.). We also do a one-hour question and answer conference call every week, and you can attend those live or send your questions by e-mail and listen to the recordings that I send out afterward. You can read the full course description and register using the link above. And if you’re interested in my more advanced course, “Beyond the Basics of Freelancing,” that starts on February 18 and you can read about it here.

Registration for either course is $350, with a $50 discount for ATA members, and every student also receives free copies of my books How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and Thoughts on Translation.

After tomorrow, the Thoughts on Translation world headquarters will be closed for vacation through January 4, so before we dig into today’s topic, here are a few end-of-year recommendations:

  • Start thinking about taxes as soon as you get back from your holiday break. You can close out your books immediately, so why not do it in January rather than on April 14?
  • If you achieved your business goals for this year, be a good boss and give yourself a bonus. If you need some ideas, I wrote a whole post about bonuses last year.
  • If you’re an experienced translator with enough work and income, take some real time off over the holidays. Put your auto-responder on and put the computer in the rear view mirror.
  • If you’re a new translator, be aware that the holidays are a great time to pick up new clients; end-of-year panic plus lots of experienced translators on vacation equals a potential opening for a newcomer. Today on Twitter, one agency owner commented that at this time of year, agencies are much more likely to take a chance on a new person…which could lead to a lasting relationship. French to English translator Karen Tkaczyk reported that during her first year as a freelancer, she picked up many new clients by being available between Christmas and New Year’s.

But now, let’s talk about something else: how to select an online course. I’m a big fan of this topic, having taught my own courses for about eight years, and having taken several Coursera classes, a couple of writing classes through Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and most recently Ed Gandia’s Warm e-mail prospecting course. There’s no shortage of online courses out there, but the question is how to choose one; while the range of potential courses might be limitless, your available time and money surely are not. So here are some deciding factors to help you:

  1. Are you interested in a specific topic, or in a specific teacher? When I took Coursera’s class Epidemics: the dynamics of infectious diseases, it was the topic that grabbed me. As a bonus, the instructors were amazing (and just for the record, I learned more from this class than from any other science class I’ve ever taken, including in-person courses in college), but I didn’t know any of the instructors to start out with. When I took Ed Gandia’s class, I was attracted by the fact that he’s a marketing coach whose advice fits with my preferred way of finding new clients (as he says “without the ick factor”).
  2. What delivery method works best for you? Here I’m talking about live versus self-paced, video lectures versus audio lectures, etc. The advantage of a live/synchronous course is that you have to be there, so there’s no weaseling out. With self-paced/asynchronous, you can do the course at 2 AM if you want. My tip: if you take a self-paced course, set a certain block of time aside for it and stick to that. For example I listened to Ed’s e-mail marketing course in the evenings, when I didn’t feel like staring at the computer screen any more. In terms of audio versus video, the topic may dictate your preference. For example the Coursera epidemics class includes tons of animations; that may have driven some people crazy, but for me (person with a strong interest in science but not much of a hard science background), they were tremendously helpful. I also really appreciated the possibility of pausing the video and looking something up on Wikipedia, or listening to a few seconds of the video again. By contrast, Ed Gandia’s e-mail marketing course is audio lectures with handouts; this worked for me because it’s a topic I “get,” and because Ed has a great speaking voice, but if you’ve never done much freelance marketing before, it might be better to take a video course.
  3. Do you get any individualized feedback? To me, this is huge. If you’re taking the course primarily/exclusively to absorb information, individual attention may not be that important. For example in my epidemics classes, I was fine with the auto-graded quizzes and peer discussion boards, because my main goal was to learn facts, not improve my subjective skills. But if you’re taking a course specifically to improve your skills, individual attention makes a huge difference; this is something I always mention when people are considering my online courses. Lots of classes in the $150-$200 price point are going to give you great information, and will be a lot more interesting than reading a book, but you won’t get individualized feedback from the instructor, whereas the whole foundation of my classes is individualized feedback. From the instructor standpoint, individualized feedback takes a lot of of time, which is probably why most courses that offer it are in the $300+ price point.
  4. If the class is self-paced, do you have the discipline to follow through on it? Another big one: with Ed’s e-mail marketing course, I found that I really had to carve out the time to do it, or I forgot about it since there’s no enforced schedule. Especially if the course is a significant financial investment, consider your level of self-discipline before you sign up. Ditto for courses that last a long time: signing up for a year of coaching at a reduced rate sounds good, but if you lose interest after three months, it could be a waste of money.

Readers, any other thoughts on this? And happy 2015 to everyone!

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