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Archive for the ‘Freelancing’ Category

I often refer to LinkedIn as the most underused social media resource out there: most of us have a LinkedIn profile, but we just “set it and forget it,” rather than using the site’s more sophisticated capabilities. At the very least, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people in your target industries, by joining Groups that they also belong to (direct client 101: you don’t find them if you only hang out with other translators). You can also use LinkedIn saved searches–even with the free account–to keep track of business prospects. You can use LinkedIn like a virtual Rolodex so that you’re not scrabbling through your desk drawer for the business card of someone you met at a conference five years ago. LinkedIn is also really useful for doing research about your potential clients: finding out who’s hiring, who changed jobs, and so on.

But first, you have to contend with the sticky issue of how to handle LinkedIn connection requests. When I first joined LinkedIn, I was pretty liberal about who I connected with, theorizing that anyone who worked in our industry was potentially a good connection. Over the years (and many hundreds of connections later), I’ve become less of an “open networker,” so I only accept connection requests from a) people I know or b) people who personalize their connection request message and explain how we know each other or why they want to connect with me. If I don’t know the person outside LinkedIn and they don’t explain why they want to connect, I hit “Ignore” and then “I don’t know John Doe,” because I see little value in these types of blind connections.

“But LinkedIn just sends the connection request automatically!,” I hear you cry…”It’s gone before I can personalize it!” Well, not if you do it the right way. Yes, if you’re just looking at LinkedIn’s list of “People You May Know,” and you click the “Connect” button, there goes the invitation with the stock message “I’d like to add you as a connection on LinkedIn.” However if you are looking at the profile of the person you want to connect with, and then you click Connect, you’ll get this popup:
ATA_LinkedIn

Then, you can indicate how you know the person, and you can write them a personal message. Everyone has to come up with their own LinkedIn strategy: some people will connect only with people they personally know and work with, while others are open to networking with anyone who hits the Connect button. But personalizing your connection request looks more professional and will undoubtedly result in a greater success rate than mass-connecting anonymously.

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Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcast is a great resource for freelancers, and Tess recently interviewed me for an episode called Beyond the Basics of Freelance Marketing. We talked about how to market your translation services to higher-quality agencies and direct clients, how to make a financial plan for your freelance business, and about the new Beyond the Basics of Freelancing class that I’m teaching. Thanks to Tess for the great questions, and I hope you find the information useful!

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The next session of my online course for established freelancers, Beyond the Basics of Freelancing, starts tomorrow (August 20), and I have three spots open. This class is for freelancers who have established freelance businesses and want to focus on refining their specializations, marketing to higher-quality agencies and direct clients, and on earning more money and enjoying their work more (why not, right?). The course runs for four weeks and registration is US $325, with a $50 discount for ATA members. Everyone in the class also receives a one-hour individual consultation with me after the class ends. If you’re interested, hop on over to my website to read the full course description or to register.

Here’s some feedback from a recent participant in the course: “I can’t recommend Corinne’s course highly enough. There’s so much advice out there to read that it can be overwhelming. But Corinne gives you practical advice, examples and techniques you can actually apply to your own business. Incredibly valuable. “

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I’m back from vacation, and slowly easing back in to real life after a month-long break spent bicycling around the Dolomites in northern Italy (more to come about that!). Meanwhile,¬† my hardworking colleague Eve Bodeux recorded a great new episode of Speaking of Translation, in which she interviewed French to English technical translator Stephanie Strobel, on the topic “Exploiting your subject matter expertise.” Stephanie is a highly specialized translator who works primarily with engineering documents, drawing on her experience as a mechanical engineer. Eve and Stephanie met up in Paris for this interview, so that adds an extra element of intrigue! Here it is, and happy listening!

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The next sessions of my online courses start on August 20 (Beyond the Basics of Freelancing) and September 24 (Getting Started as a Freelance Translator). Getting Started is for students who want to launch and run a successful freelance business, and Beyond the Basics is for students who have established freelance businesses. Each class is four weeks long and consists of four lessons on which you get individual feedback from me, plus a weekly question-and-answer conference call for the whole class. Additionally, students in Beyond the Basics get a one-hour individual consultation with me.

Getting Started focuses on the basics of getting your freelance business up and running: writing a translation-targeted resumé and cover letter, creating a marketing plan and rates sheet and establishing an online presence (LinkedIn profile, translators association directory profile, website, etc.). Beyond the Basics focuses on marketing your services to high-quality translation agencies and direct clients, creating a professional profile document and identifying ways to meet direct clients on their turf.

Registration for either class is US $325, and after these sessions I’ll be raising the price to US $350, so now is a good time to register if you’ve been thinking about it. All sessions of both courses have filled up before the deadline for the past year, so hop on over to my website and read the full descriptions if you’re thinking of joining one of these sessions! ATA members receive a $50 discount on registration for either course.

Here’s a comment from a participant in the most recent session of Beyond the Basics: “This course really helped me define a path for moving my business forward, as well as giving me some helpful tools for getting there. I received valuable input and tips not only from Corinne, but also from the other students, and it was great to be part of a little virtual community.”

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…and remove:

  1. Vague blah blah that applies to 10,000 other translators (possibly even 11,000). “I help clients communicate across cultures” (let’s hope so…), “Accurate and efficient,” “Detail-oriented,” “Committed to meeting deadlines.” Instead, get specific: “In 12+ years of freelancing, I have never missed a deadline.” “More than just a word-replacer, I’m a key member of my clients’ communications teams.” “I regularly decline assignments that aren’t within my scope of expertise; instead I concentrate on what I do extremely well.” “In addition to working with words, I’m committed to working well with people, and my goal is for the translation process to be as painless as possible for my clients.” I just made those up, and they may not apply to you, and you may not like the style (but if you do, you can steal them). But they’re examples of statements that get your specific story out there.
  2. “References available upon request.” Either include testimonials from clients directly on your marketing materials, or get this sentence out of there. It goes without saying that the client will ask for references if they want them.
  3. “Objective: freelance translation projects using demonstrated expertise in Japanese to English translation.” Again: a message from the department of redundancy department. Clearly, the objective of marketing materials is to find work, and hopefully you have some demonstrated expertise, or you’d be doing something else.
  4. Any reference to “the best.” Translation is very subjective: Usain Bolt can safely say that he’s “the best” at the 100 meter dash, but you can’t measure translation skill with a clock or a meter stick. Plus, every client’s preference varies. If you want to look at every word in the French document and see a direct equivalent in the English document, I’m not your woman, because I like to rewrite more than I like to replace words. Some clients disagree, and that’s OK.
  5. Photos of you with animals (unless you’re a vet), or anything that looks like a selfie. It’s surprising how many people’s “professional photos” are anything but. Translator next to a horse? Snuggling a puppy? Cruise LinkedIn and you’ll find these and more, plus lots of photos that are clearly selfies. To me, a crummy headshot photo is sort of like business cards with the “Get your free business cards at…” logo on the back. It shows that the person isn’t willing to put forth even the small amount of effort required to do better. For example, my current headshot was taken by a friend with a nice camera; our local translators association offers discount group headshot sessions every few years. A professional session is absolutely worth it, but there are also alternatives that still look good. Again, people’s preferences will vary: for my own photos, I lean toward a more natural, less posed look. I wouldn’t cuddle my cat in the photo, but a little wind in the hair doesn’t bother me, whereas other people prefer a more posed, studio look.

Readers, anything else that needs to get the ax?

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A short post, because I’d really like to hear from you. What would our industry look like if agencies were more transparent about what services they provide and what percentage of the total project fee they earn? For example:

In other types of “agent” relationships (authors, athletes, etc.), the client knows exactly what the agent will do, and what percentage of the total billings they will take in exchange. If you find a salaried job through a recruiter, they get a percentage of your first year’s salary, and you know what that percentage is.

This idea came to me for a few reasons. Good agencies have trouble finding good translators, even if they are willing to pay/interested in paying/desperate to pay real money for their services. Partially, this is because some good translators have had it with agencies and will only work with direct clients. A more transparent model could solve some of that problem. In addition, a more transparent model would make it clear that the agency is adding value (or not), and translators could choose to jump on that value (or not).

For example, I understand it when translators rail about “agencies that add no value,” and simply forward e-mails back and forth from the end client to the translator. I get it, and I also avoid working for those types of agencies. But I also think that agencies add a value that they don’t always trumpet: finding the client in the first place. As anyone who works with direct clients will tell you, finding them is a lot of work. It takes time and creativity and persistence and research, so the fact that a translator who works with agencies is freed from that step in the process should be worth a lot, and agencies don’t always point that out.

So what about this. The agency tells the translator how much they’re charging the end client. Sometimes translators already know this, because agency staff mistakenly send us e-mails meant for the end client. In any case, my assumption is that my agency clients are charging the end client 2-3 times what they’re paying me, and I’m OK with that. Then, the agency takes a set percentage of that amount, just for having found the client in the first place. Then, the rest of the agency’s fee is based on what they actually do; the translator knows whether the document is being edited by another translator in the same language pair, or proofed by a speaker of the target language, or not reviewed at all, and the agency charges accordingly. It seems like this would also allow translators to gravitate to agencies that provide the level of service that they want or need. For example, I spend a lot of time researching and marketing to direct clients, and I’d rather work with my own editors than with an anonymous editor provided by an agency. So, I’d be interested in working with an agency (or perhaps more accurately, an agent) who would simply find clients for me, forward the work back and forth and take a percentage of my billings.

Further disclaimer: I’m not at all anti-agency. I disagree with translators who call agencies “parasites,” and I really enjoy working with my agency clients because they let me focus on the parts of the job that I enjoy and am good at. But I think that a) agencies need to do a better job of highlighting their strengths (such as finding and retaining clients), and b) there’s room in the market for more of a commission-based “translator’s agent.”

An idea whose time has come, or a non-starter? Over to you!

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