Archive | July, 2014

My interview given to lingo.io about translation and translation industry

28 Jul

Today I would like to share some passages from my interview which I gave to lingo.io portal several days ago (it is not published yet). Frankly speaking, I was quite pleased when I was contacted by their marketing manager Michael Eckl, who asked me to answer several questions about my translation career and prospects of the translation industry.

I hope that the info mentioned below will find its readers.

P.S. Although it is a bit lengthy for a blog post, I believe that both newbies and seasoned freelancers will find new ideas to apply.

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Q. In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?

А. Marketing is the basic activity any freelancer should master. You simply can`t go without marketing. Without one you will have to accept any work you come across – just because you don`t have much of it. While a lot of freelancers tend to use their rates as the main differentiator (in other words, they try to offer the lowest or “most competitive” rates), smarter freelancers try to work less and get more. They find clients which don`t ask about the price right from the start, if you like. Here comes marketing. These freelancers learn ways how to get such clients, how to make them accept the conditions.

You have to show that you are an expert. Not THE BEST translator in the world, but the one who is an expert (who is the best NHL player? No one knows. There are some 100 of them – they all are THE BEST players). Your name should be heard. Your business card should touch hands of proper people. Your direct e-mails should land proper people. You also have to tap your network and go deeper with existing clients. They should be happy with the work you provide.

A very helpful technique is to brainstorm marketing ideas with a pen and a sheet of paper.

Q. Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?

A. Well, social networks have profoundly changed the way people sell things and services. First, these are very time-consuming things (you can end up spending a lot of time on-line). That`s why I don`t use Facebook (which is too complex compared to Twitter, for example). I use Twitter as the main “megaphone” of things I “broadcast”. You can choose any other social media, but there are two things to remember. First, you have to find people who will be interested in what you are talking about. Second, you have to have something to say to people who are the same as you. If you don`t have right people (in my case – translators, translation agencies, direct clients who are interested in my areas of specialization) around you, or in case you don`t have anything to say, you will waste your time there.

The last thing: don`t expect miracles. Social media alone won`t bring you too many clients. Your marketing strategy should be comprehensive. Direct contact with people at shows, fairs, direct mail campaigns, etc. should be accompanied (not replaced by) social media.

Q. In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?

A. Well, CAT tools are a must now. We also did not count repetitions back in 2004. These are the most noticeable changes.

A lot of translators now use Google Translate to pre-translate files. This was unimaginable back in 2004. Now with Google Translate the speed of translation is much higher. MT engines I saw in 2004 in my language pair (English-Russian) were pathetic compared to Google now. “Thanks” to MT you now can see a lot of ads in the Internet where translation agencies are looking for MT post-editors (BTW, this has nothing to do with direct clients; another plus of working with them).

Third, Google search engine is now a very helpful tool used for searching different terms. In 2004 search engines were far less intelligent.

Q. Where do you find inspiration for your blog?

A. Well, although I don`t blog too frequently, I try to stick to a certain schedule. Frankly speaking, it is quite difficult for me to produce words on paper, first because English is not my native language (it is quite natural, I believe. You write much quicker in your native language). Anyway, I believe that marketing is one of the most important areas freelance translators have to master, and that is the exact reason why almost all my blog posts are about marketing. Where do I find inspiration? Well, the source is everyday life. The thing is that every day you encounter people and businesses who either employ or don`t employ various marketing approaches. Sometimes you wonder how on Earth they make money! That`s when I switch on my computer and tell people how things shouldn’t be done.

I write a lot about the relationships between outsourcers and translators as well. Sometimes I am shocked to see how some translation agencies treat people who make money for these translation agencies. That is another subject I cover.

I also give a lot of valuable recommendations to my colleagues. Once again, this is my experience, and I believe that translators can and should make their contribution in order to change the industry.

Q. Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?

A. First, Twitter posts of other translators and marketing gurus. Every day I read through dozens of blog posts. Some of them contain absolutely obvious information, but some reveal facts and opinions which are sound and useful.

I also buy books regularly, if I see that they are worth buying. They are not always about translation or marketing. I read a lot about physics, electronics, engineering, construction, etc. as well. These are my core specializations.

Third source of information is Internet. Every day I try to read several editorials about economy of my country, news, etc. This also helps to sharpen my language skills and stay fit. It is a must for any translator to literally devour tons of information regularly.

These are most important sources of information I use.

Q. What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?

A. This is my favorite question. Well, CAT tools are expensive. That`s OK, but the number of glitches you come across is annoying. Why on Earth do you have to pay 900 EUR for an application which crashes frequently? I am sure that this is acceptable for freeware applications, but is abnormal when we speak about things people pay for.

Even the most expensive tools can`t open certain popular file formats, although they allegedly have to.

Simplicity is another characteristic most CAT tools lack. I also believe that such complex applications which use a lot of other programs you have to install beforehand are doomed to crash frequently. Simple systems don`t crash.

Q. What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?

A. Frequent mistake many newbies make is that they don`t choose their specialization. Jack-of-all-trades is a myth. And that is a very bad signal to your potential clients.

Another mistake people do is that they try to compete on price. Once I heard a statement that when you compete on price you have no choice but to be the cheapest. And, once you start to compete on price then you can count on there being somebody coming along who’ll beat your prices, even if doing so ultimately bankrupts them. That`s a law. BTW, people and/or translation agencies who try to find the cheapest translators won`t stay too long with them. It is another myth that you can charge superlow rates and at the same time count on long-term cooperation with this outsourcer. Marketing is there to stop getting low rates.

But who said that it would be easy?

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Try to get as many references as possible. Why and how?

1 Jul

In this age of online marketing it is vitally important to get marketing tools which can help you instantly convince potential clients that you are the expert. Neither you nor your leads don`t have time for lengthy introductions. People usually tend to go with the crowd – just because. And when leads see that a lot of similar businesses once left a lot of highly positive remarks about the quality of your work, they (once again, usually) won`t look for others (IN CASE price is not the only question they ask about – but you don`t want to get this kind of clients, do you?)

So, what is the reference in a nutshell? Usually it is a short comment left by your clients on-line on your web-site, web profile (like WWA entries at proz.com), or just a laminated letter of reference hanging on your office wall. What are the most important elements of a good reference? Well, the one that I consider the most important is the availability of the full particulars of the person who left this or that entry. That is absolutely vital. References left by a John Smith from nowhere look like a fake. There should be at least name of the person in charge, her position, name of the company, and date when this reference was made. Ideally all online references should be linked to the respective web page of the company. There is nothing bad – it will only attract new visitors to the website of this company.

I strongly believe that brevity and clarity of any letter of reference are the pillars of success. That’s why it should not be more than several sentences long (if posted on-line), or one page long (if this is a hard copy). Once again, your potential clients don`t have time for lengthy lists of projects you have completed for this client.

When can you ask for a reference? Well, just after your first translation project completed for this client. Just wait several days to allow your client to get a full picture of the quality you have delivered. Then send her a short e-mail asking for a reference entry. Sometimes clients won`t reply – just don`t be too intrusive in this case. Send another e-mail within several days. If there is no reply, just let it go. Usual reply rate is about 70/30 (i.e. you contact 10 clients, you usually get about 7 references).

Don`t ask your old clients for repeated entries. Why should you ask for another one if you already have good reference?

In conclusion, I would like to once again emphasize the importance of a robust list of happy clients. This list should be «replenished» regularly. There is nothing more disgusting than a web page where the last reference entry is several years old.