Tag Archives: translation industry

Can you find the best translator?

25 Aug

Have you ever noticed how unpopular is the concept of “the best product ever”?

Although some marketer and manufacturers are trying to make use of this slogan, it seems odd that this concept has never gained much popularity among advertisers. What can be more natural? You claim you are the best (or you product/service is the best), and people will instantly join the queue to get it.

But there must be some sort of explanation why such an obviously brilliant idea does not get the popularity it (certainly?) deserves.

The thing is that “the best” is an adjective. Like almost any other adjective, it has descriptive nature. In other words, people can`t measure the portion of “best-ness”, otherwise they would have already employed the concept long time ago. So, when someone says that something is the best, they always compare the thing they are talking about with other similar objects/products/etc. One-of-a-kind objects can`t be the best or the worst.

In other words, people tend to compare things, and, based on their requirements, they can find the best expert for the text they are going to translate. Quite often these requirements include price (budgets are tight, which is why clients have to screen out translators whom they can`t afford. Although some may claim that the best translators are the most expensive ones, for these clients they are obviously NOT the best ones). Or, a lot of people will only search for native speakers of the target language, filtering out those who claim they can do it both ways.

Many prefer experts with strong translation skills and will never let translators per se with some knowledge of the specialization touch the source text, etc.

My point is that clients can`t find the best translators for every project. Without clear requirements and criteria identified prior to the search it is more like chasing a mirage. In other words, it is quite ineffective to try to make prospects believe that you are the best one for them. Some of them will (of course) take the bite, but the probability that this relationship will last much long is minimal. It is far better to let clients match their requirements related to their specific project your expertise and experience, or, yes, to let them pass you by in case they don`t need your profile. This is the only way to let them “stay by” you if they choose you.

BTW the same goes for the concept of “the best translation” (to be elaborated in another post of mine).

Words are just words, and it is a very bad when clients (attracted by catchy slogans) don`t see the profile they were thinking about – not because you are a bad translator, but because you are not the best for THEM. Defeated expectancy.


What are the most/the least effective ways to market your translation business?

2 Oct

We all blog about marketing. We talk about marketing a lot. But what is marketing? To put it simply, it is a list of steps people (such as translators) take to attract new clients. As any action, an action taken to get new prospects has its own performance factor score (in other words, a ratio of money/time invested to money received). Certain marketers thus provide people with various grids of marketing-related actions grouped by time required to take them as well as their effectiveness when taken. I would like to take one of these grids provided by Steve Slaunwhite in his book (“The Wealthy Freelancer”).


So, according to Steve, the least effective (or wasteful) ways to market your business are “unfocused networking, unfocused cold calling, unfocused direct mail, unfocused/unproven social media, and targeting organization that don`t get it”. In terms of translation industry this means contacting fellow translators working with absolutely different language pairs that do not include either your target or your source language, contacting people and/or organizations that simply do not need your translation services (it is absolutely wrong to think that any business in any industry needs them FOR YOUR language pair), and broadcasting your personal social media messages on your business channel.


Why these marketing methods are the least effective? They can of course someday bring you a client or two, but their performance factor is very low – you simply spend too much time (=money) while getting too little results, that is all.


Let`s now see what are the most effective marketing techniques you can apply. Once again, according to Steve Slaunwhite, these are “ tapping your network, going deeper with existing clients, direct mail”. It means that your existing clients should be your priority, because it is much easier to keep your existing clients happy than to search for new leads. Moreover, word of mouth is also a very powerful instrument letting you spread the word about your business easily. You can contact you friends (designers, DTP specialists, programmers, etc.) who potentially can have clients who may need translation services.


Less effective yet powerful methods include “smart networking, social media, public speaking, article writing, blogging, cold calling”. Why are these methods less effective? The answer is simple: they require too much of your time.


On-line directories, AdWords, on-line job boards and SEO do not require too much time (few clicks here and there), but they also won`t bring you many clients either. These instruments can be used only as a small contribution to your other marketing efforts mentioned above. Why? Because it is obvious enough that too many people “resort” to using these instruments, making it hard for clients to find potential contractors (too much noise making it difficult to hear the signal).

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.


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?