6 marketing strategies you should try as a freelance translator
You don’t need us to tell you that as a freelance translator you’ve got to wear multiple hats.
On top of doing the actual translation, you need to keep the admin and financial sides of your business on track. And, perhaps most importantly, you need to be on it with your sales and marketing.
Because the key to succeeding as a freelance translator is, surprise surprise, actually having clients to translate for.
Chances are, your dream clients aren’t just going to stumble across you by coincidence if you’re just sitting around waiting for them to show up. If you want them to find you, you need to give them the chance to do so by putting yourself out there.
But how can you actually go about that?
Well, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to make sure the right people know about you and your business.
That involves reaching out to potential clients, as well as boosting the chances of them finding you.
1. Networking: in-person
Our marketing efforts these days tend to be largely focused on the digital, online sphere. And that’s great! But before we get stuck into all the strategies you can use online, we wanted to remind you not to neglect good old-fashioned in-person networking.
Get out and about and meet people from all walks of life, in all industries. Talk enthusiastically about what you do and how you help people. Go to business networking events, but also go to events related to your specialisms.
The more you do it, the less daunting it will feel. Just put yourself out there on a regular basis, and you’ll be surprised how many clients will come your way, whether immediately or years down the line when they suddenly need a translator and you come to mind.
And if the thoughts of in-person networking does make you break out in a cold sweat, take a peek at our introvert's guide to pre-conference networking.
2. Professional association directories: online/in-person
Professional associations usually have searchable directories where clients can look for translators that suit their needs.
Joining these associations will cost you varying amounts, and there are sometimes exams/specific criteria for admittance. But once you’re in, clients (specifically agencies) might start to contact you through said directories.
Online and in-person events run by these associations are also another great chance to network with other translators, who can be fantastic sources of referrals.
3. Contacting potential clients directly: online
When most freelance translators first get started and haven’t yet got consistent work coming in, they often spend their days reaching out to prospective clients.
This is a type of outbound marketing, and usually takes the form of emailing prospective clients (often translation agencies) your CV, or applying to jobs posted on all the translation job boards out there.
Both quantity and quality are important here. Quality, in that you need to make sure you’re emailing the right people, taking the time to personalise your emails and present yourself in the best possible light.
And quantity, in that realistically you’ll probably need to contact hundreds of potentials to get just a few replies. If you really commit and, in the relatively short-term, religiously spend time reaching out to prospects, all the leg work will eventually pay off.
Once you’ve established yourself as a freelancer, this probably won’t be a strategy you have to or want to keep up.
On the other hand, some translators who have been at it for years still regularly (perhaps once or twice a year) spend a significant chunk of time directly contracting prospective clients. They find it really works for them, providing them with all the work they need for the coming months, so they don’t have to worry too much about other forms of marketing.
So if you don’t think digital marketing strategies are for you, this could be something you could consider.
We’ve talked about 4 places to find freelance translation jobs on the blog before.
4. A website that does you justice: online
Not all freelance translators feel the need to have their own website, but we definitely recommend investing time and money into establishing your own online home.
Even if it’s just a simple but effective one-page site to begin with, it can really lend you credibility. Because no matter how great your marketing elsewhere is, if you don’t have a website or your website is poorly put together, that might undermine the confidence that prospective clients have in you.
It’s a great place to clearly set out your services, specialisms, experience and testimonials so that people browsing know for sure if you’re the right freelancer for them.
Check out these posts that might help you out when it comes to thinking about your website:
5. Getting started with content marketing: online
Inbound marketing means helping clients find you, rather than you always being the one going out and finding them.
Whilst reaching out to clients en-masse can have quick results, inbound marketing isn’t something that’s going to bear fruit overnight.
It’s largely done through content marketing. That means producing interesting, informative content (most probably written in the form of blog posts, but if you’re up for videos or a podcast, more power to you!) that draws people to the website you’ve worked so hard on and, eventually, turns them into paying clients.
If you stick at content marketing, then over time it can really transform your business. It can mean you have more than enough work coming to you and don’t have to spend your time looking for new clients.
Before you start spending time and maybe money on helping your clients find you, though, you need to be clear on what your goals are and who you’re trying to attract with your efforts.
Because otherwise, it can just feel like you’re groping in the dark, and prospects will be as confused as you are about what it is you have to offer.
There are all kinds of articles, courses and even other lovely freelancers out there who can help you nail all this down, so you’re approaching your marketing with a clear purpose. So we won’t go into all that in detail, because we’d be here forever.
But here are a few things you can start to consider, and then go away and delve deeper into.
What problems can you solve, for who?
Essentially, it’s all about defining the problems you can solve for people, and exactly who said people are.
You need to know who your ideal customers are to be able to create content that will grab their attention, answer their questions, leave them feeling like you’ve provided genuine value and, perhaps, convince them you’re the perfect freelance partner for them.
What language do they speak?
Part of that is thinking about the language you should be speaking to them in.
We all know people are generally more likely to buy when a product or service is presented to them in their native language. And as a translator, you might have more success reaching your clients in your source language(s).
What are you going to create and when?
The first step with getting started with content marketing is setting out a realistic plan that works well for you.
If you’ve decided to start a blog, then the most important thing is to be consistent, whether that’s posting once a week or once a month. If it’s once a week you’ll start to see results more quickly, but putting together a good quality blog is harder than it looks, so don’t overcommit.
Either way, it will still be many months before you start to see the fruits of your labours, so be prepared!
Check out some of our other posts around this topic that might be useful:
6. Social media marketing: online
This is linked pretty closely to your content marketing efforts, as it’s not enough just to create content and wait for people to discover it. You’ve got to decide how you’re going to share it with the world.
Social media is great for that, and an awful lot more. Like in-person networking, growing your business with the help of social media takes time and commitment.
You’ve got to keep showing up week in, week out, and make real connections with people. You’ve got to share your expertise, whether that’s to do with translation or related to your specialisms.
Be genuinely useful to people, and generous with your knowledge, and prospective clients will be reassured that you definitely know your stuff.
You can’t predict what clients might come through your social media in the long run, but if you stick to it you can be sure it’ll benefit you.
Oh, and don’t try and do ALL the social media channels at once, because you won’t do any of them well. Pick one or two channels, at the most, and do them properly. If in doubt, it’s always best to focus on the platforms that you know your ideal clients use.
Keeping track of your marketing efforts
There are a lot of elements of running a freelance translation business that are unpaid, but vital. And marketing is one of them. So when calculating what you need to charge per hour for your business, you need to factor in all this unpaid, behind-the-scenes work.
With LSP.expert’s time tracking feature, you can easily see how long you spend on marketing your business. That way you can plan out your time better and make more informed decisions about your business, and your rates specifically.
See what a big difference LSP.expert could make to your business with our free trial!