Why I deleted your email | LSP.expert
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Why I deleted your email

Your email happened to arrive just as I finished my first cup of tea: the best time of the day to contact me. But despite the favourable conditions and your unmistakable keenness (I could tell by the capital letters and the lack of full stops), I deleted your email within seconds. I feel I owe you an explanation.

As a consultant interpreter, I know how hard it is to win new clients. It is tempting to reach out to anyone in the hope that they will turn into a paying client. I have been there myself.

That said, there are a few rules in the pitching game - rules which, if broken, sentence your email and mine to the "Recycle Bin" or "Spam" folder.

The first and most basic rule is that no-one ever outsourced translation or interpreting to someone who started an email with "Dear Sir," "Dear Madam", "Dear Sir/Madam" or even "Dear Agency." It's always galling to have an email consigned to the bin within two words but a generic salutation is enough on its own. Always address an email to a person, using their first name or, for added politeness, their title and their surname.

That bit of personalisation leads nicely into the next most common reason that I ditch pitching emails. Pretty much every potential client you will ever chase hasa website. Sending a pitching email without reading their website and demonstrating how your services are relevant to their business is sales suicide.

Here's a personal example. My website talks about my experience interpreting and building teams of interpreters. Therefore, I now immediately exterminate any email offering me DTP services, translation project management software, "teams of translators covering all African and Asian languages" or dictation. Absolutely none of those services is relevant in any way to my work. That little fact is obvious to those who read my website. Those who don't read it, get deleted.

Your potential clients are the same. If you aren't clearly offering them something they need, you won't get the chance to offer them anything at all. To them, there is no difference between your email offering them an irrelevant service and a dodgy online pharmacy trying to sell them painkillers. Any email the receiver deems irrelevant is spam.

Being relevant and personalised is enough to set you apart from 90% of the pitching emails sent to your potential clients. There are only two more reasons that emails get ditched.

The next reason to delete an email is grammatical and orthographical correctness. Most translation clients take it for granted that anyone offering their services in such a high accuracy domain will be able to send emails without any trace of lexical laxity. The odd typo might be passable but writing an entire email without full stops or submitting prose that reads like a Google Translate meltdown is an invite to be ignored.

Admittedly, there are times when the only way to reach potential clients is to write in your second or third language. In those cases, it is essential to find another translator, native of that language, who can go through your draft and correct the errors. Despite working with French professionally for a decade, I am still extremely wary of pitching to clients in French and often get outgoing emails checked before they are sent (with any personal information removed, of course).

Whereas a lack of personalisation and relevance are very easy to spot and resolve and spelling and grammar errors can be fixed in a few minutes, it takes much longer to actually learn to write an email that reads well and is the right length, which is the final step in making sure your emails avoid the bin.

Very few translation or interpreting clients have the time or inclination to wade through eight hundred words of rambling. Similarly, sending an email that simply lists your experience and skills with no personal connection, call to action or attempt at sounding interesting is rarely welcomed.

It's a hard art to master (even if there are guides) but learning to send emails that get a positive response is a vital skill. Every culture and every potential client is slightly different but the common themes are always the same: start with a solid, attractive reason for emailing them; show your expertise and value in terms that are meaningful to them; and suggest useful next steps.

So, if you offered me DTP, laser eye surgery or the services of your $0.02 per word translation team over the past year or so, that's why I deleted your email. And if all this seemed pretty basic, I am sorry. It's just that so many people still get it wrong so often. Maybe from now on, things might change.

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