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Instead of working exclusively for agencies, many translators and interpreters are discovering that working for direct clients is a rewarding experience. However, the approaches that work for soliciting work projects from agencies are often not helpful when it comes to attracting direct clients. Dear Business Smarts, Business from some of my regular agency clients has dropped off a bit recently, and I am looking to expand my client list, but I am not sure where to start. I have responded to a few job postings online, but without much success. There must be people looking for good translators, but how can I find them? Need new channels in DC Dear New Channels, Thanks to our globalized economy, translation and interpreting services continue to be in great demand. Despite this, significant groups of translation buyers still have no idea what to look for when they select a translator. That is where you come in. Use some of your free time to develop interesting marketing materials for your company that will appeal to direct clients. This will probably involve reworking some of your standard marketing tools that have proven most effective for working with translation agencies. For instance, your resume is most likely filled with information about your computer-assisted translation tools, daily capacity, education level, and references from other agencies. Most of this will be of no interest to direct clients, whose focus is simply on selling their widgets and services. Therefore, your revised marketing materials have to concentrate less on how you do your work, and more on what you can do for your customers. Tell direct clients that you can help them sell their products, access new markets, resolve problems with foreign suppliers, and settle legal concerns. Think of particularly rewarding experiences you have had in your career. Did a customer thank you for a particular
achievement? Were you able to rescue a customer from an imminent business loss? Your direct marketing
materials should make special mention of such successes. It goes without saying that your business cards and materials will show you in the best possible light only if they are up-to date and include current information Next, venture out of your freelance office environment. Investigate the business networking opportunities accessible to you, such as events held by chambers of commerce or special interest groups such as Business and Professional Women. Many of these groups invite everyone attending their meetings to give a brief self-introduction. To prepare for this, write out—and practice delivering—your very own “elevator speech”: a short paragraph about your services that particularly highlights your practical experience, but omits details about your academic credentials or technical work equipment. (We recommend avoiding the subject of pricing altogether; and certainly do not call your services “affordable”
or “low-price”!) You will most likely need to persevere in these efforts for some time before you see results. Networking and marketing are not likely to generate immediate business, but your reward for persistence is that clients acquired by direct contact often turn out to be highly rewarding accounts, offering recurring assignments and the personal contact many of us miss in our work. To assist you in your efforts to access direct clients, ATA is preparing a Client Outreach Kit consisting of a customizable PowerPoint presentation
and additional helpful materials. The kit is scheduled to become available this summer—to ATA members only—in the form of electronic files that can be downloaded from ATA’s website.

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