12 ways to find clients

For translators, and the self-employed in general, the million-dollar question is: how do I find clients? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, but a combination of some of the following tips to reach out to clients could help you land some great ones:

  • Have your business cards printed. Make sure they look professional and don’t leave home without them. You never know when you’ll bump into someone who could use your services.
  • Make sure your loved ones (significant others, parents, children, siblings, in-laws, good friends etc.) have a few of your business cards with them, so they can hand them when necessary.
  • Join your local translators organization – Each organization provides its own benefits, but some send their members job offers they receive. Go to as many events as you can, learn, meet translators and network with them. You might get referrals from them later on. (More reasons for joining professional organizations here.)
  • Join the translation community – Translators are fun and interesting, and apart from enjoying their company, you can consult with your colleagues and you might get referrals from them. Go to translation conferences, follow translation blogs and join online forums and groups.
  • Update and improve your LinkedIn profile – Sometimes PMs do their headhunting there. Take an hour or two to fill in your profile and add as much (relevant) information as possible, especially those that have something to do with translation and with your language and specializations.
  • Join ProZ.com – This website can be somewhat controversial among translators, but if your language combination is not very common, this could be another option. Register to ProZ and create a profile, so recruiting agencies can contact you. You can start with the free registration and decide later if being a full, paid member is worth your while.
  • Send your CV to translation agencies – You can find them on Google and see how they’re rated on ProZ’s Blue Board (free for full members) and on Payment Practices. Contact agencies all around the world, because you never know if their clients deal with your target-language country.
  • Set up a website – You’ll increase your online presence and improve your chance of being found through Google. If at this point you’re not interested in using professional website building services, you can use free website building platforms such as Weebly or WIX.
  • Contact potential clients – With your language pairs ans specializations in mind, define your ideal clients, and then look for such organizations on Google. Contact them and offer them your services. You might want to check your local spam laws first.
  • Go to industry events – If you’re a legal translator, look for events at your local bar. If you’re specializing in medical equipment, go to conferences and trade shows. Try to talk to as many people as you can, and of course, listen and learn.
  • Use your network – Think of your acquaintances -could any of them need your services, or do they know someone who might? Contact them tactfully.
  • Join a networking group – Organization such as BNI provide small business owners an opportunity to tell each other about their work, network and refer clients to each other. Personally, I didn’t feel this was for me, but I know many translators who are very enthusiastic about these groups.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to:

  • Be patient – Finding good clients take time, and not everyone you contact will actually need your services right then and there. Sometimes you send your CV and hear from the client only a year later (or even more!). Think that you’r sowing seeds – some will grow, some won’t.
  • Check the client out – even if you can’t wait to get your first client, you do want to make sure you’ll actually get paid. If it’s a translation agency, check its rating on Payment Practices or on ProZ’s Blue Board and ask your colleagues about it. If it’s a direct client, google them. Remember: A client that doesn’t pay you also fills up your schedule and keeps you from working with clients who do pay.
  • Beware of frauds – There are people who pretend to be translation agencies, eventually making the translator give them money. Notice their e-mail – is this so-called agency contacting you from a webmail address? Is something off? If something is fishy, google they sender’s e-mail address and their message to see if another translator had already reported it.

Have you got other tips for finding clients? Please tell us in the comments!

Further reading

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