Marketing for freelance translators and interpreters who hate marketing Reply

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A recent survey of freelancers centered around their marketing efforts showed some interesting finds:

  • 55% of freelancers spend 3 hours a week on their online marketing efforts
  • 51% of respondents considered marketing too time-consuming, and 41% felt marketing was too costly
  • 83% are investing financially in online marketing of some sort
  • 72% say they are spending less than but up to 100 USD a month in marketing (those who spend more than that report earning more)
  • The average survey respondent had reached their income goal within two years of starting out

The survey sample were some 2,000 US freelancers of all types, so it is reasonable to expect those numbers to be somewhat different if we narrow it down to translators and interpreters, expand the sample to other countries, or both.

One number in particular that caught my eye was the monthly investment in marketing. 100 USD a month sounded pretty steep to me, but maybe I’m wrong. 1,200 USD in freelancer marketing a year. Do you spend that much on your marketing? If so, drop me a line, I’d be very interested in hearing about it and if you find it to be a good investment.

If you are already a paying ProZ.com member, you are spending between 12 and 18 dollars a month on marketing through your membership, though you get all the rest of the tools and opportunities available along with it. It’s a kind of marketing that is easy to do, what we’d call passive marketing.

Be an ant, not a grasshopper

For some kinds of work, sending CVs, applications, emails, calling or meeting potential clients, printing business cards or flyers, posting ads, and all of that active marketing, can be effective. Many freelance translators and interpreters find that kind of marketing tiring, frustrating, and also expensive, both in terms of money and time. You’d rather be translating or interpreting, right?

You may have to rush to do active marketing if you suddenly find yourself short on clients or workload. This tends to happen when a freelancer has no kind of marketing in place while they are fully-booked, a bit like the grasshopper who watched the ant stock up for winter, unworried during the summer because food was plentiful, and then sorely unprepared for the winter.

Passive marketing is your ant stocking up for winter. It can help save you from the unexpected, even though work might be plentiful now. And sometimes it’s a gateway to new opportunities that can pop up and replace what you’ve got going on with something even better.

Where is your shop window?

As I said, passive marketing is easier to do, if you do it right, and the time/monetary investment is quite different too. It basically consists of opening up a brightly-lit shop window (your online presence) on a bustling street. Many people walk by, window shopping, but if your shop has the right goods (your services, expertise, samples, things that make you stand out), shoppers will pop in to look and talk to you. Some will be interested in buying now, some will simply make a note of your shop for when they do need what you have to offer.

Where is that bustling street, though? Well, ProZ.com is one of them. You should have a professional online presence in any serious work-related venue for language professionals (a profile on LinkedIn, for example). But since ProZ.com is the busiest street when it comes to searching for and finding language professionals, if you are not figuring there as prominently as possible, you are definitely missing out on client contact. So that ProZ.com membership, roughly the cost of a new pair of shoes per year, is all you need to keep your shop window on the busiest street in the industry.
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Check your directory ranking in your top language pair and area of expertise. What page of the results are you on? How many pages of results will your ideal client browse through to get to you? They say, “The best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google search results.” Directory results work in a similar way. Chances are, by the time a client has gone a few pages in, they’ve already found the people they are looking for.

Don’t waste my time

Now, when I say “online presence” I don’t mean having a profile registered on a place and having the bare minimum of information filled out there. Nowadays, if I’m looking for a service/service provider online, I don’t even look twice at people who have not put some time investment into presenting their services. No picture? No thanks. No real name? See ya. No details about the services you offer or why I should choose you? Don’t waste my time! This is where the time investment comes in. It’s mostly an up-front investment. Put in the time to craft that presentation, then go do whatever else you want, and let it go to work for you in the background.

Now think about your two biggest clients…

I’ve got all the clients I can handle right now, no need, you might say. OK! But how many times would you try to go back to a shop that was closed every time you went there?

Now, think about your two biggest clients. Would you be in trouble if tomorrow, through no fault of your own, you lost those two clients? If so, why not put your shop window out there, and occasionally field an inquiry from an interested potential client? The worst that can happen is that you’ll make some new contacts while you’re working, and heaven forbid your fully-booked status should change, you’ll have some good leads to work with.

What’s in your shop window?

Now go over to your ProZ.com profile. At the top of your profile you will see a link to “Force visitor view”. Click on that. What you see is what any visitor to your profile will see when they are evaluating working with you. Put yourself in the shoes, or eyes, of your ideal client. Does what you see there look professional, attractive, keep your interest, “sell” you on the idea of contacting this person with a work offer? Does it speak to that person’s strengths, what makes them different from the competition?

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By the way, if you are looking for ways to build, update, or fine tune your online presentation, many of the same principles of decorating a real shop window apply! Thinking about it this way may also help get your creative juices going. If you need some inspiration, you can find some pointers here:
https://www.appearhere.co.uk/inspire/blog/how-to-dress-your-shop-window