Most interpreters outside of the big conference cities will know what it is like to live in a market controlled by a few big players. Sometimes, a handful of agencies can pick off the vast majority of work, leaving only the newest and smaller clients to be hoovered up by direct hiring.
In many cases, that can actually work to everyone’s advantage. Where the agencies pay well and communicate clearly, they can use their substantial weight to ensure that the market runs efficiently and that good interpreting leads to rewards. As soon as one unscrupulous agency enters the fray, however, the balance can be disturbed and it can become a fairly swift race to the bottom.
Yet there are very few markets where it has to be this way. Yes, hospitals and courts may be pushed into the arms of national contracts, but there are almost always exceptions and, of course, there is no reason why a trained court interpreter cannot reskill to jump into business negotiation interpreting or even conference interpreting.
What it comes down to often is business decision-making. In the wider corporate world, businesses analyse the route that prospective clients take from first contact to paying for services and label it a “funnel”. Most software for monitoring the traffic to business websites will allow you to track people as they go from one page to another following a path that should eventually lead to asking for a quote and then booking you for work.
So who owns your funnel? Whose responsibility is it to get you initial leads – that is, contact with potential clients? At that point, who is in charge of managing the process from interest, to a request for an estimate and then the final sale?
Given some indicators I have seen in my own key markets, I have decided to start taking charge of my own funnel. No, this doesn’t mean refusing to work for agencies but instead seeing them as one kind of client, alongside others. I have to manage their route from initial contact to sale but I also want to attract direct clients, who will take a very different route.
The key thing for me is not which kind of client is heading towards any given sale but the fact that I don’t want to hand over control of my sales funnel over to anyone else. Too often, I had become reliant on agencies to do the marketing legwork, nail down the client and send them to me, rather than going out and doing that work myself, on my terms.
It’s not a quick process and its one I will be posting about more as time goes on but for now, even just the feeling of ownership has been its own reward. How about you? Who manages your sales funnel? Would you like more control or are you happy with the way things are?