Integrity Languages


Monthly Archives: July 2016

Why Every Interpreter Needs a USP

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: July 27, 2016

A few days ago, I received an email from someone starting up a new translation platform. In the time-honoured tradition, they seek to build a large, publicly searchable database of translators and (presumably) interpreters so clients can find us more easily. Yet even the briefest squint at the industry will tell us that there are already lots of companies trying to do exactly the same thing, with little to choose between them. How could a new player have a hope of standing out?


For freelancers, the competition is even fiercer. If you define your competitors as everyone with the same job title and languages, you are up against it from the start. If the only thing going for me is that I am a French to English and English to French interpreter, I don’t stand a chance.


Even if you specialise, the difficulties only ease off slightly. If someone wanted to find a French to English legal translator, the ITI directory would offer them twenty. If they wanted to find a translator between Spanish and French with experience in tourism, a quick search on any major platform would give them more than they could handle.


That reality is probably the main reason why people don’t attempt the value-based pricing strategies I talked about in yesterday’s post. To put it bluntly, too many of us see ourselves as ultimately replaceable, clones who could all do the job more or less equally well.


But that isn’t true. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Take me, for instance, I can rock any speech that aims to persuade, inspire or teach but I am not the best at finance talks. That’s why I am glad that my regular boothmate is a finance wizard who can deal with turnover trends and widening margins as easily as I can enthuse people about demolition techniques or theatre as a tool for peace.


My USP then is that I am a speaker in my own right and someone with proven skills in understanding what clients want and making sure that’s what gets delivered, whether interpreting is needed into one language or ten. Saying that is not a sales ploy, it’s a very simply example. Every interpreter has (or should have) that little bit of something extra that makes them stand out.


I have one German-speaking colleague who can interpret sales pitches so slickly that customers fall over themselves to buy. I have an Arabic-speaking colleague who can deal with the highest echelons of politics that you can imagine. I know exactly what kinds of assignments would suit them and which ones are better for someone else.


So what’s your interpreter USP? Once you get to know it, your marketing will never be the same.

Why Value-Based Pricing is Good for Business

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: July 26, 2016

We all know the feeling: we are talking to a client and its gets to that magic moment when they ask for a price. In a split-second, there are several questions going round your head:


  • Do I give them my standard price or offer a discount or even take the opportunity to raise my rates?
  • Do I charge hourly or daily or by some other measure?
  • What should I include?
  • Will someone underbid me?
  • How quickly should I send the quote?
  • How much room for negotiation should I leave?


Unless we have become too experienced or blasé that each individual assignment means little to us, that vital quoting stage can become a site of real mental effort. But there is another way.


It’s a way I first heard about in Warsaw at TLC 2015 when Alessandra Martelli of MTM Translations talked about negotiation. Rather than sending a price straightaway, she makes sure that she knows exactly what the client wants and then sends a price that details exactly how it will fulfil their needs.


She told us that making that one change meant that she now wins 80% of the projects she bids for. That is pretty amazing given what many of us in interpreting or the events sector might experience. That one figure alone got me thinking about how I relate to clients.


The next step in the journey was finishing writing my first book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence. The key message of the whole book is that interpreters need to concentrate on the value they add to clients, over any other measure. The logical outcome is that we need to stop using “market rates” and a start pricing interpreting according to the value it has for each client.


Then today, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. There was a discussion about pricing models in a Facebook group for professional speakers that I am a part of. Alan Stevens, an experienced speaker and media trainer in his own right, mentioned that instead of pricing according to hours spent or service, he talks to the client about what they want to gain from his work and prices accordingly!




While “market rates” seem to take away any need to make pricing decisions, they actually take away a vital point of connection with clients. Instead of finding out exactly what they need, we just slap a price on each day and waddle off.


Value-based pricing forces us to really think about how our clients are benefiting from our services and encourages us to be more transparent with the difference that we can make for their business. So the next time you are asked for a quote, take the opportunity to slow things down a little. Email (or even phone!) the client and talk to them about the value of the event for them. Start a dialogue about what success looks like for them and how much they stand to make from it.


Armed with that information, send them a custom-made quote that shows that you really understand what they are trying to achieve. Show clearly how you will deliver the service that your client needs and wants and price accordingly.


And, if you need an experienced French to English and English to French interpreter to help you deliver the goods, drop me a line.

The Power of Custom-Builds

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: July 14, 2016


After a clean run of a few years, my trusty laptop is beginning to show its age. While the machine itself is still holding up well enough, I have started pricing up its successor and I am beginning to be attracted by the lure of custom-builds.


We all know the deal. With a custom-build, you only pay for what you actually need and, if you have the right expertise, you can make sure that you get exactly what you want, at a price you can afford. It works well for computers and it works even better in events management and interpreting.


Work on planning a wedding and you will know that off-the-shelf doesn’t work. Who wants a package with exactly the same dress, flowers, cake and ceremony as someone else? Of course, each wedding has to be planned from scratch, even if some common features will be there.


What about a conference? Here, there is always more temptation to go for an off-the-shelf solution. We all know the drill. You’re going to have: at least one PowerPoint malfunction, a President’s address that mentions local cuisine (hooray for haggis and whisky!), someone proclaiming that the future is bright for those who dare to dream, and a few presentations that become a cure for insomnia.


Yet, even with common features, each conference exists for a slightly different reason and needs a different approach. One conference might be all about sharing best practice, while another might be simply about pushing sales. One might be about coming to consensus on key decisions, while another might prioritise networking.


The difference in purpose between one conference and another leads to the need for event managers to approach each differently. Gathering client requirements is more than just a tick-box exercise; it’s about getting under the skin of the event and really understanding what would make it a success. (Protip: reducing the number of boring presenters is a great place to start!)


That same need for customised service applies to interpreting too. Since no two conferences are the same, it makes sense that we never treat any two assignments the same. Our approach to preparation, delivery and follow-up needs to be modified to fit the needs of each individual client and each event. Basic changes such as spending slightly less time on terminology and more on the style of each speaker, researching press quotations to see what sticks and asking the right follow-up questions, instead of broad nonsense like “was the interpreting good?” will all go a long way.


Today, when competition is fierce and budgets can often be tight, it makes sense to show that you have a better handle on your client’s needs than your competitors. The best way to do that is by offering custom solutions.