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.