[Editor’s note: Usually this blog deals with topics of interest to interpreting users and this will resume soon. But, with almost all businesses having to rethink their marketing, given the COVID-19 crisis, I thought it would be good to hear a different perspective. Clare Suttie is the Owner and Director of Atlas Translations, a UK translation agency. Here is her view on how to get notice by translation agencies. Much of what she says applies to every potential client you might want to woo.]
seemed to hit a nerve with an article on LinkedIn, asking translators not to
just send me over their CV.
agreed with my recommendations to make a personal approach, others seemed to be
highly offended. It was a light-hearted article, with a serious message. And then Jonathan asked me – how do you send
an email that a client – especially a translation company – may actually
I have been
running Atlas Translations since 1991, and back then, if you wanted someone’s
attention, you had to write them a letter and post it. In my case, we delivered
leaflets in person by bicycle, which did raise some interest in who we were and
what exactly we were doing! Even when
email arrived, it took a while for many companies to catch up with technology.
Of course now,
it’s easier than ever to research clients. No more going to the library to leaf
through the business directories and Yellow Pages. A quick visit to the ITI
website can identify around 100 reputable translation companies. Just fire them
all the same email, sit back and wait for your reply.
Well, yes. You
could try that. You might get a couple of standard cut and paste responses. But
probably you’d find that some of them wouldn’t match what you do, you’d end up
in junk mail folders, and you’d just be deleted as they are not currently
recruiting. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
sending your CV over idea is quite dated in itself. In 1991, I sat in an office
surrounded by files. We had a file for each language combination. When a job
came in, we’d pore over the relevant file, looking for someone who specialised
in that area. We looked at a CV, we printed it, we sent out application forms
and reference requests by post. Our office was FULL of paper. And we had an exercise
bike which no-one ever used; it was handy for hanging coats. But that’s another
Now if you send
someone a CV, what will they do with it? Chances are, like Atlas, they will
have their own application system online which they will point you towards. But
how do you make yourself more than just another applicant?
instant magic bullet, but because I like Jonathan I shall break it down into as
small a list as I can (because believe me, I could write pages about this).
Note that I am specifically referring to
clients within the UK.
Stage one –
Set a target of
say, 10 companies a week that you will contact.
Research – what
kind of clients do you want to work with?
Ask around – on
translator networks, people you know
Make a list of
those 10 and take a look at their website.
See what their
application process is.
Find an email
address, ideally an actual person rather than info@ address.
Stage two –
Send them an
individual, personal email. Just to them. Don’t cc or bcc anyone else.
Spell their name
Use their name.
Sir/Madam is pretty generic and impersonal.
something that shows you have done some research – for instance – I see your
office is in St Albans, one of my favourite places. Is the Kings Arms still
going? Or more directly, I took a look at your website and I can see
that you work with many legal companies. As I used to work at a legal firm,
this is one of my specialist areas, particularly contract law. I wondered if we
could be a good fit?
I promise, if
you make it personal, we are all much more likely to reply.
If the company
is local, consider dropping in to say hello (best to phone first) and drop off
a packet of biscuits. Everyone knows that Project Managers need biscuits. Or cake.
It goes without
saying, but I always have to say it because I still see awful CVs, your CV
should be free of errors, clearly laid out and easy to read. Don’t bury all
your experience on the second page. Blow your trumpet – this is not the time to
be modest. Give it a name that says what you are. So not CV.doc or
Mylatestcv.doc. More like – ClareSuttie
– French and German to English Translator
Stage three –
Follow their instructions
It might be
annoying, and yes, I know, it’s all in your CV. But if they want you to fill in
a form, then fill in the form. In our case, this puts your information into our
database so that you will appear in searches. Because (never start a sentence
with because, thanks for that earworm Mrs Thomas English) the days of our files
of printed out CVs are LONG GONE. We are almost paper-free! Each translation
company may have different requirements. We are all different companies. I am
afraid you will just have to deal with it.
Stage four –
Post application communication
You’ve gone to
all that trouble, and you are approved! Hurrah! Where’s the work??
The nature of
freelance work means that you may not be contacted immediately with offers of
work. However, there are things I believe you can do to increase your chances. And
this will vary according to the client (you may need to start a spreadsheet to
keep track – in fact I insist that you do)!
Once you are
approved, say thanks. See who the Project Managers are, and if you can contact
them directly to say hello. Again, keep those approaches personal.
OK – Hi, I am available for work this
week, Regards, Bob
Better – hope the sun is shining up there
in St Albans. I have just finished an enormous job about cat food, so I am
available for work if you get anything in German to English relating to my
specialist areas of marketing, contracts – and cat food of course! Best wishes,
Stage five –
Don’t give up
A year goes by.
They STILL haven’t given you any work. Again, get in touch with them. Tell them
you’re still around. Remind them what you do. Project Managers come and go,
they have maternity and paternity leave, they swap jobs. With Atlas, our
database shows the last time the applicant updated their record. If they
applied 10 years ago and have never logged in since, we are far less likely to
contact them as we worry they’ve changed email addresses, their prices won’t be
correct and they may not even be working as a translator any more.
Stage – make a phone call
what? I know. For some reason, when I suggest this, some translators react as
if I’ve suggested they set fire to their own hair. But you *could* make just a
very short phone call.
Hi, I’m Bob
and I translate German to English, mostly legal subject areas. Do you get a lot
of work in that area?
From that intro,
you will soon get an idea of whether this translation company is likely to be a
good fit with what you do. Another promise here – most translation company
staff are LOVELY PEOPLE. They will answer the phone, they will speak to you.
They are humans. They might say
To be honest
Bob, we don’t work with German as we specialise in Nordic languages.
goodness you called Bob, we are really short of German to English legal
translators. Can you send me your CV?
rates! Er, actually yes, you should
question you can drop into a phone (or e-mail) conversation is one about rates.
Every translation company pays different rates, every client pays different
Can I just
check what you generally pay German to English legal translators, per 1000
Give it a try,
they will likely tell you. It may be more than you thought. It may be less. If
it fits with you, write it on your spreadsheet. If it doesn’t, well you won’t
have wasted your time filling out forms. Move on.
I know my advice
is particular to what we look for at Atlas, but I really believe that if
translators tailored their approaches to translation companies they would get a
much better response. Better to be registered with 5 good companies likely to
provide regular work than 50 random companies who you have no idea about.