How to approach prospective clients/language service providers

The amount of emails I receive these days starting with “Dear Sir/Madam” and introducing translation services into Spanish, Russian, or from languages far from Swedish, into English, has spurred me to write some instructions on how to approach new clients or prospects. Other people have written about this before, but it is worth repeating.

I touched on this topic in my presentation on how to create a marketing plan for translators, and here are some specific steps.

  1. Know what you offer first, what are your services and your specializations, otherwise you will have a hard time knowing who to contact and how.
  2. Know what customers you want to target. If you do not know these things before approaching prospects, you will not create a good impression and you will not know who to target. This often leads to mass-emailing to a huge list of agencies or contacts and mass emails will end up in the trash. When you know who you want to target you can be more specific and convincing.
  3. Do some research on your target customers before you contact them. It is OK to use a database of translation companies as a contact list, but do some weeding before contacting them. Take a look at their websites to see what subject areas they specialize in, what languages they specialize in (very important), and if there is a preferred method of contact. Many agencies have application forms these days, and you only waste time if you send them an impersonal email with a resume, since you most likely will have to fill in their form anyway in order to be entered in their database.
  4. Make sure your CV and your introductory email are free from spelling errors. (We are linguists after all.)
  5. Do not start with Dear Sir/Madam! Letters that start like this will most likely go directly into the trash. If you do not know who the contact person is, start with a simple Hello and continue with where you have found their information and show some sort of connection.

These are just the basic steps. If you are contacting direct clients, i.e. contacting companies directly, the process is more complicated and you need to do a lot more research before contacting anyone. It is also much more necessary to have a contact name, but contacting direct clients is another story and another blog post.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this information. I have to let you know I concur on several of the points you make here and others may require some further review, but I can see your viewpoint.

    Reply
  2. it is very important to ask for different quotations in order to get the best rates and also it is very important to search a translation agency in the country whose main language is the objetive language you want to translate.
    For example, if you want to translate from English to Spanish it will be cheaper to contact a spanish company than an american or Uk translation company.

    Reply
  3. Great post, Tess. Surprisingly enough, I receive a number of CVs and cover letters as well. Even more surprising: a whole lot of them start with “Dear Sir”. I’m not a great feminist, but if someone doesn’t even accept the fact that women exist, their emails go straight to trash… I’m not bothered to read anything else.

    My advice: Get the gender right. Or at least don’t be offensive.

    Reply
  4. It must be the marketing season, because I’ve heard so much related advice lately… And I appreciate it all! Translators are not inherently marketeers; constant reminders like this are invaluable to a growing business (large or small). I’m sorry you have to put up with so many irrelevant emails, but thank you for sharing what lessons could be gleaned.

    I can’t wait for your post on how to adjust this for direct clients!

    Reply

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