6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Hitting Reply

Apparently it is not uncommon for new freelance translators to be surprised by the amount of marketing that goes into freelance translation. As a freelance translator it’s called marketing, and as an employee it’s called job search.

When you work as a freelance translator you’re somewhere in between normal job search to become an employee and normal marketing done by a company that wants to sell a product or a service. Translation work is normally referred to as jobs, but on the other hand you might as well say that you’re providing a service.

There’s a wonderful mix of everything in the marketplace for translations, which is why I love being a freelance translator. It gives you the freedom to choose how you want to work, but at the same time you have to look out for yourself, because there’s a risk of running into a bad mix that works against you.

I like to compare freelance translation work to the work done by self-employed carpenters. You know, the guy who everyone knows, who has a van full of tools and a shop.

When you run into what I would call a bad mix as a freelance translator, here’s what would happen from the “customers” point of view:

  • You know that within this decade you will have to get some work done on your house, so you start compiling a list of carpenters.
  • Then you start mass emailing them, of course referring to them as Carpenter, instead of using their name or their company name.
  • You tell them to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire so that everything that you have already heard about them or all the information that is already available on their website is transferred to your records.
  • Then you tell them that this week they will have to come by and install a new window for you, or else you simply don’t have any idea if they have any skills as a carpenter or not.
  • You send them a document with 15+ pages to sign, in order to put them in their right place, i.e. no place – they’ll have to run.
  • Then you tell them what they’re worth, which is basically nothing, so they will have to work for next to nothing – and like it too.
  • After 500 aspiring carpenters have worked on your house, and for some reason have done quite satisfying work, you sell the house.

As freelance translators I think we need to remind ourselves that this is a really bad mix. I don’t know a single carpenter who would put up with this crap for one second, so why should you, when there are so many similarities?

  • When a “client” doesn’t know when or if they’ll need your services or not – why not go look for someone who actually does?
  • You have an online profile, or perhaps even a website – wouldn’t a potential client seeking you out know your freaking name or company name?
  • If someone won’t even look at your shop window = your profile / website – do you really think they’re going to buy anything?
  • If someone won’t even recognize the things you have on display in your shop window = samples / portfolio, why do you think they would respect your work anyway?
  • Do you walk into your hairdressers saloon and start telling her how to run her business? Quite impressive, I must say then. No. You know how to run your business.
  • Do you start any relationship with anybody by telling them that they’re basically worth nothing? I think that’s another forum 😉
    Only you know what it takes to run your business, and this cost is going to be covered by your price, so set a reasonable price.

It seems like there’s an endless line of disrespectful people with no money, who will harass you with irrelevant paperwork. I’m not entirely sure what’s in it for them, besides extremely short term gain, but I believe that you would be much better off if you invested your energy in good old marketing.

Do you let random so called recruiters throw random irrelevant paperwork at you, or do you actively seek out people with whom you could have a win-win relationship? Where do you look for those people?

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