Happy Friday everyone! As it’s Friday and all around the world it’s either almost the weekend or already the weekend I thought a happy and helpful post would be a good way to go today. So. How helpful are you? On a scale of one to ten? I think we all like to think we help others as much as we can, and this should apply to our clients as well. For most translators and language professionals, the holy grail of clients are direct clients. They (usually) pay better and you have much more autonomy on the whole process than you do when dealing with agencies. That’s not to say that there aren’t good agencies (ahem) but from a financial perspective, cutting out the middle man is usually to the translator’s benefit. It means that there’s more work to be done and your client will (and should) expect you to handle the whole process, being their guide through the sometimes choppy waters of the translation process. James Chartrand wrote a really useful piece on turning prospects into paying customers and something in the first few lines really struck me, “There are people who agree with what you’re doing – and there are people who believe that you’re the only one who can do it right…[…] Your clients come from the second category. They agree with what you’re doing, and they don’t think they’re capable of doing it without you.”

I Simply Cannot Do It Alooooooone

Sorry for the musically themed title there (fans of Chicago will know what I’m talking about!) But in essence, that’s what you want your clients to feel, that they just cannot do the job without your help and that nobody can do the job as well as you. You want to be utterly indispensable. Now, to clarify this point – this does not mean that you are available 24/7 and will drop everything else you might be working on to translate 6 words for them – you still need to set boundaries and expectations (best done at the start of the relationship). Don’t work on weekends? Tell them. (It’s not really so outrageous after all). Maybe you’re a parent of young children (as I am) and the hours between 5:30pm and 7:30pm are a no-go, due to storytelling, bath time and bed routines. Tell them. Perhaps you find PDFs the work of the devil and wish to apply a surcharge. Tell them. The more transparent you make your relationship from the start, the easier it will be to help it flourish in the coming months and years. And, although it might feel tricky, unnatural, and, perhaps, awkward to set these limits at the outset, you are actually helping your client. Helping them to understand how you work and what to expect from you. It really will help to keep everyone happy.

How To Be Helpful

The exceptional service you provide to your clients will sometimes not just be about your experience and language skills. It will also be about helping out in exceptional circumstances. This is where applying the theory from the above paragraph comes in handy. Your clients are not going to think that you working for three days straight over the weekend on an InDesign file is exceptional if this what you offer all the time. If you accept these jobs as standard, then it will become your standard. Which is great if you can survive on little sleep and you are charging accordingly. But if you have set out clearly in your mind and then communicated with them what “normal” service is, they will appreciate all the more you helping out when they’re in a bind, and they will compensate you appropriately. And if not – check out our previous post on Breaking Bad…Business Partnerships.

How To Help Out Prospects

We’ve talked in previous posts about building relationships with prospects and how to pitch more effectively, focusing on them and not you. We’ve also looked at networking and how to approach it (clue: be helpful!). Are you sensing a running theme? Some industries prefer to have their activities shrouded in mystery, perhaps with the logic that they can charge more if people don’t really know what goes on. If something is mysterious, it’s often thought that it must be really difficult, so by that token, secrecy works well as an approach. I don’t think that should be the case in the translation world. Our very purpose is to remove mystery. By translating a text from one language to another we are making it accessible to speakers of that other language. Similarly, in an interpreting setting, the interpreter is the conduit through which conversation flows; enabling all parties to communicate as if they were equals. And, I don’t know about you, but I like things to be accessible and equal. So let’s open up the process of translation; by the very action of showing our clients what is involved in the process you can show them that yes, the process can take a while, and yes, it can be tricky, but that you are their guide and expert. By showing them what is involved, what translation industry terms mean and by involving them, they’ll be more trusting of you and glad that you’re there to help them. In short, they’ll see that you’re worth every cent they’re going to pay.

How We’re Doing It

We talked before about the cheat sheet we produced for potential clients. It runs through some of the things they should think about if they’re localising their website and it also has a section titled “Buzz Word Lingo”, which takes them through some of the terms that translators might use and gives a bit of advice on what they should receive from a translator who is providing them with a quote.

Help client handout

By sending this leaflet to potential clients we’re being open about what the process involves and we’re also giving them the means to seek out other language service providers, i.e. (cue Jaws music) our competitors. Gasp! So we might not get business from them, we might even be helping them not to do business with us, but that’s okay, because their text/website/text book will hopefully still get translated, making the world a little bit more accessible, and a little bit more equal. And we helped.

Other Ways Your Can Help People

As a last, totally unrelated note, we love hearing about how people are being helpful in general. The Random Acts of Kindness website is awesome for giving you ideas on little things to do. Another really useful things to do is to give blood. It’s been on the news in the UK this week about the concern that the number of new donors in the UK is dropping, leaving the future supply in danger. With that in mind I booked my appointment to give blood next Friday….and, no, I’m not squeamish!

How do you help your clients and prospects? As usual, we’d love to hear in the comments.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post and would love to translate it to Spanish for my followers. Would you mind? I will quote you as the original author and provide links to your blog and social media accounts.

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    all the best

    • Jo Rourke says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you very much for your comment – I would be delighted for you to translate this post into Spanish. Please let me know when it goes live, I’d love to read it 🙂


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