From T.T.: Would you recommend contacting clients in a traditional way, e.g. handing out a leaflet, phone call, etc.?
The Translator’s Aunt: Dear T.T., there’s no globally right or wrong way to contact potential clients, the right approach for one client might be the completely wrong one for another! And crucially, you also need to find an approach that’s right for you. Just because some translators love being active online and spend their time on social media interacting with potential clients doesn’t mean that you have to join Twitter and do the same.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every method. But in the end, if your heart’s not in it, it’s just not convincing. Focusing on blogging and content marketing, for example, is extremely time-consuming and has to be kept up to keep readers coming back. If it’s done begrudgingly it’s of no value to anyone. The same goes for the Twittersphere: there’s already too much pointless tweeting and retweeting, so there’s no need to join the party if you’d rather stay at home in bed!
Some people hate the idea of picking up the phone and calling a direct client, and if you’re one of them, then I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you feel that approach suits your style, and if you can get a hold of the right people by phone, then by all means do! They’re more likely to remember you if they hear your voice than if they just get an anonymous email. Just make sure you know what your purpose is for calling them and exactly what you’re planning to say.
As for handing out leaflets or sending promotional postcards to clients, I can’t say I’ve ever done it myself, but I’ve certainly heard from translators for whom it’s been a successful strategy, getting them something like a 3% positive response, which is typically more than mass emailing will ever get you. Of course, printing and posting comes at a cost and is more time-consuming…
I’d sum it up by saying: know your clients. Do your research, find out how they communicate and try to match their style. Start with whatever approach you feel most comfortable and confident with and see what results you get. In any case, don’t give up after a dozen rejections, keep trying, and if you get no results after a few weeks, test another method – live networking, LinkedIn, emails etc.