From A.S.: I’m struggling with finding new companies to send my CV to. I’ve sent out several hundred e-mails to different companies, and the result was… well, uncertain. A major number of recipients just hadn’t responded at all, some responded with rejection, some – with “we’ll call you back” and only very few are sending me 2-3 tiny assignments a month. As I plan to make translation my main job and source of income, such ratio is undoubtedly unacceptable. I’m literally running out of companies to write to in my area of specialisation. A Google search can only yield a certain amount of contacts. Once I work through them… what’s next?
The Translator’s Aunt: Dear A.S., there are several aspects to your problem when it comes to direct clients, and different issues that you might need to resolve:
1/ You might be aiming for too narrow a sector – i.e. there may simply not be enough demand for your area of specialisation in your language pair, in which case you need to think about branching out into other sectors.
2/ The companies you’re targeting may not be receptive to how you’re communicating with them, which could account for your lack of response (this could concern your method, style, vocabulary, but also what experience and rates you’re presenting to them).
3/ You probably need to find other ways to reach out to them that are more personal (e.g. conferences, events, meet-ups, etc.) – people are far more likely to trust and want to work with someone they’ve met in real life.
4/ Think about how else you can do your research – are you using LinkedIn or other professional sites, maybe there are some related to your area of specialisation? Have you searched for translators working in those fields on sites like Proz to see what clients they’ve listed?
5/ You need to be more persistent than you think. On average, if you cold-call 100 potential direct clients, 3 could be receptive to your offer right now (i.e. express an interest and need), about 40 could be receptive in the future given enough time, and the rest will never be receptive or interested in your offer. The trick is continuing to pursue these 97 remaining clients over a long period of time, while not knowing who among them falls into the right 40%, because these kinds of relations simply take time. Most direct clients will only start being receptive after 12-18 months or 4-5 contact attempts. So you can’t give up after one round of disappointing replies!
Launching a freelancing business is a long-term project so planning ahead and managing your time is key. You may need to branch out, do different types of translations, find a second source of income if you don’t have savings, perhaps even develop a 2nd specialisation. It takes motivation and perseverance, but if you’re determined and flexible enough, there’s no reason you can’t reach your goal.
Good luck with it!