No Translator is an Island

Having a solid network of fellow linguists is paramount for entrepreneurs in the translation and localization industries. Just like most businesses, we get a substantial amount of work through word of mouth and referrals, and we frequently pay it forward. We are happy to send work to fellow translators when we are too busy or like to recommend specialists who are better at the field in question than we are. It's also about getting the best translation for the specific client and project, so it makes sense that we work together with a network of colleagues whose work we trust and respect. There's enough business for all of us, and by setting a friendly and helpful tone with clients and colleagues it's a win-win for the individual, the whole, and the profession. We think it also strengthens the languages industry when we present a solid, united front working towards the same goals: high quality in language services.

Just today I found out that clients really like being given options, too. I was following up with a client about a quote I had sent last week. I wrote: "If you decided to go with one of my fine fellow linguists in town, I am sure you will be in very good hands!", to which my potential client responded that he did indeed want to hire me. He cited my honesty and my willingness to suggest alternatives as the main reason for choosing our services.

In addition to referrals, our virtual and in-person network of translators around the world provides incredibly insightful advice about potential clients, pitfalls, new projects, etc. We subscribe to several Listservs, first and foremost the German Language Division Listserv of the American Translators Association, which is a fantastic resources for asking a large group of highly qualified linguists about terminology and translation input. Many times, they are our lifeline for difficult language challenges, and thanks to international time zones,and members all around the world, someone is always working.


5 comments:

Corinne on January 15, 2009 at 7:53 AM said...

Not that this was the main point of your post, but I think that's such a great tip about giving clients an "out" or a way to save face if they don't want to hire you. I've started doing this too; specifically saying "if you'd like to get some other quotes or think over my offer for a while, of course it's no problem," and I think that paradoxically, it results in more business. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. When I first started out I jealously guarded my clients because I didn't want my "competitors" (same-language-pair) to steal them. Now I see that that old adage is true: set your client free and if they come back to you, you will have a long and happy business relationship together.

OK, I guess that's not a real adage. But it's true. I always tell direct clients how to hire someone cheaper than me (and everyone's happy if they go that route--I'm certainly not the cheapest translator in my language pair). The clients who stay with me anyway appreciate my honesty (and pay me really well!!!)

I recommend fellow translators (whose work I can vouch for) all the time when I'm too busy for a job or it's not a good fit for me and everyone loves me for it. The fellow translators love getting more job offers. I love having someone to refer the agency to. And the agency is happy with my recommendation for this job but will also still contact me first next time they have a job. It's win-win-win.

If a client decides not to use me for a job, I certainly don't take it personally. Running your own business requires gumption and self-esteem. There are lots of reasons I say "yes" or "no" to various jobs and the same is true for my clients. Usually if they say "no" to me it's because they need someone cheaper, their budget just can't accommodate my minimum rate. Which is fine. They'll have a better budget on another job in a couple of days. And they'll call me then.

I no longer think of same-language-pair translators as competitors. Now they're colleagues ;-)

Now if only I really was on an island, a nice tropical island, with a few colleagues and some umbrella drinks... Ahhhh....

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. When I first started out I jealously guarded my clients because I didn't want my "competitors" (same-language-pair) to steal them. Now I see that that old adage is true: set your client free and if they come back to you, you will have a long and happy business relationship together.

OK, I guess that's not a real adage. But it's true. I always tell direct clients how to hire someone cheaper than me (and everyone's happy if they go that route--I'm certainly not the cheapest translator in my language pair). The clients who stay with me anyway appreciate my honesty (and pay me really well!!!)

I recommend fellow translators (whose work I can vouch for) all the time when I'm too busy for a job or it's not a good fit for me and everyone loves me for it. The fellow translators love getting more job offers. I love having someone to refer the agency to. And the agency is happy with my recommendation for this job but will also still contact me first next time they have a job. It's win-win-win.

If a client decides not to use me for a job, I certainly don't take it personally. Running your own business requires gumption and self-esteem. There are lots of reasons I say "yes" or "no" to various jobs and the same is true for my clients. Usually if they say "no" to me it's because they need someone cheaper, their budget just can't accommodate my minimum rate. Which is fine. They'll have a better budget on another job in a couple of days. And they'll call me then.

I no longer think of same-language-pair translators as competitors. Now they're colleagues ;-)

Now if only I really was on an island, a nice tropical island, with a few colleagues and some umbrella drinks... Ahhhh....

Werner Patels on January 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM said...

This is why I am so dead set against sites like ProZ, because they emphasize the negative, the infighting among members, etc., rather than real collaboration. Besides, if you're a professional translator, you wouldn't really feel comfortable in the company of most members of such sites, because they're happy-go-lucky wannabe translators who decided from one day to the next that they're going to be "translators" (without the necessary education, skills, etc.).

I have always found ideal networking opportunities within professional associations, but the Internet today certainly provides some good opportunities too -- such as through blogs, but less so through "virtual marketplaces" like ProZ, Translators Café, etc.

Anonymous said...

Building on Corinne's comment, I think it also helps one to negotiate firmly in a nice way. By saying nicely, "feel free to look at other quotes" you are also saying that you feel confident in your offerings and they can take it or leave it, and you are okay either way - your own confidence inspires confidence in you.
Eve

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