Knowing who your clients are will give you a decisive advantage when doing business.
One of the major characteristics of running a translation business, no matter whether you work as a freelance translator or in an agency, is this: You often don’t know who your clients are. And I don’t mean, “You don’t know them well”, as you would if you had a normal business, say, if your were a dentist or a hairdresser. In that case, you would know what they look like, who accompanies them, more or less where they live, and whether they tend to be well-natured or rather ill-behaved. It’s rather a lot of information about a person, if you look at it this way. As a translator, however, more often than not all the information we have on a person boils down to one single piece: their email address.
I think most of you would agree that this is a major disadvantage for translators when dealing with their clients. Age, professional background, nationality, etc. play an important role in knowing how to deal with an individual client, and, last, but not least, which rates to charge them. You will talk to a person your age in a different way than you would to an elderly gentleman, right? It is all too easy to offend a client by using too casual a tone in an email; or the opposite: sometimes clients can be intimidated if the language used is too formal.
Now then, here’s how to find out what’s behind an anonymous email and actually get to know your clients. And they don’t even have to notice you’re “spying on them”. Let’s get started.
LinkedIn and Facebook connectors for Outlook
I’ve said previously I am an Outlook fan. It’s mainly because the software is so feature-complete and extendable. It is mostly because of two absolutely essential plugins that I can never use another email program again: The LinkedIn connector, and the Facebook social connector.
Here’s an email from your client… and, look at this! He sent you a photo with it!
Granted, installation of these add-ins is rather complex. In typical Outlook fashion, the whole operation will fail at least one before finally installing. Or… it might never work. Just make sure you get the correct version of these plug-ins (32- or 64-bit) and good luck to you.
However, once they are installed, these little gadgets are incredibly useful. They are actually the two pieces of ingenious software which have helped me the most in making life easier for me when writing emails to clients, and receiving job offers. They do two things very well: Whenever you receive an email, they pull up the respective profile photos from Facebook and LinkedIn, identifying the author of the email by their respective email addresses. And secondly, you can easily add any person you’ve ever had correspondence with to your LinkedIn profile with one click. By just looking at the photo you gain a whole lot of information. You can guess (more or less accurately, at least) a person’s age and the kind of person they are, which makes dealing with them a whole lot easier.
People search engines
There are numerous of those out there, but the most reliable is 123 People. These search engines allow you to enter a person’s name or email address and promise you to find all data on the internet related to these people (or companies as well). Facebook, Twitter profiles, articles etc. They don’t always work as well as they should do, but trying doesn’t hurt, does it?
Will they pay me?
If you haven’t been paid for work at least once in your professional career, hold your hands up! It’s the very nature of translation work that makes us easy victims for non-paying companies: To translate means to work between two cultures, languages, and often, different countries. To go after a non-payer in a country other than your own is a right hassle, and while it is not impossible for us to eventually get our due thanks to a combination of lawyers, government agencies, and colleagues, more often than now it’s not worth the extra hours put in to get what are often relatively small sums of money.
So, if I can recommend one website for a freelance translator, it has toc Payment Practices. You can get a free trial or sign up for a year-long membership which shouldn’t set you back more than a couple of dollars. Payment Practices’ database contains information on 10057 translation agencies and clients worldwide, 6616 total responses and 1891 comments on those buyers. Agencies are rated by the responses of freelancer translators, so you should always look up new clients and agencies on this website before agreeing to work for someone you do not know. Great website and absolutely worth your money! For a couple of quid you might save thousands…
Which strategies do you use to find out more about your clients? Are you worried at all about working for someone you’ve never met? Any solutions to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.