End of year gifts for clients and colleagues

It’s that time again… the gift basket catalogs are arriving by the armload, reminding us that it’s time to thank our clients and colleagues for their business and support over the past year. What’s the best way to do this? Better to go traditional or creative? High-end or fairly basic? The answer depends on your budget and who your clients and colleagues are, but here are some tips to get the discussion started.

  • If you can’t afford or don’t want to send a gift, a really well-composed note is a good substitute. Personally I like to send at least a modest gift to my main clients, but I think it’s equally meaningful to write a holiday card to a client or colleague and really say something nice about why you enjoy working with them. Often, good clients don’t realize what sets them apart from the crowd and will really appreciate something like “I always look forward to working with you because your projects are interesting, your instructions are clear and I know that I can always count on you to provide me with the reference materials I need to produce a good translation” or “You are one of my most valuable colleagues because your eagle-eyed editing makes me look great; I know that when you’ve gone over one of my translations, it’s absolutely publication-ready.” I think that many clients and colleagues would appreciate a note like this more than a token generic gift.
  • If you want to give a tasteful but not bank-breaking gift, think about locally made products. Especially if your clients are agencies, they probably receive many “mass market” gifts from big retailers. It can be a nice touch to send something from the region where you live, and it reminds your client about you as well. Your local food and gift companies may also have factory stores where you can purchase their products at a discount. For example here in Colorado we have the Celestial Seasonings tea factory, Chocolove candy bars and Allegro coffee, and some local specialty food stores even sell “Made in Colorado” gift boxes.
  • If you want to go higher-end, do something creative. Post-it notes, calendars, paperweights and the like are useful but a little tired as a gift idea. After the ATA conference, Judy Jenner at Translation Times featured this post about two Dutch<>English translators whose premium client gift is a USB stick embedded in a tiny Dutch wooden shoe. Judy later reported that these cost 12 euros each if you order 50; a fairly hefty up-front investment but definitely classier and more memorable than a ballpoint pen.
  • When you are giving a gift to a company, whether it’s an agency or a direct client, it’s worth considering whether to give a group gift to the whole team or individual gifts to the people you work with closely. On the one hand, it’s nice to recognize the people who send you a lot of work; on the other hand, you don’t want to look as if you’re bribing the individual in question. I would advise making gifts to individuals small and accompanying them with a personalized note; no iPod, Tiffany key ring or extravagant restaurant gift certificate. However, I do give individual gifts when I really only work with one or two people within a company and it would seem a little odd to send a gift to the whole department.
  • Other thoughts on end of year thank-yous?

4 Responses to “End of year gifts for clients and colleagues”
  1. Paula Dieli December 2, 2009
  2. Laura Melbourne December 3, 2009
  3. Chris Durban December 3, 2009
  4. Judy Jenner December 14, 2009

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