When you receive an “out of the blue” request for a quote from a potential translation client, what’s the best next step? Is it more advantageous to call the client, e-mail them, ask for more information or send them a rate sheet…or something else entirely? The beauty of impromptu inquiries from potential clients is that you, the translator, are in the position of power. Rather than attempting to sell the potential client on the value of your services, the potential client is coming to you. So, it’s important to decide how to convert this inquiry into a new client. Let’s take a look at some potential courses of action.
First, read the potential client’s e-mail carefully; note the information that they provide and don’t provide, because this will give you some clues as to the client’s level of seriousness and their knowledge of what translation involves. Look at the client’s website and/or Google them to get a sense of their business. Then, decide how to respond to the potential client; for example you might:
- Call them or ask them to call you. I’m really not a phone person, but I do think that a phone call makes a good impression. You can get a sense of the client’s personality and they can get a sense of yours, you can chat about the project, what translations they’ve had done in the past and what they are looking for in this translation. My only hesitation with phoning a potential client is that I like to get the important project details (i.e. rate, turnaround time, other terms of service) in writing. So, if you take this tactic I think it’s important to follow up with a brief e-mail, for example, “Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me this morning. Just to confirm the details of our conversation, I will be translating the document we discussed at a rate of X cents per source word and I will deliver it to you by 5PM Eastern time on Friday. I accept payment by check or wire transfer and the full payment is due within 30 days of the date on which I deliver the translation.”
- E-mail them and ask for more information. It’s unlikely that the client’s initial e-mail included all of the information that you need, so you might e-mail them and ask some of the questions listed above. Thank them for contacting you and let them know that in order to provide them with a detailed quote, you’ll need to get some more information.
- E-mail them your basic information about rates and terms of service. In part, I think that your response to potential clients should be guided by how much you need or want the work. Responding with some prepared information, for example “I’m attaching my 2010 rate sheet which includes my per-word and hourly rates as well as my standard terms of service, feel free to look these over and then let me know if I can provide you with a detailed quote” may not be the most personal way to respond to an inquiry, but it saves your time and immediately weeds out clients whose budget is much less than what you charge.
Whichever strategy you choose, make sure to lay the groundwork for a successful translator/client relationship. For example:
- Respond promptly to all inquiries from potential clients. Even if you don’t want to provide a quote on the project, respond and let the potential client know that.
- Clarify your payment terms and methods; decide whether you want first-time clients to pay all or part of the project fee in advance.
- Ask the client to confirm the rate, deadline and payment terms in writing. This can be as simple as a very short e-mail or can take the form of a service agreement or purchase order, but make sure that you and the client agree in writing on these important details.
- Ask the client for their accounts payable person’s contact information. For example, “Please let me know the e-mail address and phone number of the person to whom I should send my invoice, and let me know who I should contact if I have a question about the payment.”
Any other tips for responding successfully to inquiries?