This is a guest post by Maryam Abdi. Maryam is a registered Somali court interpreter and the owner of Expert Somali Translations, a boutique firm offering Somali > English translations and cultural consulting services to legal and government sectors. She is the creator of Translators Academy where she blogs about marketing, sales and career strategies for aspiring and new freelance translators. Maryam holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego. She is a recipient of the State Bar of California’s Wiley M. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services, for her volunteer work as an interpreter and translator for victims of human rights abuses.
If you’re a freelance translator looking for new clients, the days of bidding on translation job portals and arbitrarily cold-calling translation agencies are over. It’s not a numbers game anymore. Clients these days expect you to spend the time to learn about them before getting in contact. And what’s the best way to do that? The answer is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is nothing short of a goldmine for freelance translators. It’s an incredible tool to learn about prospects, grow your network and find high-quality and well-paying clients. When used correctly, it can create endless work opportunities.
In this blog post, we’re going to dig deep and explore how freelance translators can:
- Authentically connect with other translators working with their ideal clients
- Expand their network to get access to translation projects that never get advertised
- Use the Foot in the Door Strategy to leverage their network and get introductions to “pre-sold” potential clients.
By harnessing the power of LinkedIn, you’ll be well on your way to setting up a well-organized translation sales system that you can maintain in as little as five hours a week.
The step-by-step method to building your high-end LinkedIn network from scratch
Is there a particular translation agency or company you want to work with? But you’re unsure how to go about it? The most effective way to getting in the potential client’s inner circle is to use the Foot in the Door Strategy. It’s a simple, three-step process that you can implement right away on LinkedIn. This is a highly methodical approach that deconstructs the often-confusing prospecting process. It begins with finding other translators who are already working with your ideal clients and translation agencies.
The LinkedIn Advanced People Search tool helps you find the right translators to contact. You can search for translators by their language pairs, specialization and the companies they work with. Here’s the step-by-step process to filling out each field of the Advanced People Search tool:
- Start with the keywords field and type in the specialization of the translators you want to connect with. If you’re interested in flexible translation positions, this is a great place to enter the keyword “freelance”.
- To find translators working in similar language pairs as you, enter the preferred languages in the title field. For example, if you’re searching for French <-> English translators you could insert, “French English translator.”
- Next, enter the name of the agency or potential direct client in the company field. For many translators who don’t populate this field, their search results become limited.
- In the Advanced People Search tool, you can also filter the results by relationship. A “1st connection” is someone that is already in your network. Assuming you want to find a translator outside of your network, click on the remaining options (2nd connections, Group members and 3rd connections + Everyone else).
- The next step is to narrow your search by location. Enter your city to find local translators working with your ideal clients.
Once you complete the form, click on the search button to get a list of translators with the information you specified. You can experiment with the Advanced People Search tool to find the specific person you want to contact.
After you review the search results, the next step is the “research phase” where you’ll collect information on the translators working with the translation agencies and companies on your prospecting list. Before you contact them, do your homework so you don’t come off impersonal in your approach. Once you’ve found the translators that have a relationship with your ideal clients and you review their profile, now it’s time to find a way to connect with them on LinkedIn.The easiest way to connect with freelance translators working for your ideal clients and agencies is to find a connecting factor. Before you can send them a message you have to demonstrate how you know them. For example, you can connect with a translator who went to the same university or translation programs as you. You could also search by translation association membership or perhaps comb through their profile to see if they have listed their personal email. Either way, you need this information to not only “warm up” your message but to add them to your personal network on LinkedIn. It’s best to reach out to translators who have the same specialization as you or work in complementary language pairs. For example, if you’re a Spanish > English translator find an English > Spanish translator.
Now that I’ve showed you how to find the translators working with your ideal clients, it’s time to authentically contact them with a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn. If you’re wondering what to say, you can use the tested word-for-word script below to connect with translators the right way. By using this script you can shave off weeks if not months on your search for new clients.
The word-for-word script to help you find new clients faster
Finding new clients is a lot easier once you leverage the network of your existing clients and colleagues and it all begins with the Foot-in-the-Door Strategy. Here’s a sample message you can use to invite a freelance translator to connect on LinkedIn. Unlike a generic message, this one is personalized and has a high response rate.
Don’t worry about sending this type of message and being met with deaf ears. It’s different from the typical cold emails sent by most freelance translators because:
- The focus is shifted from you to them and it doesn’t come off as self-serving
- You’re asking freelance translators to share their story instead of asking for a handout
- You’re showing you’ve invested some time in getting to know them
This is a much easier way to find new clients without going to random networking events, cold-calling or running expensive advertisements in trade journals.
Building a relationship and requesting an introduction
Once your connection request on LinkedIn is accepted, it’s time to ask for the translator’s insight on the company you’re interested in. You can conduct your informational interview over email, by phone, or even in person if the fellow translator is in the same city as you. During your interview, ask open-ended questions about their experience working with the translation agency or company, the type of projects they work on, and their likes and dislikes about the client you’d like to work with. It’s very important to vet companies and agencies to make sure they’re a good fit for you and your translation services. When it comes to clients, quality is better than quantity. Naturally, the conversation will bounce back to you. In most cases, the translator will ask about your experience. Use this as an opportunity to express your interest in working with the agency or company and ask for an introduction.
However, it doesn’t end there. The point is to make it as simple as possible to get a warm introduction. Just like you, they’re very busy professionals and crafting an email to refer you will be one more thing on their to do list. Make sure to do the “heavy lifting” for them and offer to write the introduction message for them.
Lather, rinse, repeat
It’s often said your network is your net worth and I couldn’t agree more. Freelancing is a business built on relationships. Having the right network of translators will give you access to the well-paying translation projects that never get advertised. If you want to stay top-of-mind when the opportunity arises, stay in touch with translators in your network. Make sure to follow up with the translator after your talk or meeting. Send them a message genuinely thanking them for their time. If they gave you suggestions, tell them you’ll apply the strategies and keep them in the loop with your results. Remember, you also want to nurture your network. You have to give in order to receive and that involves referring your colleagues and presenting them with opportunities to tap into your clientele as well.
The Foot in the Door Strategy isn’t something you only do when you’re in desperate need of clients. Similar to exercising, it’s something you should do consistently in order to see results. Building a network is not easy, but the potential payoff is huge. With time you’ll be able to build the confidence and credibility to approach fellow translators and colleagues on LinkedIn. Eventually, you’ll get faster, more creative and self-assured the more you use the Foot in the Door Strategy.
Now I want to hear from you. Tell me about your experience using LinkedIn to find new clients by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.