Translators and marketing

dandelionI’m alive! Well, just about. The last few months have been hectic: my move from Leeds to Brighton coincided with me acquiring four new clients that have kept me very busy. Translators can’t really afford to rely on their existing clients, and over the years, I have developed a simple strategy (so simple that it barely deserves to be called a strategy) that helps me get regular new contacts, which sometimes turn into clients. The idea of it is very basic: I have worked out the most efficient ways of attracting interest, and I concentrate on improving them.
My main tool is this website. I’ve struggled to update the blog recently, but even in its static form, it brings in around 10,000 visits a month, a fraction of which brings me work. This is how one of my new clients found me in October: she put “Traducteur de l’anglais vers le français” in Google and saw me on the first page of the results. A few emails and a short test later, she decided to trust me with her translations. The second client also came via my website. I remember that he first made contact with me in 2006 and the reason why I remembered him was that his comment was “I love your website and I want to work with you”. At the time, this feedback confirmed that I was on the right track, which was very helpful. Things didn’t work out back then, but he got back to me last month and we agreed to work together.
The third client is from Brighton. He sent an internal email to his organisation asking if anyone knew a French translator, which one of my friends picked up. We had a coffee together and I’m now involved in an interesting three-year project.
The fourth client was sent to me by a colleague who I’ve occasionally sent clients to when I’ve been too busy, so this is a nice example of translators networking and helping each other out.
Website, personal networking, professional networking. These are the methods that have worked best for me. I think the key to a successful marketing strategy, for translators and freelancers in any industry, is to work out your favourite method to make yourself visible, and to really focus on that. I was planning on diversifying my plan with my application to become a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, but this effort seems to have been derailed… more on this in another post.
Dandelion photo by Neil.

By |2016-10-18T15:48:45+00:00November 12th, 2010|Marketing and networking|11 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Jill November 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Welcome back to the blogosphere! We’ve missed you. I have pretty much the same strategy as you. Word of mouth, website and personal contact all work well.

  2. Emma November 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. 3 years ago I started freelancing and studying for an MA translation at the same time. Being in France, I joined the SFT, went to a Proz powwow in Brittany and to conferences and training days. None of that was a hardship, it came naturally. About 90% of my work has come through fellow translators. Now I’ve finished studying, the next step is the website. I’m currently following your sound advice from your recent webinar and working on my “brand”. It’s great fun!

  3. céline November 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    @Jill: Thanks! Maybe it’s not so much a strategy as a blindingly obvious thing to do!
    @Emma: The one strand I haven’t pursued much is going to conferences and other networking events. Maybe it’s time to stop being shy and try getting out there. Good luck with your website and it’s great to hear that you found the webinar useful 🙂

  4. Steve Vitek November 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Celine:
    I typed into Google here in US “traduction de l’anglais vers le francais” and your site came up at number 6 on page 1. Good job!
    However, my question would be, do you think it’s a good idea to tell your competition, and in particular big, nasty, greedy agencies with large advertising budgets which keywords they need to use or pay for to get work from the type of clients that Celine is working for now?
    My website gets only a small fraction of the hits that your blog does but still, since it accounts for about 30 percent of income that is generated by new clients year after year, I would not be willing to share the keywords that in particular work for me with the global community.
    Also, do you use Google Analytics, or can you use them on your blog? I understand they don’t work on WordPress but maybe they work on your blog. I have been using them on my business website and I now have a pretty good idea about the most frequent keywords used by people who end up on my website.
    Best regards,
    Steve Vitek

  5. céline November 15, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Hi Steve, and thanks for reminding me of your excellent blog.
    To answer your question, I don’t see big, nasty, greedy agencies as my competitors at all, and besides, I doubt very much that they have the privilege of being aware of my existence, so I’m really not concerned about hiding anything from them.
    In fact, I’m not worried about hiding anything to anyone, as keywords are quite easy to work out with Google keyword tools, for example, so it’s not like I’ve uncovered a revolutionary way of attracting potential clients to my site.
    No, I think that working out keywords is the easiest part of optimizing a website. The really tricky bit is to devise regular content which will elicit links to the site, hence improving its popularity and ranking.

  6. Steve Vitek November 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    “… so it’s not like I’ve uncovered a revolutionary way of attracting potential clients to my site.”
    I think you have because most freelance translators still work mostly for big, nasty, greedy agencies, especially translators who translate only one language. They can’t figure out how to find direct clients on their own.
    Thanks God you and I don’t have to do that anymore. Maybe I will write a blog about it one of these days.
    Best regards,
    Steve Vitek

  7. céline November 15, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I look forward to reading it!

  8. Sarah November 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I agree with Celine’s comment above.
    An independent translator is not in direct competition with agencies. The “big” translation agencies seek – and attract– a different kind of client to the one targeted by an independent, niche translator.
    Great blog, Celine. Glad to see you back!

  9. Steve Vitek November 23, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    “An independent translator is not in direct competition with agencies. The “big” translation agencies seek – and attract– a different kind of client to the one targeted by an independent, niche translator.”
    Hi Sarah:
    I beg to differ. It depends on your field. In my “niche” I am often asked by big and small patent law firms to quote price and turnaround time for translating a number of patents from Japanese or German to English. I know that I am competing with translation agencies specializing in patents, some small and some large, when I submit my quote. Sometime I win the bid, and sometime I lose it.
    I can easily spend an hour or two preparing my bid because it takes a long time to estimate word counts when you have to work with PDF files of Japanese and German patents. You have to be careful because once you give them a price and a deadline, you’re stuck with it. And there is often no result, for instance if the client of the law firm simply does not have the budget for an expensive project. But if I win the bid, it can keep me busy for a couple of weeks, and I may gain a new customer who will keep coming back for many years.
    So you see, some independent translators are in direct competition with translation agencies. I am sure that there are quite a few independent translators out there who are in the same position.
    Once a direct client finds you on the Internet, they don’t care whether you are an agency or an independent translator. They just want to know what is it that you can do for them and how much it will cost.
    Best regards,
    Steve Vitek, technical translation since 1987

  10. Veronica February 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I really like your site and your blog posts.
    I came across this one and read your website has about 10,000 visits per month. Just wondering, did you do some SEO research, or maybe paid somebody to do that for you? My website reaches maximum 200 visitors per month and half of them I believe are automatic search engines. I was thinking to optimize it (to register it to online directories, for example), but I always was thinking that it is impossible to get new clients via website and the only reason I created mine, was to have my own domain name for my emails.
    Thank you for your response.

  11. céline February 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    @Veronica: 17,000 visits in January, actually 🙂
    I did pay an expert to help me figure out how to optimise the site, but basically, good content attracts links, and links attract visitors and good ranking. I can guarantee you that it is possible to gain clients through a website – currently roughly 90% of my invoices are sent to clients who found this site. Good luck!

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