How not to market your translation services

I often receive emails from other translators looking for freelance work which annoy me and which I therefore swiftly delete but this week there seem to have been so many of them that I feel inspired to write a blog post about it.

Things that annoy me about unsolicited advertising:

1) People who don’t bother to research the people to whom they are writing

I am a freelance translator specialising in German to English translations of commercial law texts. On my website I make it quite clear that I work on my own and that I personally carry out all translations for my customers. So why, oh why, do I receive emails from people offering to work for me in a plethora of different language combinations and in a ridiculously wide variety of different fields of specialisation? In this day and age with the internet at our fingertips there is absolutely no excuse for people not doing their homework and finding out about the person or company to whom they are writing in advance. Not doing this research makes you look unprofessional at best and, at worst, desperate.

2) Impersonal emails or ones without any opening at all

The impersonal “Dear Translator” or “Hi” as an opening to an email to someone you have never met are bad enough but this week I received a couple of emails which didn’t include an opening line at all and just went straight into a presentation of the translator’s business. Maybe I’m just too British, but I find that really impolite.

3) Emails with attachments but no text

This was the biggest shocker this week which really spurred me on to write this post. Seriously, an email from someone you’ve never heard of with no text and only an attachment? Would you open it? For research purposes only, I did in fact open it and it did contain quite a nice – but for me irrelevant – bilingual presentation of this translator’s services. There should, at the absolute minimum, have been a covering email explaining why this person was writing to me and explaining the nature of the attachment.

4) Self-centred emails

Nearly all of the unsolicited advertising emails I receive consist of a presentation of the freelancer or translation agency, their languages, specialist areas and prices but not once do they mention me or how they think they can help me – which, of course, most of them can’t because they are not offering anything I actually need. This goes back to what I was saying about research under 1). When marketing your services it is necessary to identify potential customers who might actually have a need for your services: find out as much as you can about them, see if they sound like they would be interested in the services you offer and, if so, send them a personalised email.

All of the above leave a really bad impression. As freelance translators we are entrepreneurs and need to learn to market our services in a professional way. There is no shame in not knowing how to best do that. Very few of us are marketing experts. But in that case, before embarking on a potentially self-destructive email campaign, we should ask for help from marketing experts or at least read some books or blogs on the subject. It is possible that some of the people who wrote to me this week are really good translators but simple impoliteness and lack of appropriate communication skills means that they’ve just left a lasting bad impression on me and quite possibly most of the people they have spammed, some of whom may actually have been potential customers.

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10 thoughts on “How not to market your translation services

  1. Hi Karen!
    I totally agree with you! I get also many of these emails and I delete them all within a few seconds, especially if they begin with “dear translator”. It is really impersonal and impolite…

    Best wishes,
    Francesca

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  5. Hello there

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