I think about this a lot. Where are my clients, how can I meet them, and what can I do to make a good impression?
I use what I consider passive methods, like my ATA and EFA directory listings and my website(s), as well as what I consider “fishing” methods, like membership in LinkedIn groups where potential clients may be hanging out (swimming? feeding?).
Participating in professional association discussion groups is another way to meet potential clients, not to mention colleagues who may serve as referrals or even become clients at some point.
Trade association or chamber of commerce meetings have been touted as fertile ground for client contact (my limited experience is mixed, but more about that another time).
But for translators, one of the best places to meet potential clients is the ATA Translation Company Division (TCD) Conference coming up in just
two weeks10 days(!).
In a recent online discussion about whether novice freelancers could benefit from attending the TCD conference, Evelyn Yang Garland, Assistant Administrator of the TCD, had this to say (I quote her with permission):
As one of the organizers of the TCD conference, I would say that [novice freelancers] can benefit from attending the conference in several ways.
1. Meeting potential clients. The biggest challenge that new translators and interpreters often face is building up a client base. Going to conferences and having face-to-face interactions with potential clients can be very helpful. I actually just shared a story of a freelancer colleague on the ATA-TCD Facebook page. She attended the TCD conference in 2009 and obtained loyal clients.
I’m not suggesting that every translator who attends the TCD conference will go home with a bunch of clients in hand. It takes time to develop a good business relationship with certain clients before they are comfortable working with you. In my case, some of my clients have come to me years after we first met.
2. Learning about their clients’ perspective. “Know Your Client”– as they say. One of the most effective ways of getting to know your clients is to spend time with them, listen to their concerns, and talk to them. Instead of having one track for company owners and one for freelancers, we have identified a theme (“business growth”) and a number of topics that are of interest to both company owners and freelancers to encourage more interaction in the sessions.
3. Meeting colleagues. Again, in my own experience, many good clients are referrals from colleagues. Plus, many colleagues are very willing to share their experience and advice to help new translators/interpreters. No matter where you are in your career, informal mentors you meet at different events can play a big role in your career development — another reason to meet more colleagues.
4. Continuing education. We designed the conference program with freelancers’ interests in mind. A lot of the topics we’ll discuss at the conference apply to both freelancers and company owners. For example, what to do when a client complains, whether search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective marketing tool, how to assess the value of a translation tool, what to make of translation-related standards, how to plan for retirement…
Oh, did I mention the conference is in Orlando, Florida? (If WordPress is doing its job, a picture of a hotel pool will appear here, so I don’t need to post one.)