Let’s say you’re interested in pursuing a career as a freelance translator but don’t know where to start out as a translator.
There are a lot of places you can start but they tend to fall into two categories:
A lot of would-be translators think that the best place to start translating is by finding translation jobs online.
That could work.
But it’s not the best place to start out as a translator.
Being an Offline Translator
In fact, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier for a translator to start out by finding offline clients, rather than trying to find clients using online methods.
Now, what does it mean to be an offline translator?
This should be pretty self-explanatory but if it’s not, this is what it means.
It means that you are finding clients either by talking with them in person or over the telephone (I prefer face-to-face communications).
Now, I understand that this goes against the natural dispositions of most translators that I know.
Most translators that I call my friends are usually fairly introverted translators and have (at least partially) become translators because they like working by themselves without having to play the “social” game.
Now, I know not all translators are like that, but there are a good number of introverted translators, for sure.
And most of these translators do not like talking to potential clients in person or over the phone.
They’d rather deal with online transactions like email or chat where they don’t have to “put themselves out there.”
However, that can be a big problem for finding clients.
The reason is because most of the world still likes to do business in person or over the phone with a person that they can communicate with in real time.
It’s easier for a potential client to trust a translator if that client can deal with them “in person.” You might not like that as an introvert but the sooner you realize that, the easier it will be for you to build your offline client base.
Benefits to Starting Out as a Translator
Using Offline Techniques
Aside from the fact that most of the business world prefers to do business with a real person, there are a number of other benefits that come from starting out as a translator by using offline techniques.
Communicating with translation clients is a lot easier offline than it is online. Have you ever sent an email or text message to someone that was misunderstood by the person who received it?
If so, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s a lot easier for misunderstanding to arise if you’re solely communicating using online methods.
And while it may be inconvenient or a bit embarrassing to miscommunicate with someone you know over text or email, it can have much more damaging consequences in business.
You could lose the job or worse, your reputation.
Along the same lines as communication, it’s easier to manage expectations (for you and your client) when the transaction is conducted offline.
It’s easier to seek clarification and ensure that both you and the client are on the same page with regard to the job being done, the timeline for the job, and any other decisions that need to be made.
I’ve found that the offline clients I have are much more willing to provide referrals than my online clients.
[You are asking all your client for referrals, right?]
I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I do have my guesses.
Even though I try to treat all my clients with the same high level of quality and engagement, I know that I do tend to take care of my offline clients a little more, probably because I feel like I “know” them a bit more than my online clients.
With my offline clients, I’ve seen their faces and/or heard their voices. I’ve engaged in small talk with them. I might even know something (even something seemingly insignificant) about their families or life.
That’s not the case with my online clients.
In fact, in 99% of the cases, it’s all business with my online clients. I don’t even know who they are. I only know who they say they are, which might or might not be the same thing.
So is it any wonder that I might have better relationships with my offline clients than my online ones? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t those offline clients be more invested in my work, and be more willing to pass me referrals?
There are two issues regarding payment when dealing with offline vs. online clients.
The first is that it’s easier to get paid from offline clients than it is from online clients.
This probably goes back to what I said in the previous paragraph about having more meaningful relationships with your offline clients than with those you’ve never even met except through online interactions.
Second, not only is it easier to get paid from offline clients, it’s easier to raise your prices with offline clients.
OK, let me rephrase that. Maybe it’s not easier to actually raise your prices, but it is easier for offline clients to accept that price increase than it is for online clients to accept that price increase.
Establishing an offline business relationship takes a lot of work. In fact, it takes a lot more work to establish an offline business relationship than it does to establish an online relationship, especially for when you’re starting out as a translator.
And it’s not just a lot of effort for you to establish that relationship, it also takes more time for your client to establish that relationship with you. Because of that, your client doesn’t want to have to establish another business relationship with another translator if and when you raise your prices. Your client is happy with your work and it can be easier for her to keep you on as her go-to translator rather than trying to spend the time and energy to find another translator and establish another business relationship.
For online clients, if they’re not happy with you, they just have to do another Google search and contact the next translator that they see on the list. There’s not nearly as much energy expended as there is by someone who is looking to establish an offline business relationship with a translator.
What do you think? Is it easier to start out as an offline translator or an online translator?
P.S. To become a better overall translator, be sure to download my 40 Tips for Translators.