How can freelancers find new clients?

According to the International Freelancers Academy, translators and interpreters are the fifth largest population of freelancers. Yet, besides being extremely rewarding, such a great entrepreneurship characterising our industry leads to a series of challenges. I would say that the very first challenge is how to find clients, especially in a period of economic downturn.

This issue can significantly vary from case to case due to the countless factors that may come into play (e.g. country, personal situation, language combination, specialisation, professional connections, etc.). Consequently, in order to approach this topic from a wide perspective, there is no better way to learn more about it than asking different opinions of whom I call “red carpet guests” of the translation and interpreting community, namely, Marta Stelmaszak, Xosé Castro Roig, Valeria Aliperta, Gabriel Cabrera Méndez, Scheherezade Surià López and Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

The question they kindly accepted to answer to shed light on this topic is the following:

How was your first client hunting? 

Three tips for translators/interpreters-to-be or those who are struggling due to the crisis?

Marta Stelmaszak

Marta Stelmaszak“I concentrated on reaching out to people who needed translation services. I spent a bit of time attending client events, talking to prospects and building connections. I think this is essential when you’re starting out.

Don’t forget about your existing network: make sure that everybody you know is aware that you’re a translator or interpreter and spreads the word further. This includes your doctors, dentists, gardeners and local florist.

Plus, don’t try to translate everything for everybody. Specialise and concentrate on becoming really good, your clients will notice that.”

Xosé Castro Roig

Xosé Castro“Literally using a board and quite a few pushpins to locate all my prospects and organize them into areas I can visit in a working day.

It was true back then and I think it is even truer nowadays: you need to shorten the distances with your prospects and clients; you definitely need more facetime. I literally came out there to grab them, shake them and make them want me. And the failure was my lesson: I was jilted so many times that I learned the lesson the hard way: you need to get used to no’s. As they say, you need nine no’s in order to get one solid ‘yes’. So dear rookies: be persistent.

Despite the use of more passive client-hunting methods —like a nice site or a mailing—, you definitely have to find more creative ways to get to your clients.”

 Valeria Aliperta

“I started with contacts from uni or friends, but then I eventually used the market place platform that for some still work well today. Then now… I just suggest everyone should network, network and network.  So to recap:

Valeria Aliperta

  • visibility (online and at events)
  • networking with both colleagues and prospects (I know it’s daunting but do it!)
  • never give up.

And if you really struggle, get some CPD done and give yourself a timed goal ie. I shall find a new client by next month.”

Gabriel Cabrera Méndez

Gabriel Cabrera Méndez“My first client hunting was a mistakes fishing in fact because I decided to spend one week visiting every hotel, restaurant, museum, city council, monument of the region where I live, collecting their brochures and having a deep look to their Web sites in other languages, in order to assess the quality of translations and when these translation included mistakes or typos I reprinted the materials and sent them back, free of charge, with my contact details. I had such a good success that the Regional Government of Extremadura decided to turn this story into a fairy tale, which was distributed in buses to promote reading in the region. You can have a look to the tale here.”

Scheherezade Surià López

Scheherezade Surià“Way before I finished the degree I started looking for agencies on the Internet and sending e-mails with my résumé. I sent lots of them and tried not to despair if I got no answer. One of my best customers is an agency I’ve been working with since the very beginning, and they replied my e-mail almost one year after I sent it.

Also I always tried hard and made an effort in all my essays and translations, and it paid off. One of my teachers in the post graduate course helped me contact a publishing house and I translated my first book with them.

 My advice:

  • Insist and try not to despair (yes, I know, easier said than done).
  • Look for local, national and international customers.
  • Send e-mails periodically (for example, devote one day a week to do just that) and keep track of their names, date of contact and date of reply (if they do; if not, maybe you could send them an e-mail again asking politely if they received it).
  • Keep your eyes open in forums and websites such as Proz, Translators’ Café, etc.
  • Let everybody know you are a translator. Chances are someone you know hears about a translation job that can be interesting.”

Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

Pablo Muñoz“Maybe my answer is a little bit atypical, but to be honest, I haven’t done a lot of client hunting in the few past years. A little bit of background—I started working as a full-time in-house translator in a translation agency and then I started working for Nintendo of Europe (in Frankfurt, Germany) for two years. After that, I started working part-time for a very big client related to technology and Internet searches, and I work for some other clients in the rest of my time.

But the truth is that I didn’t contact any of these employers—they were the ones who approached me first. How did I do it? Well, while being a student, I created a translation blog in Spanish called Algo más que traducir, and several clients have contacted me thanks to it. I think marketing yourself online is crucial nowadays, and that’s why I decided to invest in a professional website. And yes, it works! I also think that having a good LinkedIn profile is a must, as well as being in, because translation agency and clients are looking for people like you in those sites.

So in a nutshell, what three tips would I recommend?

  • Build a strong online presence. You can use WordPress and a professional template to create a good-looking website that will attract your client’s attention. Blogging can help you reach more clients (please don’t write for translators, but for clients), but it’s not necessary because you can’t imagine how much time you will need to benefit from it. But if you accept the challenge, I can guarantee you it’s worth the effort.
  • Personalize the emails you send to clients. Stop using Dear Sir/Madame. Clients receive a lot of these generic emails. If you don’t invest enough time to look for the name of the person you need to contact, why should they bother reading your CV when everybody is doing the same thing?
  • Be charming. Work is work and clients are clients. But at the end of the day, we are all just normal people trying to live our lives. Don’t just personalize your emails—show that you care about you clients. Show them that you are unique and that you love what you do. I know this is easier said than done, but do your best to “seduce” them. Clients may love you if you care enough to localize a part of their website and you send them a screenshot as a sample of your good work. That’s just an example. Now try to be creative to be charming!”

I thank them very much for the answers and tips, which I am sure will be extremely useful both for translators/interpreters-to-be and for professionals in their client-hunting process.

This first post is just the beginning of a series of posts with “red carpet guests”. Don’t miss the in-house counterpart, featuring Clara Guelbenzu, Lloyd Bingham and Merche García Lledó: you can find it here.

Any readers’ comment and additional tips are more than welcome! Alessandra

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  • Mustafa A.A

    Thank you so much for those tips they are really helpfull for both professionals and novice. Good job

    • Alessandra Vita

      I’m really glad to hear that, Mustafa. I really hope you can benefit from the them! 😉

  • Graciela Zozaya

    Alessandra, felicidades por tu blog. Te saludo desde Houston, Texas.

    • Alessandra Vita

      Muchísimas gracias, Graciela. Me alegro de que te guste. Saludos desde España :)

  • Anthony D. Teixeira

    Nice tips from some of the industry’s finest actors. Still relevant today!

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you very much, Anthony! :)

  • lguedes

    Very useful and informative. For those who are commencing their career as a freelance translator, these are precious tips.

    • Alessandra Vita

      I am very glad it has been useful for you, Iguedes. Good luck putting those tips in practice! :)


  • WannaFight?DamnYou!

    Thank you, quite an interesting and relevant read and handy to compare it with my techniques.

    João Correia, Natives in Business

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you for your comment, João. Happy to hear that!


  • Joanna Posłuszny

    Thank you for your post. It is very inspiring and helpful.

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you very much, Joanna. I’m really glad to hear that! Have a nice evening! :)

  • Lisa McCarthy

    Thanks for this post Alessandra!

    I’m always interested in hearing how other translators got started in the profession and I see that there are many different ways to obtain clients. I initially worked as an In-company Business English Teacher in Spain and through that I discovered my passion for translation. I’ve changed my marketing strategy a bit over the last few years – initially working for translation agencies, it was easier seeing as they found the clients for me, but then gradually managed to secure my own direct clients through word of mouth, direct contact, via translation directories or professional associations, etc. I’ve since focused more on attracting local companies by attending networking events and by contacting them via LinkedIn (it’s nice to be able to visit your clients and speak to them face to face :)

    I particularly like Pablo’s post, as the aspects he mentions are also those that I consider very important in acquiring new clients. You have to make it easy for clients to find you and see what you have to offer (online presence), it’s easier and more pleasant for people to work with someone who is open, receptive and communicative (be charming), and to show people that you’ve made the effort to personalise your approach and not just send mass mailings to a million anonymous companies/agencies, which will usually end up unread in the bin anyway (personalise/target your emails..)

    I also like the very relevant points made by Marta (use your existing network / attend client events), Xosé (shorten the distances between you and your clients) – which in my case means going to local networking events and meeting potential clients face to face, Gabriel’s hands-on approach to showing clients where they are going wrong and how he can help them, and Valeria’s and Scheherezade’s advice on ‘not giving up’, which is very, very important as it takes a lot of perseverance and hard work to be able to get to a position where you can earn a living from translation. I think that in order to be able to do this, and to stick with it, you really need to be passionate about what you do!

    Thank you all for your comments!


    • Alessandra Vita

      Hi Lisa,

      thank you very much for sharing your personal experience with us (and for the time behind it). I really appreciate it and completely agree with what you’ve written.

      I think that working for agencies can be necessary at the beginning in order for you to have some stability. Yet, at a later stage it’s worth saying goodbye to your comfort zone and try to “hunt” some direct clients e.g. by attending events, as you mentioned.

      Thanks again for your comment and have a lovely evening, Lisa!

      Alessandra :)

  • Simona Stanzani

    brava Alessandra! very useful.

    • Alessandra Vita

      Grazie mille, Simona. Glad to hear that :)

      Have a lovely evening!

      Un abbraccio

      Alessandra :)

  • Anastasia Giagopoulou

    Very interesting an inspiring post! Great job! ;-))

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you very much, Anastasia! Have a lovely evening!

      Alessandra :)

  • Juan Yborra Golpe

    Alessandra, congrats on your post! It is extremely useful!

  • Lucyna Dulęba

    Hiya, Alessandra…an interesting reading…thank-you for posting it…and…on a wee bit less serious note…being a single woman and a translator i find Pablo’s tips particularly appealing 😉 seducing and charming away just about everybody, in other words, mixing business with pleasure is shooting two birds with one stone…my way of living 😉

    • Alessandra Vita

      Hi Lucyna, thanks for your great and honest comment That is indeed a good marketing technique! Let me know if it works for you! 😉 I’m curious!

      Have a great week!

      Alessandra :)

  • Alessandra Vita

    Thank you very much to you for accepting and sharing your “client hunting” secrets, Pablo! And… yes, Gabriel was standing out from the very beginning: his “galletas de visita” are just the unavoidable evolution! 😀

    Have a great week!

    Alessandra :)

    • Gabriel Cabrera

      Thanks Pablo for your words and Alessandra for your job. It has been great to discover the rest of colleages of this survey. I hope we all could help new litters 😉
      Regarding my GalletasDeVisitas let me point out that they didn’t helped me find first clients but to make my own name in our sector, therefore my tip is: find a way to be different and appear unique in our red ocean of translators.

      • Alessandra Vita

        Simply, the most creative marketing tool ever! For those who have not tried his “business biscuits”, believe me: they are delicious! :)

  • Maciej Graca

    I have to admit that the post includes many interesing thoughts on how to search for new clients and I have to consider some of them in future. Thank you for a great source of inspiring ideas!

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you very much, Maciej. I am glad the post has proved to be useful. Good luck in your client hunting then! Let me know how it goes! 😉

      Have a great day!

      Alessandra :)

  • Alexandra Reguero

    What an inspiring post! Congratulations, Alessandra. It was a great idea to put together the tips of these brilliant professionals.

    • Alessandra Vita

      Thank you very much, Alexandra! One’s tips don’t work for everyone in the same way. The aim of this post was exactly to provide freelancers with a wide variety to choose from, according to each one’s personality and situation.

      ¡Gracias y un abrazo!

      Alessandra :)

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