Posted by: patenttranslator | March 10, 2013

A Few More Thoughts On How To Look For Work In All The Right Places


In a post from February 2, 2013, titled A Few Thoughts On How To Look for Direct Customers In All The Right Places, I said that there are basically two ways to find new customers:

I.          You can try to make them come to you, or

II.        You will have to come to them.

I  considered one possible method to make new customers come to you in that post, consisting mostly of creating a website, or listing your particulars in an Internet database.

The website has been working very well for me, bringing in new direct customers, year after year, since about 2003.

The only other “passive” marketing tool that I have been also using during the past few years was my listing in the ATA (American Translators Association) directory, which is also bringing in some work. While the website is found mostly by direct customers, my listing in the ATA directory has been bringing in inquiries and work orders from translation agencies.

I stopped advertising in Yellow Pages about 5 years ago because it was not working for me as I write in this post called Why I No Longer Advertise In Yellow Pages.

But such passive marketing methods may not be sufficient given the present, seemingly endless economic crisis, which may just ultimately turn out to be the new normal. So what else can translators do?

Many translators seem to have chosen to believe that a lazy, simplistic approach to active marketing will work for them. These naive souls purchase databases of translation agencies for a few hundred Euros or dollars and fire off their resumes with a cover letter to hundreds or thousands of agencies. Their cover letters are often either written in hilarious English, or they are copied from the same idiotic template, which is probably sold to these hungry translators along with the database. Here is a typical sample of one such template:

My goal has always been to dexterously convey the message in the target language with honesty and precision while maintaining a reader-friendly style that lends itself to the topic at hand. Nothing is untranslatable. Skill-backed experience is the name of the game. Plus, a translator’s personal touch is what makes all the difference“.

I have received hundreds of resumes along with this shining example of marketing detritus that must have been furnished by a “marketing specialist” who has no idea how translation really works.

Because my e-mail somehow ended up on one or more of these “database”, every day I have to delete at least a dozen of resumes, many of which start with the same inane cover letter.

I delete these e-mails without reading a single one of them. Does this mean that e-mail marketing does not work?

E-mail marketing cannot possibly work if you buy a database of translation agencies that will be sold over and over to hundreds or thousands of translators, especially if a big chunk of them are stupid enough to also copy and use the same cover letter.

E-mail marketing can work, but this kind of indiscriminate, en masse marketing only puts translators who are looking for new customers on the same level as outfits that send us offers of cheap Rolexes, Viagra, or “European Lottery Winnings” announcements, etc.

When I am not busy, I do send e-mails these days to prospective customers, including my resume. But I would never buy a database that will be resold to hundreds or thousands of other people who are hungry for work.

I create my own databases, and when I have no work, I fire off 10 to 30 e-mails a day to people in companies that could need my translation services. It makes me feel like I have achieved something before I go back to my book.

More than 20 years ago, I started my active marketing campaign by sending hundreds of letters to CEOs of large companies in the Bay Area (they have secretaries who open letters that look like new business), to patent lawyers, etc.

That is how I started picking up first direct customers in the early nineties, and some of them still send me work more than two decades later.

But mailing by regular mail is at this point probably too expensive because the postage rates have gone up considerably. You might have noticed that compared to the avalanche of junk 10 years ago, there is much less junk mail in your snail mail now and most of it is from local businesses such as pizza joints or car repair shops.

Just about everybody has jumped nowadays on the e-mail marketing bandwagon, from multinational corporations to small businesses and individuals, because it is free.

The worst kind of junk e-mail is based on the principle that if you send an e-mail with an offer of fake Rolexes or fake Viagra to a million e-addresses, maybe a few hundred fools will bite and buy your junk product.

But not all unsolicited mail or e-mail is junk mail or junk e-mail. If you receive a letter or an e-mail from a local car repair shop after your usual car shop gave you an estimate of one thousand seven hundred dollars to fix the air conditioning in your car, that is not really junk mail, is it?

What some people would call junk mail could be a life saver to other people, especially if they are facing months of hot and humid summer days.

If you want to use e-mail marketing for an active marketing strategy for your business, the worst thing you can do is to buy a database prepared by somebody who does not know anything about your particular business and send thousands of e-mails to people who don’t want to hear from you, and who will immediately delete your “junk e-mail” without reading it.

You have to do the hard work of preparing a database of people who may be in need of your services, and possibly need it as urgently as the guy with broken air conditioning in my example.

Otherwise, you are only wasting your time, your money, and contributing to the general decline of this world and civilization by generating even more trash than there already is on this garbage-filled planet.


  1. […] In a post from February 2, 2013, titled A Few Thoughts On How To Look for Direct Customers In All The Right Places, I said that there are basically two wa…  […]


  2. So you, too, ended up in that database?! Poor us!


  3. […] In a post from February 2, 2013, titled A Few Thoughts On How To Look for Direct Customers In All The Right Places, I said that there are basically two wa…  […]


  4. “Either make them come to you or go to them.”

    Well, Steve, as Mohammed said, “If the mountain doesn’t move to you, you move yourself to the mountain.” Some people would regard this and similar utterances as nonsense. They need hard data. Besides, you end up with and in a or the database, too.

    In Shakespeare’s King Lear:
    Fool: …The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
    King Lear: Because they are not eight?
    Fool: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.

    I believe that all those who, including me, somehow understand what you and Mohammed are talking about can all be very good fools.


  5. […] In a post from February 2, 2013, titled A Few Thoughts On How To Look for Direct Customers In All The Right Places, I said that there are basically two wa…  […]


  6. […] Which is one reason why I think that translators should have a marketing plan and a marketing strategy, even if they are really busy all the time, or most of the time, as I wrote in this post, and also in this one. […]


  7. […] the “Ick” Out of Selling for Freelance Translators and Other Non-Salespeople A Few More Thoughts On How To Look For Work In All The Right Places 3 Tips for Avoiding Linguistic Disasters on Your Localized Website Debunking 5 Myths about the […]


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