How to hunt for translation clients when you’re not a hunter

What is it about contacting direct clients that puts a deep feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach?

The thought of contacting someone you don’t know probably makes your insides go gooey and your fists clench, as though someone were forcing you to jump from an airplane with no parachute into a bowl of pudding.

My sense is that, as freelance translators, we are not by nature willing to jump, battle and hunt for our business.

We tend to be “servers” and “helpers.” “Mediators” and “advocates.”  “Judgers” and “fixers.”

But “hunter”? That’s not a role we readily play, unless you count “hunting for the right word.”

Let’s admit it: this makes us more foragers than true hunters. And you can’t be a forager, scrounging up whatever you find, if you’re going to keep your business growing.

You have a right to hunt for clients

Whether you like it or not, clients will not come to you just because you say you’re a translator.

You have to go get them. Even if you have a website. Even if you are on social media. Even if you have a network.

But even if you know that, some little voice inside will ask, “Who am I to contact these companies? Won’t I just annoy them? Won’t they be angry if I bother them?”

The response to this voice is, “Shut the freak up.”

Because if you provide a service your client needs, you are doing them a favour by reaching out.

And you have a right to tell the world that you offer your service.

If someone considers that a bother, then you simply weren’t hunting the “right animal.”

It doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be in the hunt.

The right mindset for the hunt

Now, I’m not a big fan of hunting, but if my life depended on it, then I would learn how to do it.

I would not go into the action with the mindset of “Ah, I really don’t like it, don’t make me!”

Your freelance life depends on “hunting” for clients.

To be successful, you have to avoid the “I hate this/you can’t make me” attitude and think, “I maybe don’t love this, but if my life depends on it, I will do it to the best of my ability.”

A quick method to get your trophy

Here’s what I do when I get antsy about hunting for clients:

  1. Time to tailor: I take the time to make my resume and proposal as tailored as possible to the client. When you are relevant, then it simply makes sense to contact people.
  2. Connections all around: I look in my network to see if I’m already connected to the prospect. I saw someone at a foundation I wanted to reach out to, and when I checked on LinkedIn, low and behold the person was a friend of my husband’s family! Checking shared connections is a good way to widen your network (and not make it seem like you’re hunting).
  3. Persistence: It’s okay to follow up with people who don’t get back to you! It can take a few times for busy people to let you know they got your message.
  4. Fall in love with my mission: I absolutely love helping my clients do what they do. So I’m not hunting clients; I reframe it as finding people who share my values.
  5. A short memory: When people don’t get back to me, I just shrug it off and move on. You have to let rejection go!

Get hunting!

To get direct clients from prospecting, think of yourself as a patient hunter.

You don’t wildly run out into the bush waving your hands and yelling “Come to me, come to me!”

Instead, you need to wait in the blind, looking for the right conditions and the right time when your “prey” is most likely to be around.

Then, you take your shot and hope for the best.

If you miss, then you wait patiently and try again. And again. And again.

Until one day, you do hit the mark and all your patience pays off.