Monday, October 25, 2010

A marketing kit for translators

When you contact a new prospect or when you are contacted by one, the last thing you want is to forget some important information about your business. To make sure you don't miss it, it is better to have such information ready in advance.

What follows is a brief list of tools I find useful. You may decide for a different set that works better for you; what's important is to have your own marketing tools ready ahead of time.

The Kit

Desktop Folder

Keep together, in the same folder, with a link on your desktop:

Your résumé

In pdf format; probably in two separate versions: a short one (1 page), and a more complete one (no more than 2 or 3 pages).

  • Source files for résumé

In MS Word (or whatever you used to write the résumé). Whenever you update the editable version of the résumé, you should also create an updated version of the matching pdf, to always keep them in synch.

Rates sheet

A pdf with your standard rates, including definitions of terms, currency conversion, terms of payment and so on.

This should contain your rates and the definitions of the terms you use that could be misinterpreted. For example, I define what is editing and what is proofreading; I spell out under which conditions I charge a rush rate, and point out that words are counted on the source text normally, but on the target text when the work involves non-editable files or hard copy documents.

  • Source version of your rates sheet

Probably as Excel (or other spreadsheet) files. Again, whenever you update your rates, you should create new pdf versions of the rates sheet.

Currency conversion

If you quote in different currencies for customers in different countries, the rates sheet should include your rates in the different currencies - or you should have a separate rates sheet for each currency.

If you provide quotes in different currencies but you base them on your "home" currency, show your exchange rate, and update it as necessary.

A simple quote calculator

You don't need anything fancy, in fact the Google gadget recently offered on Judy and Dagmar Jenner's Blog Translation Times is fine. You need the calculator for providing quick, nonbinding estimates. For drafting your binding quotes you also need a spreadsheet template customized with your rates.

Graphic files

Any graphic files (for example, your logo) that you use in your communications to differentiate your business from your competitors'. If you have a website, include in a subfolder all the graphic files you use. Update as needed.

E-mail and phone

Your value statement

A one-sentence description of what distinguishes you from other translators. For example, ours is "We are a small partnership of experienced Italian and Spanish translators, and we specialize in providing high-quality translation and editing to larger translation companies".

Keep this in a text file and use it as a template for your e-mail and other communications with your prospects and customers.

  • Template cover message

Keep it short and to the point. You may need different versions for different types of customers.

  • A shorter version of your rates, with only a few items.

For example, "Our normal rates are: translation + editing USD 0.15/source word, translation only USD 0.12 / source word, editing USD 0.04 / word, and proofreading USD 38 / hour."

  • Signature block

In Outlook (and any other e-mail program you use, including Gmail and other web-mail services) a signature block that contains your e-mail address, phone number, fax (if you still use it), web site and tag line.

Phone communication
  • Phone cheat sheet

A file with a bullet list of what you should always remember when talking on the phone with a prospect (or when you communicate with a prospect by e-mail or IM, for that matter).

In the cheat sheet, remind yourself to be especially clear when spelling out your e-mail address, giving a phone number or your surname.

For example, when I leave a voice-mail I deliberately slow down at the point in which I give my phone number, and then repeat it: too many people speed up and mumble exactly when they give you their phone number to call them back. Remember, if you make it hard for your prospects to call you back, they may decide it is too much of a bother to do so.

Also, if you have to talk on the phone speaking a language that is not your native one, write yourself a short reminder of any word you know you often mispronounce (for example, on my monitor I have a post-it to remind me that I should pronounce "might" as "mahit" and not as "meit".)

  • Phonetic spelling alphabet

For phone communications, to spell out difficult words I also keep next to my phone a printed copy of the international spelling alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and so on).

Finally, get in the habit of using your marketing kit always: don't reinvent the wheel every time you contact a prospect or are called by a customer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ATA Conference in Denver: insider tips from the Colorado Translators Association

If you are going to Denver for the 51st ATA Conference, check out the suggestions offered by the Colorado Translators Association about things to do in Denver, where to eat, where to go shopping, and so on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Call

Sometimes, it's about people you never met, but it affects you because you had heard so much about them, and you were looking forward to the chance of meeting them later.

Usually, it's about someone you love, it's the call you always dread when you left home to live abroad.

It's always at night or early in the morning, or at least it always seems so. It's the call that tells you to come home, you mother is worse and won't last much longer. You board the plane hoping to arrive in time; you land, and it was too late. It's the call that tells you your father-in-law has died, and you have to turn and tell your wife, but she already knows.

Three days ago, again, the call woke us in the morning: this time from the rehabilitation center: my father had, suddenly, worsened, and the head nurse had requested an ambulance to take my father to the emergency room.

We arrived as soon as possible, to be told that my father was again struggling for his life. The doctor on duty didn't give us much of a chance, then, but my father survived the night, and the next one. Now he is back in a hospital ward, still conscious, but very weak.

Back to where we were almost three months ago.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back online

Hiatus. An interruption in the intensity or amount of something; a missing piece (as a gap in a manuscript)

A gap in posting, an interruption in our lives.

When last I wrote here, I didn't say much why I was suspending posting. I was hurrying to Italy to stay close to my father, who had been admitted to the hospital in critical conditions. My father remained in intensive care for over six weeks, followed by another month in intermediate care. He was dismissed from the hospital only yesterday, not to return home, but to go to a rehabilitation center, where he may remain for several months yet, still very weak and by no means out of danger.

We arrived in Genoa in July, with a minimum of summer clothing, never expecting we would stay so long. We are still here, and, although we are planning to return to Denver for a short while, we'll have to come back to Italy for another extended stay, until my father is strong enough to be moved closer to my brother.

Packing in a hurry, we forgot many things, but fortunately we brought a couple of portable computers: an older laptop for me, a newer netbook for Nina. Since my father's house has a decent Internet connection, both of us have been able to translate - although not full-tilt.

Being here is taking an increasing toll on us, both because of the many gloomy reports from the doctors and the few cautiously optimistic ones, and because of our unsettling situation, without a date for our return and a backlog steadily accumulating in Denver.

I had to cancel our planned participation at the ATA Conference; there was a session listed under my name (IC-11, Blogging 101, on Saturday morning), but it will be given by Corinne McKay, who has very kindly accepted to present it in my stead. Corinne, with her engaging style, will certainly do a much better job than I could - I encourage everybody to go and enjoy her lively presentation!

I've kept up working and also teaching my online localization course for Denver University, but something had to give, and it was this blog. I'll now try to resume: I learned a few things about working away from home for months on end, and I'll share them with you. I'll also write about new Italian dictionaries, and about some utilities to help extending the useful life of an underpowered computer.

I plan to tinker with the back-end of this blog: a new and more readable template, branching out to an Italian language blog for posts about Italian translation, and even, if I find a way to load them in Blogger, some Flash tutorials about new tools and techniques.

I hope I won't leave again such a large gap between posts, although I cannot promise it yet: my family emergency might yet prevent me from blogging.

Please stay tuned, and thank you for reading About Translation.