Review by Ekaterina Howard
At ATA conferences I make attending Chris Durban’s sessions a priority (even SLD’s Ru>En slam could not tear me away), and to me they invariably become one of the highlights of any conference.
This year’s session tied in nicely with the session on blind spots at ATA57, which effectively became the primary source of my business development plan for 2017 (as easy as that!).
In the “Working with Direct Clients. For Real.” Session Chris Durban addressed the most common constraints that prevent translators from moving out of the mass-market segment (although some direct clients can be mass-market, too) into the premium segment (which is where recognition, satisfaction and high rates come together).
The main constraints are:
- Good writing and/or good quality are a given, not a differentiator, as are native-level quality and consistent terminology.
- Instead of generic statements that do not add up to anything distinctive, you have to provide specific examples of value that you bring to the table.
- Quality may be (and frequently is) affected by any or all of the following factors:
- Time pressure
- Blind spots
- Overselling (and under delivering).
To start working with direct clients:
- The factors that go into producing a product that is not likely to be MT-replicated or replaceable are: Time + Brain + Talent. Plan accordingly
- Understand priorities of direct clients in your segment (likely not price-driven). Know what is mission-critical or sensitive
- Find a partner (reviser)
- Create a client-friendly system: be generous, be efficient, do not make clients jump through multiple hoops to work with you
- Be friendly and enthusiastic. Do not snark. Do not blabber
- Be honest on your experience and on whether or not you subcontract. Specialization goes deep, not wide (to eliminate blind spots)
- Research and stalk (professionally, of course) potential clients
- Be mindful of scalability vs quality restraints
- Sign your work
- Offer solutions instead of words on a page.
If you are considering working with direct clients, for real or hypothetically, you might want to look up The Prosperous Translator — Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee at https://prosperoustranslator.com/, follow Chris Durban’s blog at https://chrisdurbanblog.com/author/christinedurban/, or read a review of the first Business Acceleration Masterclass for Translators and Interpreters by Jayne Fox: http://foxdocs.biz/BetweenTranslations/business-tips-translators-chris-durbans-masterclass/.
Even if you feel that you are not quite ready yet, it is not too early to start getting ready to move towards working in the direct client segment. I believe that one of the most important things you could do is not learn how to market yourself (although this won’t hurt), but continuously work on your translation and writing skills.
If you are an SLD member, you can join the SLD Certification Exam Prep Group to exchange translations with other participants and discuss the challenges on a monthly basis. If you would like to up the ante, consider participating in SLD translation slams, either by submitting a slam proposal for the next ATA conference, or by volunteering to join a virtual slam. Those are all great starting points for working on your translation skills, and I hope that someday there will be an event similar to “Translate in…” (in 2017 it was in Quebec City – http://www.ontraduitaquebec.com/en/about/) for Slavic languages.
On that note, I invite you to share your collaboration experiences, your stories of growing as a translator, and your tips on working with “dream” direct clients.
Ekaterina Howard is an English to Russian and German to Russian translator working with marketing materials. She is the current Administrator of the Slavic Languages Divisions. You can follow her blog at http://pinwheeltrans.com/blog, stay in touch on Twitter (@katya_howard), or connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ekaterinahoward). If you would like to become SLD’s next translation slammer, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.