7 marketing tips for translators working with less-demanded languages

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We work in a highly competitive industry where supply often exceeds demand. As professionals, we put a lot of time and effort into training and marketing ourselves. We polish our language skills, take dozens of courses, work on self-promotion, email agencies, and wait for the work to land in our inbox.

But are all languages “equally marketable”? As a Greek translator, do I have the same opportunities of getting equally lucrative and interesting projects as a French or English translator? There is no denying that some languages enjoy a higher level of marketability than others. How possible is it then to make a comfortable living as a translator of a non-mainstream language?

If you are a native speaker of a “smaller” language, don’t let it discourage you from pursuing a career in translation. If you are starting out in the industry or have been translating for some time, the following seven marketing tips will help you capitalize on your niche language skills.

1. Find your Unique Selling Point

One piece of advice you may have heard when you first started out as a translator is that you need to pick a niche and specialize. In other words, don’t be a generalist, be a specialist. But what is your unique selling point? What can you offer that sets you apart from other translators who compete with you in the same niche? If, for example, you are a marketing translator translating company websites and blog posts, can you also make sure your translations are optimized for SEO? Clients will be more inclined to choose you for a project if your services go beyond mere translation. A colleague of mine translates certificates and official documents. His unique selling point? Impeccable DTP services. He can make any translated document look like an exact copy of the original, with tables, stamps, and signatures included. Clients reach out to him because he goes above and beyond what’s expected from a translator.

If you cannot think of an extra service to offer, consider pairing up with another professional. If you are, for example, a legal translator, could you work with a solicitor to offer notarized translations? Alternatively, have you thought about collaborating with an English native speaker to offer professionally edited translations from your mother-tongue into English? By adding an additional service to the package, you don’t just set yourself apart, you also increase the perceived value of your services and can, thus, charge more. Finally, once you have decided on a niche, consider niching down even more. If we can’t expect a doctor to treat all ailments, why should a medical translator be expected to translate all medical texts?

2. Join a professional association in your target language

And by that, I mean join two professional associations. One translation association and one client-specific association. As a member of a translation association, you can learn a lot from more experienced colleagues through webinars, conferences, and CPD courses. As a member of a client-specific association, you are right where your potential clients are hanging out. Some client-specific associations only accept active members in the industry, so ask if you can join as an observer or consultant member instead. The pandemic has made it difficult to organize conferences and trade shows but as soon as these resume, you will have the opportunity to mingle with potential clients to discuss industry matters and stay top of mind. However, if you don’t live in the country of your target language, it may be more difficult for you to liaise with local clients. In this case, you can contact your local embassy to find out if you can become an embassy-approved translator instead. Also, check out any international trade shows where some of your potential clients may want to exhibit. Tourism translators, for example, may want to visit trade shows like ITB Berlin and WTM London where National Tourist Boards exhibit.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of content writing

A great way to set yourself apart is to position yourself as an expert, and one of the best ways to do that is to publish articles in magazines that your clients are likely to read. This is where professional associations come to work as they tend to publish their own trade magazines or will have at least one website. Contact the magazine’s Editor or the website’s Content Manager to find out if there is any scope for you to publish an expert article. Your articles should highlight the importance of going global. You could, for example, talk about successful international marketing campaigns, international clinical trials, or international legal campaigns.

4. Join Facebook groups

Again, you want to join both translation groups and client-specific groups. Single out the active groups and take part in peer-to-peer conversations with an aim to offer value rather than sell anything. Always follow the group guidelines and make sure to give first before you ask for anything. Join at least one group that caters to translation professionals of your target language, as their members often post translation job opportunities that they either can’t do (different niche) or don’t have the time to do themselves. With client-specific groups, you can gain access to valuable industry information which you can then use to your advantage when you contact a potential client. Don’t direct message (DM) anyone though. Send personal, targeted emails instead.

5. Post a Facebook ad

If you want to go a step further, consider creating a Facebook ad. Facebook has highly sophisticated demographic targeting features which make it easy for you to locate your ideal client. You can target by geography, profession, income, education, politics, relationships, life events, the options are simply endless. Thanks to timelines, Facebook knows exactly what its users are doing and someone who posts on their wall that they’ve just moved to your country may be in need of translation services. With Facebook ads you can also target the audience of certain pages and if you already have a list of existing clients, it can even create lookalike audiences. If you are going to go down that route though, I would strongly suggest you contract the services of a FB ad and funnel expert as it’s very easy to throw money out of the window, if you don’t know how to set up your FB ads correctly.

Your ad stands a far greater chance of engagement if you offer a free incentive, also known as a lead magnet. You could for example target E-Commerce Directors in your country with a free report explaining how branching out into the English-speaking market — a service you can offer together with a native English speaker — can massively increase their revenue. You will need a landing page to capture their email address in return for the report. While this may not necessarily lead to immediate work, once you have a list of potentially interested leads, you can email them sparingly with interesting reports and successful case studies of other happy clients to keep you top of mind. I use MailerLite for my marketing campaigns.

6. Be active on LinkedIn

Last but certainly not least, make LinkedIn your no. 1 prospecting tool. According to Foundation Inc. 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, so don’t miss out on the massive opportunities this platform has to offer. Create a strong profile with easily searchable long-tail keywords, highlight your expertise and USP in your headline and write an enticing summary about your business that will make you stand out. You have up to 220 characters for your headline and up to 2,600 characters for the About section so make this valuable piece of digital real estate count.

Once you have completed your profile, it is time to start making connections. Add as many ideal clients to your network as you can and continue doing so on a daily basis. Be active — daily if you can — with valuable tips about your industry and information that can genuinely help your ideal client and don’t be afraid to tell the world what it is that you do. People won’t buy from you if they don’t know what it is that you are selling. The most engaging posts on LinkedIn are those that strike up a conversation. By asking a question at the end of your post you invite other members of your network to contribute to the discussion. If your post proves popular, it will start appearing in your network’s feeds and your content will be seen by more of your 2nd degree or even 3rd degree contacts. That’s a great way of cross-pollinating audiences and gaining even more exposure. Tell interesting stories and engage on other people’s feeds. Don’t DM anyone though. Let your passion and expertise speak for itself.

7. Be a brand

My last tip may sound obvious, but it is — very often — taken for granted. If you want to stand out in this fiercely competitive world, don’t be just a business. Be a brand instead. A brand creates trust and makes you instantly recognisable. It encompasses every facet of your business — from the colors you choose for your website, the tone of your emails or status updates, to the way you deliver your projects. More importantly, it represents your core beliefs and how you want to be perceived by your market, so it must not be overlooked.

Don’t be afraid to shine as a translator if you work in a less popular language pair. Once you’ve hit the sweet spot with your particular set of skills and services, competition becomes irrelevant. Clients will not just choose you for what you are, but also for who you are: a professional service provider who knows how to stand out from the crowd.