If you sincerely want to grow your LSP client base, the key is presentation. Fact of the matter is, no project manager (PM) contracts the person who is best qualified to do the job. She contracts the person who she thinks is best qualified to do the job. That’s a subtle, but important difference and one any translator should pick up on. So make her think you’re best for the job. How do you do that? Keep these four presentation pointers in mind:
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No one will hire you if they don’t know you’re there. You already know how to fix this: Google LSPs in your area and send them your resume, look in the phone book and in your Mayor’s International Directory--if your city has one--to find LSPs that might not have strong web presences.
Develop and detail your ProZ.com and translatorscafe.com profiles.
If local LSPs offer community service projects, participate.
If someone hosts a PowWow, go. If no one in your area is hosting a PowWow, host one. Even if you’re the only person to show up, it will still appear in hits and get your name out there and will get your name more hits in internet search engines. If you don’t know what a PowWow is, learn.
Speak with freelancers in other language pairs who you know and offer to refer to one another. If you’re US-born, get plugged into the refugee/immigrant population through volunteer work, church or community activities, etc. That community is where an LSP may call first if they need a new language, especially for interpreters.
Become court certified and make sure the State you're certified in lists you in its public database. Look into joining NADJIT and then get added to their database.
Have real business cards printed up and pass them out. Put them in the bowls near the register in local restaurants for free food. You might win and you never know who will see it in there. Get your name out there. This takes time.
No one will hire you if they don’t know you’re able to do the job. Make sure your resume is a true testament to what you are able to do. Don’t forget to put your languages on there! Also note which languages are your native and/or heritage languages and which ones are adult learned. Many applicants are never entered in an LSP's database because the PM couldn’t figure out what they spoke as their native language(s).
Keep your resume and any online profiles updated and detailed. This is hard when you’re working, but must be done to ensure future work. Check your resume again and again for errors. Look as competent as you truly are.
No one will hire you if you don’t follow directions. All LSPs have resume submission guidelines that are unique to their businesses. Follow them. Do not cc everyone at the company hoping someone will get it. Do not attach it because you’re too lazy to cut and paste if the guidelines say no attachments. If there are no directions on the company site, call and politely ask the receptionist if they have any submission guidelines for resumes. It’s one thing to be aggressive; it’s another to annoy people. If you can’t follow directions when it comes to submitting your resume, how will a PM know you’ll follow directions on the assignment?
No one will hire you if you’re clearly overestimating yourself or your abilities. No one is fluent in 9 languages. Don’t even try to say you are; the PM won’t believe you. Similarly, don't over-inflate your rate. If you’ve been out of school a year and translate Spanish, you most likely don’t merit 15 cents a word. You simply aren’t experienced enough yet.
If you’ve only been translating a year and you’ve done a large project for a Fortune 500 (say, a keep-your-finger-from-getting-cut-off manual for Dow Corning), we may doubt you. To put that more simply, if it’s a job that amazes even you that you got it--and we've all had those--then briefly explain how you got it. Was it part of a team project? Was it for an LSP and Dow Corning was the end client? Give the PM a reason to believe you.
Terena Bell is the CEO of In Every Language, a Louisville, Ky (USA) based LSP.