My Message to Frustrated Newbies: Finding Translation Clients On Your Own is Good for Your Professional Growth

Marty Growing UP

Another week another debate on another forum I follow. The hot topic this time was why senior translators are happy to share info on bad payers in blacklists, but are unwilling to give out any information on good clients. This is not entirely accurate in my case. I’m more than happy to leave positive reviews for great clients on different sites and platforms if they ask; what I am not willing to do is go online on a public forum with hundreds of translators and just give out potentially confidential information without client knowledge or consent.

In context, the more reasonable newbies were simply expressing their frustration at how hard it is to find good clients and were asking why seniors can’t be more supportive and give them some leads. However, the less reasonable newbies just did a lot of complaining and accused us seniors of being insensitive to their struggles, threatened by the younger generations, or just flat out selfish and petty (not necessarily in those words, though).

These claims were met with polite responses from seniors explaining the importance of client-confidentiality, the principle of fair competition in market economies, etc. But still some newbies were not convinced and others even seemed offended that this valuable information was not simply handed to them on a silver platter. So here’s my message to the angrier and more frustrated newbies in the bunch:

As much as I sympathize with your situation, I don’t think seniors would be doing you any favors by just handing things to you as if you were incapable of getting them on your own.

First, we would be denying you the wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with experiencing the professional world and achieving your goals. All the seniors in the forum are more than happy to help you learn about marketing and business practices; they are even willing to teach you about market economies and competition. They are simply unwilling to do the marketing and business work for you. The principle behind this is simple: Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.

Second, we’d be robbing you the opportunity to learn from the struggles of the first few years in the translation business. Building a solid client base takes a lot of trial and error and there are bound to be many disappointments along the way. But here’s the good news: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”; and though I’m not a big fan of Nietzsche’s, this one’s spot-on. Every experience, whether positive or negative, is a learning opportunity. If you keep an open and flexible mind, your journey can transform you into whatever you dream to become.

Third, we’d be depriving you of the chance to try to do your own thing your own way. Through trial and error you will learn what to negotiate and how; you will experience the ins-and-outs of the business; you will develop an eye for opportunity and, in the words of one of my favorite country singers, you’ll learn “when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to walk away.”

Finally, by denying you this coveted information (which is guarded for very sound business reasons, by the way), we are helping you leave behind infantile feelings of entitlement that you need to outgrow and overcome if you want to strive and succeed in any professional environment. Because we won’t just give you our client base and tell you which companies we work with (which you could probably find out anyway if you just did the right research), we’re reminding you that you’re all grown up now, you’re a pro. Nobody’s going to give you anything you haven’t earned. So when you do earn it, you’ll be able enjoy and appreciate it. Being told “no” and feeling forced to get out into the real world and make it on your own will help you mature, gain confidence, and write your own story based on your own experiences.

Finding and securing clients is your job; it comes with the territory, a territory into which we have warmly welcomed you. We’ll help you learn how to do it, we’ll warn you about bad payers, but we won’t do your work for you, and it’s in your own best interest to learn to appreciate that and make the best of it.

10 thoughts on “My Message to Frustrated Newbies: Finding Translation Clients On Your Own is Good for Your Professional Growth

  1. Conni says:

    I can’t believe anyone would directly ask “Who do you work for? Tell me their names so I can work for them, too.” How embarassing!! I’m relatively new to the industry and I’d never think to ask that. The most I’d ever ask is about HOW people found those clients (eg. what job boards or techniques they used) but not who they were. And I agree with you, there’s something so nice about building up a client base by yourself. It’s something to be proud of. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think one very important lesson for newbie translators to take on-board is that there are no magic solutions that will work for everyone. Your business is you, especially in its earliest stages; it is shaped around your personality and your experiences, your hopes and fears, your particular skills and qualities. A few things are pretty sure not to work, but there’s a whole range of solutions that *might* work for *some translators* (but not necessarily for others). And *only you* can discover which ones will work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. TranslationCraft says:

    As always, great material, Paula! And Klammer has outdone himself with his picture of us translators growing up — had me rolling on the floor!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Catherine! I’ve known Pablo Klammer for about 18 years and I’m pretty sure he went through both a Flash phase and an Anarchy phase. I’m starting to think these are self-portraits! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LawFinanceAndMarketingTranslator says:

    The truth is, translation schools do not train students to do their own marketing, which is criminal since 99% of the students who end up working as translators become freelancers.

    So, yes, seniors could help juniors, not by giving the list of their own customers of course, but by giving methods.

    That being said, as long as the translation profession (and the translation intermediary profession) is not be protected, there will always be too many “translators” on the translation market – so competition is fierce and merciless.

    That also means that amateur bilinguals who were hoping to make an easy buck by translating online will find it harder than they thought – good for them ! πŸ™‚

    Why don’t newbies just type keywords like “client canvassing training” in their local Google search engine and find what has been missing in their translation education?

    And their are online paying lists of international clients at and for example!

    Finally, each translator is different because his language pairs are different, his specialization areas are different, his training is different and his experience is different: when you combine all these factors, you have so many different profiles!

    So the customers of one senior translator will not be interested in the profile of some other junior translator anyway…

    When junior translators complain about senior translators not giving leads, I believe it is because senior translators do not have a clue themselves about how to find one’s own customers in general. They just ended up having customers somehow, after many years of poverty – although they won’t admit it…

    What also works well to get direct customers is to get recommended by another translator. This is also a tricky situation because most translators spend their lives behind their computers and do not meet other translators in the real life out there. So junior translators should at least reach out to senior translators via the Web… And possibly go to translators’ conferences and meeting, when they can afford it…

    The idea should be for example to start at, to continue with better intermediaries than those found there (at least at the proz bidding place), and to end up with direct customers only…

    Last but not least, freelance translators should educate direct customers and undo the brainwashing done upon them by monolingual psychopathic pervert non-translators calling themselves “LSPs” and have their TIME invoiced, or at least LINES of text invoiced, NOT WORDS – because the next step is that those psychopaths invent all sorts of useless (at best, counter-productive at worst) computer tools designed to extort huge rebates from translators, who have never been rich anyway in the first place…

    Hope this answers the question.


  5. LawFinanceAndMarketingTranslator says:

    Erratum: “That being said, as long as the translation profession (and the translation intermediary profession) is not be protected,” -> “is not protected,” – sorry, I had made a change, that’s why…


  6. LawFinanceAndMarketingTranslator says:

    2nd erratum: “And their are online paying lists of international clients” -> “And there are online paying lists of international clients” – sorry again, typo…


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