Translators on… First Clients


Translators on… brings together a collection of industry professionals, each sharing their experience and advice on certain topics of their career, offering a wider, more authoritative range of opinions than a single source. Want to know more about the series? Watch the launch video.

How do you ‘get’ clients? I don’t know about you, but I hate that question. Specifically the word ‘get’ gets to me. I don’t want to get clients. I prefer to find clients with whom I can build a close, fruitful and perennial relationship based on mutual trust…and one that makes me a lot of money of course.

Yes, let’s be frank when talking about ‘getting’ clients. We want to make money. But so do they. And it’s not going to work if both the translator and client are only in it for the money. So let’s not talk about ‘getting clients’, but about establishing profitable client-translator relationships based on respect and understanding of each other’s needs. How did our contributors do this when they started out?


Online portals are a major source of work for translators, particularly when starting out. The longer-in-the-tooth amongst us will know that these kind of platforms don’t enjoy a universal level of respect amongst translators, primarily because they encourage competition based on price. But with a high volume of jobs posted and minimal marketing required on the part of the translator, there are some benefits to the likes of ProZ for translators new to the industry.

Another prime way to find first clients involves making use of contacts you have made in the industry, be they other translators or even former tutors.


Introductions through others are an excellent way to secure business. Although meeting clients this way is becoming less common as we do more online, it can build a more trustworthy relationship and allows clients to put a face to a name, as Lucy explains how she met her first client:


Now, it’s all well and good landing first clients. Are they any good, though? Not only do they need to pay well enough for you to live, but the nature of your business relationship with them should mean you actively enjoy working for them, rather than causing you grief and driving you to post a futile rant on a Facebook forum. So if your first clients don’t turn out to be keepers, how do you move towards better ones?


Even if your first clients are not great, whatever the reason may be, they needn’t remain your clients forever and you will find – if you avoid competing on price – that you will naturally migrate away from them as you build up experience.


Alternatively, if your professional life is stagnating, then it is time to take a more proactive approach, as Suzanne describes.


The next Translators On… will look at how you can focus your efforts on appealing specifically to translation agencies and companies.