Feb 14

Adding value from a perspective of a freelance translator

In part 3 of “cover letter” writing series, I touched on differentiating by using storytelling. One other method of standing out from your competitors is by “adding value” to your clients.
Why would you want to add value in the first place? Mainly because translators are seen as a homogenous group, where often providers are chosen exclusively based on price. But when you add value, you instantly become different from the rest, and price starts to play a secondary role. You’re not only offering translation services – it’s translation services with something little extra!
Simple marketing concepts are sometimes difficult to grasp in a practical context so to decipher the meaning of the “added value” buzz word, I will start from the other side. What does it mean when a translator doesn’t add value?

You have a project? OK.
Dear Superb Translator!
I found your details on the Internet and I have a project you might be interested in. It’s an informed consent form and it’s 3000 words long.
Can you help us with this?
Best regards,
Superb Translator:
Yes, sure. Please send the file.
Best regards,
Superb Translator
Dear Superb Translator,
Please find attached the file and a PO. I have also enclosed some reference materials and a query sheet with answers from the client. Hope this is useful.
No email from Superb Translator. He simply started the project.
Two days later…
Superb Translator:

Please find attached the translation.
I’m on holiday as of today.
Best regards,
Superb Translator

No value added
Unfortunately, Superb Translator did very badly with a new client. It’s very unlikely that he’ll ever be contacted again by them. The problems are obvious:
1. Lack of involvement
2. No desire to create a relationship
3. No desire to find out more about the project and an end-client
4. No updates or questions throughout the project
5. No post-project support
Superb Translator is acting almost like an automated service provider, without giving anything additional to his client, and thus becoming one of the many, many who are quickly forgotten.

How does it translate to adding value?
By looking at this simple example, it’s fair to use a cliché: communication is key. If a new client approaches you with work, start your relationship building with excellent customer skills. Get involved in the project by asking questions about the purpose of the translation, audience etc. Some background information on the client, maybe?
If your project is a few days long, update your client on how you’re progressing by dropping them an email or calling to say “Work is going well and I haven’t had any issues so far”. Likewise, if you have a query, ask for a clarification before you actually deliver the file.
Offer post-project support. Tell your client that you are available later this week if they have any questions and ask them if they would like you to check the text after it’s been typeset, etc.

What else counts as added value?
OK, this was fairly straightforward. But how about some other ideas? Features that constitute added value will vary slightly depending on the type of client and service you offer. When working with translation agencies, an added value can be:
1. Specific qualifications such as: a qualification in your subject domain and a degree in translation, certification by the state or a translators’ association, also years of experience, if they’re an impressive number
Value: thanks to expert subject and linguistic knowledge and familiarity with the profession projects are delivered quicker and to a high standard.
2. Ability to work with unusual file formats and DTP services
Value: saves clients’ time, one point of contact, less admin work.
3. Ability to work evenings or weekends or to short deadlines
Value: reliability, “saviour” when in a tight spot.
4. Ability to take part (e.g. via conference calls) in meetings with key accounts in order to better understand their translation needs
Value: a long-lasting relationship, better understanding of processes.
5. Creating glossaries
Value: maintaining consistency in client’s materials.
6. Use of CAT tools
Value: easy exchange of files, easy fit with company’s given technology, ready to start cooperation instantly.
7. Following-up and asking for feedback on delivered projects
Value: assurance to client, relationship building.
8. Using e.g. a dropbox account for the transfer of files
Value: saves time, more reliable for larger files.
9. Issuing one invoice at the end of a given month
Value: less admin work. This can be arranged on a quid pro quo basis, i.e. one invoice in return for a shorter payment term.
10. Having access to client’s preferred method of payment
Value: less admin work.
11. Informing client about planned holidays and possibly having a substitute
Value: allows client to plan better, gives him an option when you’re away.
12. Having a stringent QA process and possibly working with an independent proofreader
Value: less admin work for client, greater quality and greater satisfaction of end-clients.
13. Having a professional indemnity insurance
Value: creates confidence and a sense of security for client.
14. Offering a guarantee such as: if there’s a problem with my translation, you can come back to me within a month and I’ll correct it for free. Since you’re a good translator who never experienced anything of this sort, it’s very unlikely to happen, but again gives the client assurance that you can be trusted.
15. Educating your clients by communicating to them interesting and useful tips and pieces of information, e.g. to do with technology, new trends, new events, new opportunities.

Adding value is necessary for those who want to be successful. It helps your offer to stand out and justifies a better rate. Start adding value by offering excellent customer skills. Create a map of your added values and decide how you’re going to promote them to clients. Your added value can change with time so you should remember to update your message when necessary. Think of activities that can increase the worth of the value you add and purse them. I’m sure they’ll pay off in the long run.