Jan 23

„Cover letter” writing for translators – story-telling (part 3)

Once upon a time I wanted to do some reading on how to improve my marketing skills. I started with the web, but the only piece of advice I found was on “standing out” or “differentiating”. This wisdom didn’t tell me much, so I felt a bit disappointed and at that time abandoned the idea.
Some time later, however, in a conversation with my relative, he told me that the easiest way to be unique in business is to do the opposite of what the competitors are doing.
How can this relate to writing business proposal letters by translators?

A powerful weapon
Almost all emails or letters translators send to clients or prospects are a factual depiction of their skills and education which rarely gets anyone excited. We can’t quickly digest facts, but we can all remember a story we’ve heard or watched recently. What’s more, we can aslo recall the feelings that accompanied us as the story unraveled.
Each of us can tell plenty of stories, personal or work-related, and, as it turns out, storytelling can also be effectively used in business. More importantly, it can help us differentiate in a whole new dimension.
Of course, when I first heard about the concept, I was skeptical and thought to myself “I’m not writing any fairytales.” But then it struck me: people are tired of reading meaningless info sheets, data, numbers and so on (not to mention remembering it). But no one ever turns away from reading or hearing a good story. This got me thinking.

Types of stories
A clever friend of mine always tells me that just as with everything you do in business, and being a freelance translator is running a business, a story has to have a purpose. Whenever I hear that I need to establish a purpose for something I’m doing, I cringe and want to withdraw. So, if right now you’re struggling with determining what the aim of your story could be, think simple:
a. You want to come across as an expert translator in a given area.
b. You want to convince a direct client that you can be trusted.
c. You want to educate a client that money spent on a quality translation is an investment.
Now, having formulated a goal, we need to select the type of a story that will best help you achieve this aim.

1. “Who I am” story
A story that shows your professional development, what type of a translator you were in the past compared with now, mistakes made and lessons learnt. Such a story will help you show that you’re just a human who errs (just a tiny bit) and also a transformation that has occurred because of such an experience. This story is perhaps the easiest to write.

2. “Why I’m here” story
Not much different from story type no. 1, but here the focus is on winning someone’s trust, and showing them that you can work together towards the same goal. In order to be successful with this story, you need to research your reader’s aim in their business.

3. Teaching stories
A good type to choose if you want to educate your client about something. An example of a teaching story can be why it’s good to use a subject expert translator or why consistent use of terminology is important. This type can prove beneficial when communicating with direct clients.

4. Vision stories
These are supposed to inspire and drive people to take action. Such stories should be sincere and emotional. Maybe more appropriate for leaders in companies than for freelance translators, but one approach could be to present your vision of how your business will grow and the part your reader has to play.

5. Values in action
This is about choosing a value that’s important to you and then telling a story about how you implement it in practice. If quality is of an utmost importance, tell a story about what it means to you in a real life situation. Again, quite simple to write.

6. “I know what you’re thinking” story
A very useful story type in which you recognise someone’s objections and you overcome them with counter-evidence. If a client has objections about pricing or quality control, you need to build a story around it to prove him otherwise.

Important rules to remember in storytelling
1. Storytelling isn’t about providing information. It’s about interacting with your reader, getting him involved in the story and excited about it. Every reader should take something for himself from your message.
2. A story has to have characters. It can be you – the translator, your client, another translator, your boss at your previous job, your tutor or even a family member.
3. The golden rule of “less is more” also applies in storytelling.
4. Remember that every one has a story to tell. Think about your experiences as a professional. How you started, how you got where you are now. You should be your own inspiration.
5. Don’t get me wrong – your business proposal doesn’t have to be one, great story, but you should place some elements of storytelling into your message.
5. Last, but not least – your story has to be real and convincing and its length appropriate for an email/letter format.

So what’s my story? You can read it here.

If you have questions or need guidance, get in touch!

Post based on the following resources: