Contact forms on websites are nothing new these days. But not all freelance translators or interpreters take advantage of them.
There are a lot of good reasons to use a contact form. It doesn’t have to be totally impersonal if you set it up well. Done right, you can make a contact form that’s beneficial for both your clients and your translation or interpreting business. Here are a few reasons you need to use a contact form on your website, followed by some tips on how to get it right.
1. It’s the most convenient way for clients to get in touch with you. When you have a way for clients to reach you directly via your website, you take away additional steps from the equation. The fewer the clicks and hoops clients have to jump through, the more likely it is that they will reach out to you about their next project.
If you’ve ever searched a website and had trouble finding how to contact someone, you probably got frustrated rather quickly. And if you did find the information easily but the only option to contact the business was one you would rather not use (like a customer service chat instead of a phone number to call), you probably wished they had provided more options. Your clients feel the same way.
Everyone likes options, especially if they allow for different ways to get answers to questions. One of your options should be a contact form. It’s easy, convenient, and it’s right there on the page.
2. There’s little to no room for error. If a client has to copy/paste your email address or dial your phone number, there’s a chance they might not copy the address fully or they might accidentally dial the number incorrectly. With a form, your clients can simply fill it out and hit the “submit” button. Easy peasy.
The form lands right in your inbox with a subject line of your choosing, and you can get back to them pretty quickly. In addition, a contact form gives clients a sense of having taken immediate action once they submit their request via your website. They very quickly check off one more item from their long to-do list. By making the process easy for them, you’re already helping to solve their problem, one step at a time.
3. It’s also easy for you. When a new inquiry lands in your inbox via your website contact form, it tends to look a bit different than a typical email. You won’t risk missing it among all your other email, as the subject line is always the same. In fact, with most forms, you can set the subject line to be something that stands out to you. Figure 1 shows how the subject line of my contact form appears in my inbox. You can then gather the information you need from the form to craft a friendly email to the potential client.
While I do suggest making every interaction with a client specific and personal to them, creating email templates to have on hand will also save you a lot of time!
How to Get Your Website Contact Form Right
1. Keep it simple and straightforward. It’s important to keep your contact form simple and straightforward. Don’t take up a lot of your potential clients’ time. Ask for the pertinent information you’ll need to get back to them quickly and get the ball rolling so you can talk to them about how you can help solve their problems with the services you provide. (Tip: Ask for two ways to contact them. If you contacted them via email but didn’t get a response, you could try calling them a few days later to follow up.)
By the same token, leave out any unnecessary information. Remember that you don’t need to have your entire preliminary conversation with a client through your contact form. Just get the basics right and you can add and request information as the conversation unfolds after the initial contact. Figure 2 shows how my current contact form appears on my website. It’s simple, easy to complete, and doesn’t go into lots of detail. I let the client provide as much or as little information as they feel comfortable in the “How can I help you?” field.
2. Ask for initial information only and leave the lengthier conversation for your follow-up message. A contact form allows you to gather pertinent information about your client. But again, your form should be easy to complete. A no-brainer.
Once you have an idea of the potential project or assignment your client has in mind, you can follow up by sharing a little about your services and experience, as well as your availability. At the same time, you can request additional information from the client that you’ll need to either prepare a proposal or decline the project if it doesn’t seem like a good fit.
Or, if you really want to make an impression, you can offer to schedule a discovery call to see if what you provide fits what they’re looking for. Include a link to your open appointments by using a service like Calendly or Acuity. This shows the client that you’re a serious professional while giving you additional time to do some research about their organization or background before you meet.
3. Make it work for you! Be sure to include a section on your form that clients can complete with more information about the project up front. This can help reduce some of the back-and-forth email later. Again, fewer steps equal an easier process for the client and for you!
Of course, you can include as many or as few questions as you like, as well as a place for clients to upload documents. I personally don’t use the document upload option because I don’t want sensitive files to be sent through my website contact form, especially with current privacy laws. But this is a decision that you should make for your own business.
One item I always tell fellow translators and interpreters to add to their contact form as a required piece of information is something like “How did you hear about my services?” This helps you easily track where your new clients come from. Did they find you through a referral? Did they come across your website after conducting an online search? Did they find your name in a professional directory? These are all possible options when searching for service providers, and it’s important to know how clients find you so you build upon what’s working! This very simple question can help you plan your marketing strategy for years to come.
Finally, I think it’s important to meet clients where they are. If you know your clients prefer to talk over the phone than via email, then include your phone number on the contact page. I’ve even seen some translators in Europe offer their WhatsApp number because the app tends to be so widely used there and many people feel comfortable communicating this way.
Whatever contact methods you decide to utilize on your website, make sure one of them is a contact form. The easier it is for potential clients to reach out to you, the more likely it is they will!
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee (2018–2020), Public Relations Committee (2014–2018), and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog.
“Business Practices” will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.