Featured Article

Find a Translator or Interpreter
Search for:

Featured Article from The ATA Chronicle (September 2009)


Please Welcome … ATA’s New Client Outreach Kit
By Dorothee Racette, Lillian Clementi, and Chris Durban

“What’s the best way to approach direct clients in my specialty area?”

“I know there are clients out there looking for my set of skills. How do I find them?”

“How can I promote better understanding of the work I do and at the same time help translation buyers make sound business decisions?”

Let’s assume you want to up your game. You have invested in yourself, building specialized expertise and honing your writing style. And you have decided to make 2009 the year you beef up your portfolio of direct clients, offering mission-critical translation services to more demanding buyers.

Or you may want to diversify your customer base as tough times bite deeper.

Both are excellent strategies. You know where you want to go—but how do you start? It’s a problem straight out of Small Business 101.

Triple Win
The good news for your small business is that ATA has just rolled out a new set of tools designed to raise awareness of professional translation, inform translation buyers, and help you attract new clients by positioning yourself as a solution provider—a triple win.

For businesses targeting global markets, expert translation offers a distinct, measurable edge on the competition. We translators know that. But many translation buyers don’t. Nor do they know where to start or how to allocate their budget. Instead, they fall for the quick fix, the self-proclaimed bilingual, the snake oil, the smoke and mirrors—when what they really need is you.

Enter ATA’s Client Outreach Kit.

The Translator as Solution Provider
Building on the core message underpinning ATA’s nationwide public relations initiative, the Client Outreach Kit is centered on a basic PowerPoint presentation that you can adapt for nearly any business development opportunity—a chamber of commerce meeting, a brown-bag lunch at a law firm, or a panel discussion on export at your local world trade association. And because the PowerPoint file is fully editable, you can weave in examples from your own practice, raising your profile and positioning yourself as a solution provider.

Free to ATA Members
In August, the Client Outreach PowerPoint became available to ATA members at no charge. Simply visit, where you can download the presentation file after a few simple preliminaries.

The Fine Print
Before downloading the PowerPoint file, you will be asked to accept a brief Terms of Use Agreement, which covers the following points:

• Use of Presentation: You may not represent yourself as speaking for or on behalf of ATA, or use the presentation for purely self-promotional purposes.

• Transfer and Assignment: You may not sell the presentation or share the file with anyone else.

• ATA Directories: You must mention ATA’s searchable online translation and interpreting directories and display ATA’s Web address every time you give the presentation.

• Use of ATA Logo: If you include ATA’s logo in the presentation, you must follow ATA’s Logo Usage Guidelines.

Once you’ve read through the terms, click “I Agree,” download the PowerPoint file, and you’re ready to get started.

Beyond PowerPoint
But the Client Outreach Kit doesn’t stop with the PowerPoint file. It also contains a wide range of stand-alone Skills Modules with practical tips on topics that include writing and delivering an elevator speech; developing effective public speaking habits; getting invited to speak; writing your own introduction; and fielding questions from your audience.

Take this excerpt from the module on elevator speeches:

“An elevator speech is a brief summary of who you are and what you offer as a professional—so called because it is concise enough to be delivered during a 30- to 60-second elevator ride…. A well-honed introduction is a useful tool if you’re asked to present yourself to a group at a business gathering, but it’s also a valuable asset at…any other encounter when you only have a few seconds to make a connection….”

Even if you never make a presentation, these supporting materials can help you learn new approaches for marketing your services.

The Catch
—even change your thinking a bit.

Consider your résumé. If it is designed primarily for agencies, it probably contains information on your computer-assisted translation tools, daily capacity, education, and references from other agencies. Most of this will be of no interest to direct clients, who are focused simply on selling their products and services: what they want to know is how you can help them do that.

So the catch is that you will have to be more proactive, especially if your previous work has consisted primarily of translation projects for agencies. This means positioning yourself as a solution provider—focusing your marketing materials on what you can do for your clients instead of how you do your work. This keeps your message informative and upbeat, and highlights your own expertise.

If you have never considered your work in these terms, think about when and why potential clients would need to buy translations. What contribution can you realistically make to their business? List your personal success stories and show how quality translation helped the client acquire new business, settle a lawsuit, solve a technical problem, or communicate successfully with a supplier.

Trading Notes
One way to get started is to brainstorm with other translators who share your philosophy. To help you find them, the new Client Outreach website includes a Feedback Page where you can post questions, insights, success stories, and lessons learned as you begin to put the PowerPoint and Skill Modules into practice. Visit to join the conversation.

New York Debut
You can also get a leg up by attending a 90-minute Client Outreach session at ATA’s 50th Annual Conference in New York City, October 28-31, 2009. Building on last year’s introduction to Client Outreach, we will cover key Skills Modules and offer tips for developing effective presentation habits.

With the world economy in crisis, independent contractors are facing increased price pressure and fiercer competition, even as technological developments such as crowdsourcing and Google’s new translation tools hold out the promise of no-cost translation. All of these trends underscore the need to educate translation buyers on the value of working with a qualified professional—and the trade-offs they accept when they choose to have their materials translated by computer software or unskilled volunteers. It’s a problem. But you can be part of the solution: try out the new Client Outreach Kit to benefit your local business community, your profession, and yourself.

Useful Links

Tips for Promoting Your Presentation

  • Draft a brief, lively summary for inclusion in the organizing entity’s newsletter (check with organizer for deadlines). Prepare a very brief (two-sentence) version as well, and submit this with a humorous translation blooper illustration to the newsletter editor. You’ll find effective examples of translation disasters in the Client Outreach photo archive.
  • Prepare an interview with yourself for publication before or after the session.
  • If you are speaking as part of a larger event, attend previous sessions and ask a question or two, identifying your topic and slot. (“I’m presenting a talk later this afternoon on how translation can give U.S. companies an edge on the competition, and was wondering [question relating to current speaker’s theme]?”)
  • With the organizer’s permission, contact a handful of people who are likely to attend. Encourage them to express an expert opinion on issues they would like to see addressed, and ask whether they have any experience on the topic. This can pique their interest and encourage participation—and it’s a terrific way to build relationships and make yourself known within the organization.
  • If the event is open to the public, e-mail existing clients to let them know when and where you are speaking. Even if they don’t attend, this will raise your “expert” profile with them.

Excerpted from: ATA Client Outreach Kit (

Lillian Clementi is a member of ATA’s Public Relations Committee and coordinates ATA’s School Outreach Program. As managing principal of Lingua Legal, a quality-driven translation practice based in Arlington, Virginia, she translates from French and German into English, specializing in law and business. Contact:

Chris Durban is a freelance translator specializing in finance (French→English). She writes a client education column, “The Onionskin,” and is co-author of the “Fire Ant and Worker Bee” advice column in the online quarterly Translation Journal. Co-chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee from 2002 to 2005, she served as president of the Société Française des Traducteurs from 2007 to 2008. She was awarded ATA’s Gode Medal in 2001. Contact:

Dorothee Racette is a freelance translator specializing in medical and biomedical materials. Currently the chair of the Business Practices Education Committee, she served as the administrator of ATA’s German Language Division from 2000 to 2004, and on ATA’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007. Contact: