Email prospecting is a great way to find new translation clients for your freelance business. If written properly, an email can be the starting point of a good business relationship. However, a poorly written email has the potential to ruin that relationship before it even has a chance to begin.
Since I launched my website in 2013, I’ve received countless emails from other translators and interpreters looking for work. None of them made me want to contact them back. However, those emails inspired me to write this post, where you will find 5 mistakes to avoid when doing email prospecting.
For this post, I asked a few colleagues to share their thoughts on what irritates them the most when receiving emails from other translators. You’ll find their contributions throughout the article.
1. STARTING WITH “DEAR SIR/MADAM”, OR WORSE
Opening your email with an impersonal greeting tells the reader that you don’t know who they are, or worse, that you didn’t care enough to do some research. For example, if you click on my homepage, my name is there, clearly stated and visible. My About page states it again, and it’s clear to see how 3P Translation is a one-woman business. This makes it unacceptable for me to receive emails that begin with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Account Manager”, “Dear Project Manager” and the like. Once I even received an email that started with “Dear Sir”! And I’m not talking about scammers, here.
If you want your email prospecting to be effective, you should do some research into the company that you are approaching. Have a look at their website and find the name of the best person to speak to. If there is no “Meet the team” page or similar, try finding employees of the company on LinkedIn. If you can’t find names anywhere, pick up the phone and ask who would be the best person to send your email to. The impersonal greeting should be your very last resort if everything else fails.
2. SENDING A BULK EMAIL
Similarly to point one, sending the same email to a long list of contacts shows a lack of research and genuine interest towards the company. Remember that the most important person in the world for a client is themselves. When a client receives an email that was clearly sent to a large group of people (and maybe the sender didn’t even bother to hide the whole contact list!), they are likely to think that you have no particular interest in working with them specifically. They will feel like you consider them one of the many fish in the pond, and that you don’t really have anything to offer to them directly.
Customising your message will lead to much better results. Similarly to networking, take a genuine interest in the person (or company) you’re addressing: find out what their core values are, what their vision is, how they communicate, etc. This will give you a lot of talking points for your email, and will demonstrate that you really care about the recipient. Similarly to fishing, if you use a poorly chosen hook and a generic bait, you’re not likely to catch much. If, on the other hand, you choose a specific hook and craft a customised bait for the specific fish you want to catch, you have a lot more chances to achieve your goal.
3. LACK OF PROFESSIONALISM
This is true not just for email prospecting, but for all aspects of freelancing: professionalism is key. Using a greeting that is too informal, making spelling mistakes, replying late or impolitely are all mistakes to be avoided when contacting potential clients via email.
Even sending emails after office hours and forgetting about time zones can be seen as a lack of professionalism.
When you meet a potential business partner or client, you want to make an exceptional first impression. You wouldn’t meet them wearing a bathing suit and flip flops, you wouldn’t start your conversation with “Yo, mate!” or knock on their door at 10 pm, would you? The same goes for emails: your recipient will form their first impression about you based on your email, so make sure it is spot on! And don’t forget to make your CV clear, concise, visually appealing and relevant, as Valentina Giagnorio pointed out!
4. TOO MUCH INFORMATION
Sending an email with three pages worth of text and a 6-page CV in Word format (argh!) can be perceived as a lack of respect towards your recipient. The person you’re writing to probably has a million other things to do, and they simply can’t spend too long reading about all the modules you completed at uni, every single project you’ve worked on, your hobbies and so on.
To know more about how to write CVs and cover letters, you can read this article I published last year.
5. ASKING COLLEAGUES FOR WORK
This is something that most colleagues can’t stand. A lot of translators and interpreters collaborate with each other and have a network of trusted colleagues they refer to clients when they can’t take on a project. The key to being part of someone’s referral network is, you guessed it, networking. Building a good relationship with colleagues can go a long way, but don’t make the mistake to approach them for work and treat them like an agency.
Furthermore, if a colleague gives you suggestions following your email, make sure you reply, and do it politely. They are taking their time to help you out even if they don’t have to.
Gaining the trust of fellow translators and interpreters can help you build a good reputation, which in turn can lead to referrals and more work. Be honest with the colleagues you approach and show a sincere interest in building a relationship with them.
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO TWO THINGS…
The first is obviously research. Make sure you have as much information as possible on the company or person you are approaching with your email prospecting: read their website, their blog, have a look at their public social media profiles and so on. If you know who you’re talking to, you’ll be able to customise your message and you’ll have much better possibilities of sparking the interest of the reader.
The second is honesty. Telling someone you read their blog and then asking a question that has been extensively answered in said blog, as Federica Bruniera from Ikigai Translations pointed out, gives a very bad impression. As with anything in life, being honest and transparent is always a good idea. It will help you establish a better relationship from the get go, and it will form the basis of trust for the future.
As a rule of thumb, think of the things that drive you mad when you receive unsolicited emails, and avoid doing them!
In some countries, there are laws in place that regulate email prospecting, cold emailing and email marketing. Make sure you are familiar with those laws and regulations before you carry out any of these activities.
What are the things that drive you mad when you receive an unsolicited email? What other mistakes would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in a comment below.