Five Reasons Why Freelance Translators Fail at Marketing and How to Fix it

Greater than 5 minutes, my friend!

I know the below may sound hard for you, but stay with me. During the last few days, I had direct one-to-one calls with 17 freelance translators. I wanted to know more about their issues and if I can help them.

Marketing to translation agencies or direct clients was a hot topic. After around 10 hours of talking with individual freelance translators, I figured out there are five main reasons why freelance translators are bad at marketing.

So, here I will share the problems they face and how freelance translators can fix them.Let’s jump in.

 Reason #1: Fear of Rejection

This was the most common reason among freelance translators when it comes to sales and marketing. Many translators do not contact new potential clients for fear that they may not be interested in their work or may decline to work with them. They are afraid the client may reject them, not their offer!

This is a human nature. We all like to hear others say nice things about us and treat us well, but we should expect the opposite most of the time in business.

I read about a salesperson who used to call 30 potential prospects daily and only made an appointment with one of them. He was rejected 29 out of 30 times! However, this did not stop him from making calls and getting new clients.

This is not a personal issue. You are not being rejected, though your services may be. It could be that the client already works with another translator and they do not need to change, or maybe your offer does not suit them. Freelance translators should recognize the fact that not every client they email will reply, and not everyone that replies will work with them.

Solution #1:

Consider this question: What will happen if you never email or call new potential clients? You definitely will not work with them. But, what will happen if you email or call them? You will have a 50% chance of working with them. It is as simple as that. Not making your offer means you will lose an opportunity, but you could be working with them if you email or call them. Also remember, it is not you they are rejecting, it is your offer, or they may not be ready to work with you now.

Free Download: Five Ways to Contact New Translation Clients

Reason #2: Inconsistencies in marketing

How many emails or calls do you make weekly to win more clients? Only one freelance translator gave a good answer: “I contact five clients per week.”

Some reasons for the inconsistencies in sending emails or making calls to new clients was the high work volume received from current clients or not having a big enough database of potential clients to contact.

Freelance translators will always be busy with translation assignments or resting after these assignments, but they should not forget about marketing their services while doing actual translation work.

What if, for any reason, you lose a client you are currently working with? How will you make up for the lost revenue? Will you boost your marketing efforts? Why not start marketing your translation services now instead of waiting for a disaster to push you?


You need consistent actions to generate consistent results. Allocate just 30-60 minutes daily to your marketing activities. As a freelance translator, you do not need to do much to attract new clients to your services. You may just need to contact five new clients per day, send five LinkedIn messages, or do something similar.

Free Download: 90-Day Marketing Plan for Freelance Translators

Reason #3: Not knowing Who Their Customer Is 

 Many translators do not have a clear picture of their client. When I asked freelance translators what their specialization is or what kind of client they are targeting, most cannot give a clear answer.

Having a clear definition of your target client (aka client avatar) helps you focus your marketing activities to a certain group of people that share the same interests, which generates more positive marketing results.

If you send your marketing emails or messages to a wide variety of customers with different needs, you cannot give them the impression you can solve their specific problem. Freelance translators who send the same marketing message to potential clients with different needs may achieve minimal results, if any.


Set time aside to write a one-page draft detailing your target client. Answer questions like, where your potential client is located, what type of documents they need translated, whether they have large, small or medium projects, and how can you reach them. Just start with a draft and then improve it with time.

 Reason #4: Pretending to be marketing their translation services

Consider the below as a tough love message from someone who made the same mistakes before.
  • Improving your logo will not attract clients.
  • Making your website look better does not have a huge effect on your marketing.
  • Changing red to blue in your flyer colors will not make clients notice you.

I can write a long list of things freelance translators do that have no effect on client acquisition. That does not mean your logo, website, or flyers are not important, but you do not need to spend time improving these items instead of contacting clients directly via email or sending them messages through LinkedIn or other media.

I see many translators on Facebook asking colleagues what they think of their logo or website, which is not bad, but careful if you think these are marketing activities.


Make sure you spend most of your marketing time contacting clients or building relationships with them. Spend less time on your logo and website design. Direct contact or making offers are real sales generators and a solid marketing technique.

 Reason #5: Not writing a good email copy

 The marketing material you use can have a strong effect on the success of your marketing activities. I am talking about emails here as they are the most common marketing tool freelance translators use to market their translation services. Well-written templates are useful, and I love using them, but they must be specifically targeted to each potential new client!

Many translators still use long-form emails when they contact new clients. Some of the email subjects I receive go something like: “Arabic-English freelance translator with 10 years experience and a PhD. My price is $0.06 per word.” Then the email body itself is around 400-500 words long, contained in two paragraphs!

Many email subject lines and body content make it clear that this translator did not check my website or LinkedIn profile.


Your first email should be a discovery email. Use this email to check if your target potential client is interested in your services or not. Also, say something about them, such as bringing up something they published on their website. Keep your email short, organized, and to the point.

Free Download: 7-step guide to win new translation clients with email.

 It’s Your turn

Remember, having a big enough database of potential clients is the only thing that will help you survive as a freelance translator. Keep working on your marketing activities in a consistent way and I promise you will gain more clients.

Sherif Abuzid

About Sherif Abuzid

Arabic translator I design websites for translators.

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