Improve your chances of being hired when sending a quotation

Improve your chances when sending a quotation

This article was originally published in the September-October 2018 edition of the ITI Bulletin, and you can download a PDF version here.

All freelancers have been on the receiving end of emails from potential new clients telling us about an upcoming project and asking if we wish to be involved. Sometimes we’re interested in what they have to offer, and other times we’re not. But how many of us have been on the other end of this relationship, responsible for recruiting freelancers for a project?

As a freelance translation project manager, I regularly contact translators on behalf of direct clients, and ask them to provide quotations. It can be eye-opening to discover what makes someone a preferred freelancer and what can be an immediate turn-off.

Covering the basics

First things first: if you know straight away that you aren’t interested in the project, respond to the Project Manager (PM) to tell them so. If they’ve addressed you personally in the email, that means they’ve looked you up and are waiting for a response. Let them know in good time if they need to keep looking for someone else.

If you are interested but don’t have time to go through it properly within a couple of hours of the email coming in, send a holding email to the client or PM so they know you’ve received it. You can then take all the time you need to read the information later without pressure to respond urgently, subject to any deadline the PM has given.

Then read the project brief thoroughly, as well as any other materials you’ve been sent. Make sure you understand what you’re being asked for and what the project will involve – if not, ask.

If you decide you want to take things further, provide your quotation in the requested format. If you’re asked how much you would charge for working on a text, give a total price rather than an hourly rate. A direct client probably isn’t very interested in how you reached the figure – they just want to know how much it will cost. If the client is an agency and they ask how much you charge per word, provide your quotation in that format. Make it easy for the PM to hire you.

Along with that, provide all the information you’re asked for. It sounds obvious, but it’s very off-putting if the PM has to remind you to send the information they’ve asked for in the first place. If it’s for a direct client, they probably aren’t very familiar with how the industry works. They need to know a bit more about you and your experience to be confident in hiring you. Ignoring such requests shows a lack of attention to detail and implies that you aren’t interested enough in the project to spend some time on your quotation.

Provide all the information you’re asked for. It sounds obvious, but it’s very off-putting if the PM has to remind you to send the information they’ve asked for in the first place.

Be clear and concise. Use headings or bullet points and don’t expect the PM to click on links to other sources. If the PM has to go hunting on your website to find out about your experience of similar projects, they most likely won’t bother. That’s especially true if others are providing that information directly via email.

Quote realistic turnaround times. If you say you’ll be able to do more than is realistic in a given time frame, the PM will probably think you don’t know what you’re doing or that the quality of your work will be poor.

Stand out from the crowd

Make your quotation look attractive. A professional quotation as a proposal in a separate document with all the information you’ve been asked for is far more memorable than a figure in the body of an email. A little colour can go a long way, too.

If you say you’ll be able to do more than is realistic in a given time frame, the PM will probably think you don’t know what you’re doing or that the quality of your work will be poor.

Summarise the client’s needs when you send your quotation and include your interpretation of what’s required. It will show you’ve really thought about the project and what you could bring to it.

Alongside that, be friendly and enthusiastic about the project. Showing your personality will make you more memorable than translators who are very matter-of-fact in their emails. By showing you are approachable and easy to work with, you make the PM more likely to champion you and choose your quotation over others.

If you have any questions, use this as an opportunity to pick up the phone and call the PM. Having actually spoken to you, they are much more likely to think of you when it’s decision time.

And some things to avoid…

Having said that it’s important to be prompt, don’t respond too quickly, unless you know you aren’t available to take the project on or you just want to let them know you’ve received their email and will reply with more detail later. Quoting within seconds could imply to the PM that you haven’t read what they’ve sent you.

If you’re simply not qualified for a project, don’t quote for it. Read the information you’ve been sent and be honest about your abilities. If the project brief asks for native speakers of a certain language with experience of a particular sector and you don’t fit the bill, don’t apply. The PM will respect your honesty and may contact you about a project that’s a better fit in the future.

It’s not a good idea to ask too many questions about the nitty-gritty of the texts at the quoting stage. If you’re asking about the meaning of certain words then, it implies that you don’t understand the context or detail. In practice, you’re wasting your time too, given someone else may be chosen for the project. Save those questions for when the job starts, if you’re hired.

Don’t undersell yourself or your services because you think you’re more likely to be hired that way. Some clients will focus most on price, but many are looking for the most qualified person for the job. In my experience, mid-range quotations are often accepted. Those freelancers who provide the cheapest quotes are sometimes seen as inexperienced, so they won’t be taken on. And if you have relevant experience for the project you’re being offered, charge for it accordingly.

Don’t undersell yourself or your services because you think you’re more likely to be hired that way. Some clients will focus most on price, but many are looking for the most qualified person for the job.

The same goes for estimating the time you think a job might take. If you really aren’t sure, give a broad range or be generous with the deadline you suggest. It’s not helpful to say you don’t know or it depends on other work. The client just wants to get an idea.

If you have any upcoming commitments that might become an issue if the project overruns, state that from the beginning. Bear in mind that some big projects don’t start when they’re expected to. This really isn’t something the PM wants to find out later when it’s a problem. They’ll appreciate you taking the initiative.

If you don’t hear from the PM, resist the temptation to keep chasing them. If you haven’t heard anything by the date you were told you would, by all means email to confirm that there’s no news. But if they say they need more time or there’s been a delay, leave it at that. It may be tempting to keep chasing, but the PM may be waiting for a decision from someone else. Receiving prompts from you every few days will just annoy them. They will be in touch when they know more; if you never hear anything, then you haven’t been hired. Repeatedly chasing the job may make you come across as desperate.

Keep it professional

Finally, be professional and friendly in all communication. If you don’t agree with something the PM says, take a breath, step away from your computer and respond once you’ve calmed down. Simply tell them you aren’t interested in working on the project if it’s a major issue. If it’s something minor, find a way to convey your difference of opinion without being offensive. The PM probably didn’t mean to offend, and an aggressive response from you will make them less likely to hire you. And most of all, don’t complain about other freelancers or rates of pay in the industry overall. Whatever your views, this really isn’t the time or place for that.

Efficient, accurate and enthusiastic: one translator who got the job

I was project managing the translation of a short educational marketing text into multiple languages. I found several translators who I thought might be a good fit in the ITI Directory and emailed them with the source text and project brief.

Within an hour and a half, one translator had replied to tell me that she was interested in the project. She didn’t give her quotation then, but told me when I could expect to receive it.

Within the time frame she’d stated, she sent me her quotation as a PDF document. It included a little bit about herself and her experience, explaining how she approaches each project. She told me what tone of voice she would use and the values she would convey in the translated text, based on her understanding of the source text. Then she asked for confirmation that this was what the client was looking for.

The translator was friendly and professional in all her emails and showed real enthusiasm about the project. I received 10 quotations for her language pair and hers was right in the middle of the price range. However, price was not the most important consideration, and she convinced me that she was the best candidate.

Attending a conference for the first time – 10 tips

Attending a conference for the first time

This article was originally published in the July-August 2018 edition of the ITI Bulletin, and you can download a PDF version here.

As freelancers, we hear a lot about the importance of keeping up with continuing professional development (CPD) and of networking. Some people embrace this wholeheartedly, while others see CPD and networking as necessary evils. However, some of us see the benefits of CPD and networking but just don’t get many opportunities to take part.

Starting out

I’ve been a freelance translator and editor for three years now, and I’ve met very few colleagues in person. This is due to my lifestyle – although I’m based in the UK, I spend much of my time abroad, first in the US and now in Mexico, due to my partner’s work. While I appreciate the freedom that being a freelancer gives me, I seem never to be in the right place at the right time. I’ve long been jealous of colleagues who are more easily able to attend conferences. I knew I wanted to take that step, but I had to find the right opportunity.

Attendee badge for APTRAD Conference 2018

That finally happened this year, with the second international conference of the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters (APTRAD) falling during a period I would be spending in the UK. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was in Porto, a city I have lived in and love, and I would get a much-needed chance to practise Portuguese, one of my source languages. I quickly booked my place, excited finally to be able to join that elusive club.

As the conference drew nearer, my nerves started to build. I was very aware that I didn’t know anyone else who would be attending, and it doesn’t come naturally to me to approach people I don’t know. Another thing that bothered me was what to wear for the conference. This might seem like a silly thing to worry about, but I’d never attended anything like this and didn’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons.

In the end, however, the conference was an immensely valuable experience and I’m so glad I attended. I learned a lot from the sessions I went to, returning to work enthused by the possibilities for my business. I also met many lovely people and now know colleagues who work in similar language pairs and subject areas, which has already led to collaboration. By the time I left Porto I felt as if I’d known these people for years, and I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with many of them.

A 10-point plan

So if you too are hesitating about dipping your toe into the conference waters, here are my tips for how to get the most from attending a conference for the first time.

1) Choose a conference that has an element of familiarity

If you’re attending a conference for the first time in a city you’ve never visited or where you don’t speak the language, you’ll be putting additional pressure on yourself. If possible, choose a location you’ve visited before or where you know you’ll be able to communicate with those around you. It’s well worth making life easier for yourself!

2) Participate in as much as you can

The majority of us spend most of our time working alone. The conference will be tiring and you’ll probably be tempted to skip some sessions, stay in bed that little bit longer, or catch up on some work at your hotel. Don’t listen to your brain when it tells you to do this. After all, we can do those things whenever we like, but it isn’t every day we have the chance to meet and learn from colleagues. I attended the maximum number of sessions possible, and I was glad I did – there were some I wasn’t sure about from the title and description, but I learned something from them all.

3) Put yourself out there and meet people

Say yes to opportunities to socialise. Other freelancers aren’t so scary when you actually start talking to them. If you’re nervous about this, try opting for small social events with few attendees. The size of the group will mean that everyone is involved in conversation, and someone you meet there might be able to introduce you to others later. Don’t be afraid to go up to the speakers after their presentations, too. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and it’s another way of making contact with someone more experienced.

4) Reach out before the conference

If you’re familiar with any of the speakers – you receive their newsletter, have seen their posts on social media, or have attended webinars they’ve presented, for example – send them an email before the conference starts to tell them that. This gives you a connection and a reason to then approach them at the conference. The same can also apply to other attendees if the conference website publishes a list of the other people who’ve registered.

5) Prepare for a tiring experience

Conference organisers have a short window to pack in as much as they can, so days will be long and full of activities. On top of that, you’ll be taking in a lot of new information, potentially speaking a different language, and travelling to get there and back again. Try to arrive well rested and allow a day when you get home to catch up on sleep.

6) Find accommodation near the conference venue

Most attendees will stay in or near the conference hotel. Price may be a consideration for you, but remember that you’ll have some early starts and long days. Staying somewhere that involves taking public transport may be something you’ll regret, particularly if you don’t know the city.

7) Make sure you have some business cards

Lots of people will give you theirs, and you’ll want to have something to give them in return – it will make you look more professional. If they can’t contact you later, they won’t be able to send work your way or refer clients to you.

8) Take notes on who you meet

You’ll meet a lot of people over the course of the conference, and by the end you may find it difficult to remember who does what and to put names to faces. If you’ve received business cards from people, think about writing a note on them to remind yourself of the areas they work in if they aren’t stated.

Another strategy I found useful was keeping a list of people I’d met with a few details about them, to be updated at the end of each day. Wait longer and you might forget…

9) Allow an extra day to explore the city

If you arrange your travel so you only have time for the conference activities, you may find you never see anything of the host city. Many of us don’t find it easy to take time off very often. As you’ll be in a position where you can’t take on any paid work for a few days, why not extend that a bit and make the most of it? You’re there already, after all.

10) Don’t be put off if you feel inexperienced

You might be overwhelmed by how much you still don’t know and still have to learn. Just remember that others are very supportive of anyone who wants to put in the work to improve. And by the time you come away you will have already built up your experience, ready for the next conference.