You just received an e-mail from a new customer for an interesting project. Great!
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The customer only asked you if you’re suitable for that translation. What do you do now? I mean, after stopping jumping around your home. Your answer is very important, in good and evil, because the customer understand your professionalism from that very answer.
The first thing is to find info about the customer. The more you find the better.
Before starting wondering about rates, quotes and offers, now try to understand at the best what kind of project will it be. Will it be urgent? Will it require any formatting of the text? Can you use your CAT tool? Do not be afraid to ask any questions to the customer. By the way, as many marketing gurus suggest, a very important step in gaining new customers is establishing a dialog with him.
You may ask the above questions or any other and you may take advantage from that first e-mail to explain something about translation to your future customer. Please keep in mind that often customers know few or nothing about translation, CAT tools, documents formatting, etc. So, this is the occasion to explain it in a clear but polite way. The fact that the customer does not know anything about translation it does not mean that he is stupid. Maybe he wants to understand something more, or to have an input for further searching on the web. You can tell the customer you prefer knowing better the kind of project he wants to assign you, in order to give him your best quote.
Don’t mind about the time this first e-mail will require to you to write it. Take all the time you need to write it in a correct and polite way. Check grammar and spelling more than once. If you’re writing in a language that is not your native one, you may apologize for any mistakes. This will make a good impression on the customer: you demonstrate you are available to speak the language of the customer, but you are also aware of your limits. According to my experience, managers don’t like I-know-everything people, particularly in business.
Don’t forget to state your availability for further information and questions.
If he asked you, give the customer all references he needs (I mean CV, portfolio, diplomas, etc.). If you hide something, the customer may suspect you did not tell him the truth.
Go, send the e-mail!
At this point, the customer is generally well-impressed by your answer. It demonstrates you dedicated him some of your time (so, you care about customers), you know any problems that may arise during work (urgency, formatting issues, etc.), you are able to organize you time, and last that you do not make “mass quotes”, but you wonder about every single project.
If the customer answers your e-mail (and I’m quite sure he will), then you can put your quote in your next mail. Please avoid temporizing, or the customer will think you are hiding him something.
At this point you can add to your quote some explanation, for example by telling the customer that the rate is comprehensive of a revision/formatting of the text/some specific researches or whatever you like and that you will deliver him a text that is ready to be used (but be sure that this is true). You can explain that you make some discounts for fuzzy matches, for big volumes, for new customers. It does not mean that you have to justify your rate and quote. You just explain the customer why your work requires that rate (probably the customer asked other translators for quote), and why he must choose you among the crowd. You will tell him if your rates are tax comprehensive or not (for the customer this make difference!).
I go on telling to be polite, clear, and honest and to answer as soon as possible.
Maybe you won’t win that particular project, but the customer will surely be well impressed about your professionalism and the time you dedicated to him. A happy customer will unlikely search for another professional.
Of course, to keep the customer your work need to be perfect. Don’t promise what you cannot maintain.
Silvia Barra is a chemist and a technical translator. English is not her mother tongue, so she apologizes for any mistakes in writing.