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Guest post: 1/3/10/30/90 March 20, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

My friend and colleague John has just launched a blog on interpreting called “In the Middle.” So far there is only one blog post, but I wanted to publish one of his past articles from our newsletter explaining his marketing method in order to introduce you to him. He specializes in both court and medical interpreting, getting his start at Language Line. We graduated from Kent State together back in 1995. John is one of only two state-certified interpreters in Ohio (he is an OH/TN State Certified Court Interpreter and CCHI Certified Healthcare Interpreter) and is one of the forces behind Ohio’s push to implement state certification. He also took over for me as President of NOTA and is doing a great job reinvigorating the group. He is also the former chairman of the ATA Mentor committee and one of the best people I know. If you are interested in interpreting I hope you’ll start following him.


By John P. Shaklee, Spanish<>English interpreter

The most frequently asked questions of mentors in the American Translators Association mentoring program have to do with marketing: How can I market my services? Where do I begin? What works? This article will describe a marketing tip shared with me by one of my mentors. It sounds simple: contact one hundred potential clients, and follow up three, ten, thirty and ninety days later. The prediction is that ten of those contacts will become clients.

Sound hokey? Maybe. But it worked for me. I left a full-time interpreting job last year to become a freelancer and profited from the 1/3/10/30/90 marketing tool.

Here’s a breakdown of what I did:

Day 1: I sent out a cover letter, resumé and notification of my court certification status by snail mail. The letter included my availability, experience and recent assignments. At the end I wrote “as part of my ongoing training …” (fill in the blank). This notifies the client that I’m not stagnating and that I am willing to continue to learn. I asked another of my mentors, who happens to be an agency owner, to review my resumé for content and mechanical errors. Jill Sommer, NOTA president and a frequent contributor to American Translators Association conferences and publications, provided a template for the cover letter. If you would like a copy of my resumé or cover letter, please e-mail me at  jshaklee@neo.rr.com.

Day 3: I contacted the recipient of my mailing to see if the information arrived. Be it by snail mail, e-mail or a phone call, this is another opportunity to make personal contact with a potential client. When a job crosses someone’s desk, I want “John Shaklee, Interpreter” to be the first
name to come to mind. If the recipient says that the information didn’t arrive, politely offer to submit it once again and hang up quickly. On day ten, contact the recipient again to see if the information arrived yet. Find out who actually decides which interpreters to call so that your information gets to the right person. Be pleasant and polite no matter who answers. Remember, they are doing you a favor: “May I speak to the person in charge of XXX? I appreciate your time today.” A frazzled secretary will remember you if you are warm and nice instead of huffy and is more likely to see that your information is passed on.

Day 10: Send a brief letter to explain what has happened since your last contact. For example, “I recently translated XXX” or “I attended a workshop on interpreter ethics through the Community and Court Interpreters of the Ohio Valley.” Mention job-related activities since the last call and that you look forward to your first assignment with them. Have you written an article for publication? As a court interpreter, I mention which new court I’ve worked in lately. The network grows with each effort you make.

Day 30: If you haven’t been called by this time, don’t fret. Here is a sample of a day 30 letter: “Dear Mr. Smith … I appreciate the e-mail from your secretary who mentioned my information is already on file. Most recently, I interpreted for a lengthy pre-sentence report in Columbiana County. Also, I’ve been assigned to team-interpret for a trial in Judge Lucci’s court in Painesville. Should you have the need for a state-certified court interpreter, please call me at XXX.XXX.XXX. I’m willing to travel and my rates are competitive.” Short, simple, and to the point. Once again, the potential client hears my name. Tailor the letter to reflect your experience.

Day 90: You can review assignments, workshops, recent credentials or anything that you have done in the past time period related to why they ought to hire you. Did you build a Web site? Again, make the letter brief.

Do I enjoy this disciplined exercise? No. Frankly, I don’t like this any more than balancing the checkbook. Yet, since I started to work freelance last August, my work load has increased. I am working harder for shorter periods of time and earning more. The 1/3/10/30/90 tool has put my name in the hands of judges and court administrators throughout northeast Ohio. When a case comes up, they know to contact “that guy from North Canton who keeps contacting us and is certified.” Have your rates and availability at hand as the client will call. Join me in the abundance.



1. Carolyn Y. - March 20, 2012

I’m so glad this worked for you. It sounds like a pain, but an effective one at least. My only question is how this meshes with conflicting advice from other professionals, who say that this might annoy/scare off potential clients. Is there a certain client profile you look at for this kind of marketing? Do you have a different plan for different types of clients?

Jill (@bonnjill) - March 20, 2012

He works with lawyers and judges primarily. I think this approach would work with smaller agencies (think one or two people). Interpreting appears to be much more personalized and hands-on than translating. I think if they seem annoyed just don’t contact them again.

2. Andie - April 3, 2012

I like the sound of this approach and will give it a try.

In response to your question Carolyn, I think the timing of this method is sufficiently spaced out that it wouldn’t be seen as pestering. If you’re short and sweet about it, as John instructs, I think you’ll be okay. Having worked at an agency where we received some of these types of phone calls, I can say I didn’t mind short communications. I just didn’t appreciate having to listen to a whole spiel over the phone.

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