Getting together with Troublesome Terps

Sometime earlier on in the pandemic, when we were still on lockdown, and our future seemed even more uncertain than it is now, the four wonderful people behind the Troublesome Terps podcast invited our instructor Julia Poger for a cozy fireside chat about marketing, business, and the art of negotiation.

We all know that sometimes some good ol’ shop talk is in order, and this turned out to be an exciting hour and a half that covered everything from pricing models, to negotiation tactics, and everything in between.

To listen, please follow the link, and let us know what you think!

Confinement Chronicles. Chapter 1. Keeping busy

Dear all,

Being surrounded by vast volumes of new information when we’re working means that we get used to the feeling, and miss it sorely when it stops. As conference interpreters we are addicted to constant learning, which is why it is hardly surprising that the idea of having a quiet and lazy confinement didn’t stick. We were barely two weeks into our respective lockdowns, when we started discussing which language to add next, and which CPD course to do now that we suddenly have the time. 

We here at Know Your Worth have been keeping busy too, and over the past two weeks we’ve had not one, but three highly successful editions of our KYW Lockdown Seminar, talking not only about some of our more evergreen principles, and how we’ve been using them rightly and wrongly, but also about the current situation we’re finding ourselves in. 

Some of us were prepared for this crisis, others much less so, which means we can, and should, use this time to make sure we are better prepared both for now and for when this enforced isolation is over.

We looked into ways in which we can help our existing clients, and we talked about weathering this storm, and moving forward into whatever the future holds. We also discussed how to best prepare ourselves for that future, no matter how uncertain it may seem at times, and we enjoyed an incredibly interactive and positive exchange with all of our participants. 

I didn’t expect the on-line format would be this informative, insightful and interactive. 

Libor Nenutil

True, every group felt very different. Different languages, different concerns, different dynamics. But one thing remained constant: at the end we had all become close, just as close as if we had met in person, and no wanted to hang up. 

Thanks again for a wonderful seminar. I have been sending e-mails to relevant clients today, and had one good result already.

Catriona Howard

We saw that with our first group, and we had the exact same feeling when the time came to say goodbye to the next two. 

Which is why we would like to thank you all for that, and to officially welcome you into the KYW family. 

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We would also like to use this opportunity to announce a new edition of our Lockdown Seminar. Based on your comments and impressions, we would like to tweak the format a little bit, moving from one hour and a half long sessions to two hour long ones. This will give us the possibility to focus even more on some of the pricing and negotiating related aspects of the course that you seemed to be particularly interested in. 

We are an evolving course. These are challenging times, and the next several months won’t be easy. But we are determined to help you through this. An important part of our philosophy is that we adapt to offer a programme that would best suit your needs, and best answer the questions you might have, given the current situation on the market. 

April 27 – 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – 1. Your Mindset

April 28 – 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – 2. You

April 29 – 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – 3. Your Client

April 30 – 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – 4. Your Money

All times are listed in Brussels time (GMT+1).

We are currently offering the full webinar series at a special #uncrownthevirus rate of EUR 200, and we are looking forward to sharing these coming weeks with you. 

To sign up, please e-mail us at kyw.seminar@gmail.com, and we’ll walk you through the next steps. 

Please note that the number of participants is limited to 10 people, and we restrict enrollment to those who can make all four parts. 

We will be scheduling more webinars, and releasing more content in the coming weeks, because all of us here at KYW are deeply committed to helping you thrive during this slow period, and on into the future.

Stay healthy, stay in touch, and stay tuned for more updates.

Announcing a KYW Seminar for the Lockdown

Dear all, 

In what is now being referred to more and more often as “the times of the corona”, we have all seen a considerable portion of our assignments disappear, our savings drain from our accounts, and a generally panic-stricken mood set it on all sides, with everyone desperately waiting for life to go back to normal, at the same time wondering if it ever, truly, will. 

As we wrote in our open letter published a few days ago, even if this current lack of income is weighing on us, we cannot give in to depression. 

During our enforced isolation, we need to take the time to take care of ourselves – and we also have more time than we usually do. Which means we can, and should, use this time to make sure we are better prepared both for now and for when this enforced isolation is over.

Which is why our instructor, Julia Poger, is offering a free 

Know Your Worth Taster

March 31st at 4:00 – 5:00 pm Brussels time (GMT+1)

Julia will talk about the basic mindset changes that you should make to have better relations with your clients.

This will be followed by a webinar:

Know Your Worth Lockdown Seminar

April 6 – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – 1. Your Mindset

April 7 – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – 2. You

April 8 – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – 3. Your Client

April 9 – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – 4. Your Money

All times are listed in Brussels time (GMT+1). 

We will work together on issues that have blocked us from seeing what we can do in these unusual times, and figure out a plan to move forward so we can work and earn both now and when things get back to normal – though it will definitely be a new normal. While principles from the Know Your Worth seminar will be discussed, this will be a more hands-on approach to what you personally can do today.

We are currently offering the full webinar series at a special #uncrownthevirus rate, and we are looking forward to sharing these coming weeks with you. 

To sign up, please e-mail us at kyw.seminar@gmail.com, and we’ll walk you through the next steps. 

Please note that the number of participants is limited to 10 people, and we restrict enrollment to those who can make all four parts. 

We will be scheduling more webinars, and releasing more content in the coming weeks, because all of us here at KYW are deeply committed to helping you thrive during this slow period, and on into the future.

Stay healthy, stay in touch, and stay tuned for more updates.

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Winter to Summer on Fast Forward

This year has definitely taken off to a busy start for all of us here at Know Your Worth, and, now that our mini-marathon is over, we’re delighted to sit back, relax, and share with you some highlights from the past month that saw us do four editions in four countries.

Our year started in beautiful Kyiv, that welcomed us for an anniversary edition with delicious food, incredible artwork, and new participants eager to learn more about marketing and negotiating.

We spent two busy days looking into ways to improve your presence on the market and your negotiating techniques, and we also looked at some possible mindset changes, which is probably the right thing to do at the start of any new year, to ensure you not only keep your existing clients and get new ones, but also understand them better to ensure they stay loyal to you, and keep returning.

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This, like our edition there last June, and the one a year ago, would not have been possible without the help and the incredible organizing skills of our local coordinator Andrii Biesiedin.

We then went to Moscow, where we had a one-day intensive training, focusing not only on the Russian market, but also on the European one, looking at strategies that could be applied universally, and brainstorming new negotiating ideas. It was particularly interesting to see our participants share their own stories and experience, and come up with some very creative solutions.

Thank you for the inspiring talk and the great workshop. It was interesting, practical, and motivating for anyone who wants to get insights into the world of marketing and negotiating in the field of interpreting

Elena Kravets

“It saved at least three years of my life.”

Kirill Chereshko

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During our time in Moscow our instructor Julia Poger also spoke at the Global Dialogue Forum, and we would like to thank the organizers for their kind invitation and warm welcome. Julia also gave a taster of her Negotiating seminar during the education portion, and took part in two panels, one called The Interpreter of the Future, and one called International Interpreters: How to Train Them:

It really is impressive to see how the interpreting community in Russia gathers to discuss topics of interest.

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 And on our last day in Moscow it snowed, so we got to see the city in winter!

 We then decided it was time to turn our attention to warmer climates, and headed to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, at the kind invitation of our colleague and KYW alum Heather Adams, before diving even further into summer, and bringing Know Your Worth to Guadalajara.

In Las Palmas we delved even further into the many whys we need to be aware of when talking to clients and even looked into the psychology behind negotiating, taking a more holistic approach to the entire process, while focusing at the same time on the particularities of the regional market.

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And the Guadalajara edition would not have been possible without the hard work and amazing energy of Jesse Tomlinson, who made sure not only our Marketing and Negotiating, but also the Intelligent Note Taking for Consecutive Interpreting went smoothly and without a hitch.

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I am convinced that you never stop learning and that one should always be eager to grow; lack of curiosity is one of the biggest mistakes that can lead to failure. I had the first consecutive interpreting assignment after taking Julia Poger’s Intelligent Note Taking course, and I confirmed that analyzing the speech has a whole new meaning in my mind, and it rocks!

Tania Saldivar Alonso

It was the first time we had both courses back-to-back, and we were happy to see that our participants remained active and energetic throughout, despite the sheer volume of new cases and information, with one of them referring to it as “an inspiring four-day journey”.

It certainly felt the same way for us.

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We are now going to take it easy for a few weeks, but not because we have nothing to do. The opposite, really, as we will be using the time to plan for a busy summer season, and look into a couple of new ideas, which we hope we will be able to present to you in no time.

In the meantime though, thank you so much for staying tuned, thank you for joining the ever-growing Know Your Worth family, and thank you for trusting us with your time, and you business.

We will be back with more news soon. 

A Busy Start to a Busy Summer

Most people use their summers to slow down, relax, and go on holidays, but not us, and definitely not the members of our close-knit and constantly growing Know Your Worth family. After all, what better time to dedicate some of your hard-earned free time to CPD, and to think about ways to change and improve the way you run your business?

Which is why we are so happy – thrilled really! – about the way our summer has been going so far. It started sooner than expected, with glorious weather and an invitation from our colleagues at AIIC Turkey and the TKTD to hold an edition in the beautiful and magical city of Istanbul at the end of May.

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The seminar was organized in record time, and we would like to start by thanking our hosts and local coordinators, Bahar Cotur and Asuman Okatan, for doing such a wonderful job and for welcoming us to Turkey. We would also like to thank Ali Can Karamahmut for the organization, Esin Aslan Gurbuz for the coffee breaks, and Cem Kaan Gundogar for the lunches.

Thanks to their hard work and incredible energy we were able to focus on the seminar, and so we spent two truly wonderful days studying the mindset necessary for successful marketing, regardless of your language combination or current market, and looked at ways to better understand not only you potential clients, but also your existing ones, to ensure they stay loyal to you, and keep returning. We firmly believe that one of the most important steps necessary for any marketing or negotiating to work is making sure you understand your existing and potential clients, as well as the why? and the what for? of the game, and that is why we always make sure to cover these topics during our seminars.

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We also talked about pricing and negotiating, covering same basic principles before diving into an in-depth discussion of real-life practices and the steps necessary to building a more sustainable and a much more successful interpreting business. Our participants also had a chance to work on several carefully selected case-studies, and we were delighted to see how well they coped with them, and how ready they were to think outside the box.

The seminar, business-oriented as always, also covered some market-specific issues, and our participants took a very active part in all of our discussions and brain-storming sessions.

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Overall, it was a brilliant edition, and we are very grateful to AIIC Turkey and the TKTD for the invitation.

Julia’s training was just what we needed: We had known for a long time we had to change our mindset and view our relationship with existing clients and prospect in a completely different way. We knew we were all highly competent and qualified, but always assumed the clients had to understand that – somewhat miraculously. Julia gave us the tools to make this change happen, not overnight, not next week, but in the medium to long term. She shared with us her experience and knowledge that would help us work on ourselves, our way of interacting with the client, correctly positioning ourselves as experts in the relationship. It was absolutely worth the money, and more importantly, the time we invested in this seminar. We’ve all seen how critical continuous professional development is, and we are all grateful to her for that…

Bahar Cotur

 

We would also like to wish the TKTD a very happy 50th Anniversary, with many more years of successful work on the market, and a wonderful celebration in December.

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Following our return from Istanbul, we had a short break before our trainer Julia Poger went to Kyiv to teach at a Know Your Worth spin-off event, a seminar on Consecutive Interpreting and Note-Taking.

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It was wonderful to return to Kyiv again, following our edition there in January, and we are already planning another edition there for the winter of 2020 with our wonderful host and coordinator Andrei Besedin, so please stay tuned for more updates. We won’t disappoint.

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And now, with July already upon us, we are looking forward to a very busy and exciting summer, with an edition a month, and at least two webinars in the works.

Come and join us in Saint Petersburg, Montreal, or Las Palmas, and, if you would like to hold a seminar in your area, please contact us via this website, or by contacting the seminar organizer Tatiana Kaplun at kaplun.tatiana@gmail.com.

The Business of Interpreting: FAQ 11 – How do I win the bid?

We’ve all been there, right? We get a phone call with our perfect assignment, all but offered on a silver platter. It’s in our niche, with our ideal customer, we know what the market will bear, and we know we are in the right geographical area. We have all the information the prospect wants, and they are speaking to us one-on-one.

And then… silence. Or the dreaded “thank you, but” email comes – thank you, but we have decided not to go through with this job. Or perhaps – thank you, but we have found someone else who better fits our budget.

Why you don’t want to win the bid

Of course we didn’t win the bid! And frankly, under these circumstances, nor should we have. Someone called us and asked our availability and price. That’s it, nothing else. They didn’t offer any more information, and they didn’t answer any of our questions – if we bothered to ask any.

These are all signs that the prospect was just looking for the service provider with the lowest price.They have limited knowledge about our profession – all they know is that they need someone with our working languages. They assume we are all the same, because they found us on the website of our professional association. So their only point of comparison is price. Even if we volunteer more information, send in a CV, or try to engage them in a conversation, they would still only look at the price. And there is always someone cheaper than us.

That means that to win the bid, we have to be cheaper than anyone else the prospect can find with a quick online search. But do we really want to be the cheapest? It’s a tough position to defend, as someone else could always come in just that little bit cheaper. And it’s not like we don’t have bills to pay. It’s true that we can have a large amount of flexibility in the rates we charge, but if we are always the cheapest then we have to work more hours to pay those same bills.

Moreover, we have to find a partner to work with – interpreting with us, providing the equipment. Which means that the fact that we charged rock-bottom rates will spread to the rest of the market, becoming part of our reputation and brand. And even if we can find someone to work with us at these low rates, we won’t inspire loyalty in our partners.

Surely there’s a better way to win bids?

Don’t worry, it can be done. Perhaps I can illustrate with a personal experience:

A tale of two jobs

Two jobs, both alike in every respect:

two lawyers – let’s call them Lawyer A and Lawyer B – called within a month of each other

to interpret for similar legal jobs – Job A and Job B – with

the same language combination

the same team strength, and

the same type of interpreting.

Legal interpreting happens to be one of the areas where I do a lot of work. I know the pitfalls, so I know what to include in my contract. I know the rates that the market will bear. I know who I’d want on my team. I probably know more than the lawyers about the rules in certain venues.

I sent in my fees and conditions to each of them. I also sent in a CV, and expressed my desire to help.

This is where the story splits:

I found out later that Lawyer A was shopping around. They had spoken with at least one other interpreter, and most probably several. Fair enough.

As you can imagine, I did not get Job A. Lawyer A wrote a polite “thank you, but” email declining my services. Reasons given (to me and the other bidder I know of) were many and strange: they wanted someone closer to the city (where all of us are based), they wanted someone who could better accommodate their client’s schedule (we all could). And they wanted someone who better fit their client’s budget. Ah, now there’s the rub!

Lawyer B, in contrast, contacted only me. Having asked for my fees and conditions, they said everything was fine, and asked that I note down the dates of the event in my calendar. Thank you very much, very happy to do business with you, fait accompli!

Every respect but one

The crucial difference between Lawyer A and Lawyer B is how they found me.

Lawyer A searched my professional association’s website, and wrote to me (and others) from that list. There was no attempt at any personal connection and no relationship at all.

Lawyer B had a need, and asked a former colleague for a referral to a good interpreter. The colleague referred me. Lawyer B then contacted me, gave me the details, and accepted my fees and conditions. There was no bid, nor any competition. There was just a satisfied customer, with whom I stay in touch, giving a recommendation to a former colleague. This meant that from the outset there was a foundation for trust and reciprocity, even before we discussed availability or price.

Start the relationship

To convert your Lawyer As into Lawyer Bs, you must build a relationship. In Lawyer A’s case, I made sure not to send only my fees and conditions, but also a CV that showed my expertise in this field, as well as an email stating that I was ready to help. While nothing came of it this time, perhaps I managed to plant a seed. They may call again for a future client with an appropriate budget, after having had experience with someone with less expertise, or less of a desire to build a relationship.

In the meantime, Lawyer B will not have complete radio silence from me. Nothing too much, but a note now and again to keep me top of mind. If the job gets cancelled, it won’t be due to concerns about my professionalism, but because one of the parties decided not to continue. And by the time we meet in person, I will be cemented in their mind as the best choice they ever made.

Learn to recognize and avoid the reverse auctions out there. Rather, focus on building and maintaining relationships. In the longer-term it will pay off.

Originally published on the blog of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (https://aiic.org/site/world/newsEvents/blog)

A few weeks ago our instructor Julia Poger spoke on the podcast of the American Translators Association’s Slavic Languages Division, talking to Veronika Demichelis and Ekaterina Howard about the Know Your Worth: Understanding Marketing and Negotiating for Interpreters seminar, the benefits of a proactive approach, and the value of CPD and professional training. You can listen to it here:

https://soundcloud.com/atasld/episode-14-interview-with-julia-poger

The podcast covers some common issues with marketing and negotiating that most of us conference interpreters have to face in our daily lives, and Julia generally shares her personal and professional experience in the field.

She also talks about Know Your Worth, the seminar for interpreters that started as part of the Cambridge Conference Interpreting Course back in 2002, soon evolved into a one-day, then its current format. It has now taken place in cities and locations all over the globe, and most of our editions seem to support the age-old idea that all too often people are too comfortable sitting where they are. Interpreters are not that different. It is easy to stay within your bubble, and to remain within your comfort zone, but the market is changing, and the profession is as well. And often all you have to do is change just one or two things in your current approach.

If you want to stop being reactive and start being proactive, this seminar is for you. All it takes it “a simple mindset shift”. And that’s exactly what KYW can do for you.

Try to listen more than you talk, try to understand your clients and your prospects, and why they are looking to hire you. You need to present yourself as an expert, you need to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and in what way is it different from what everyone else does.

What makes you stand out?

How to think in business terms?

How to avoid being treated as a commodity?

If you want good, solid suggestions as to where to get your marketing facts and advice, then listen to the podcast as Julia shares some of her favourite sources on marketing and negotiating, as well as a few suggestions of courses you might want to consider taking if you’re really serious about marketing and turning your interpreting into a successful interpreting business.

Even if you’re a recent graduate, take a look, or rather a listen, so that you don’t make some very disappointing mistakes when you’re starting out.

And drop us a line if you’re interested in joining us at one of our upcoming editions.

Moscow Edition. Round Three

Following a relaxing summer – yes, we did need to rest after all of our editions in the Americas – we thought it was high time we returned to Russia, and so the third Moscow Edition of Know Your Worth: Understanding Marketing and Negotiating for Interpreters took place this past weekend, on 30 September 2018. And since it just happened to coincide with the International Translation Day we thought we’d start by wishing you a happy belated St Jerome’s Day!

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It was the third time that the seminar was held in Moscow, and the second time we teamed up with the Cosines International Contest for Conference Interpreters, as our instructor Julia Poger joined the jury of this all-Russia turned international competition, and gave a talk on Seeing Structure and the role of analysis in conference interpreting as part of their three-day conference.

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We also thought it was time to experiment, to shake things up a little bit, so we decided to revert to our original, one-day format, and the results were as interesting as they were exciting. We still focused in great detail on marketing and negotiating, and we covered such questions as branding, position, and client relations, but this time the speed was slightly different. True, this meant that everything had to go faster, and was considerably more intense than usual – even though some of you might say it’s hard to imagine things getting even more intense – but that also meant a new rhythm, new dynamics, and a much livelier discussion after the event.

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We started by talking about the mindset necessary for successful marketing, and covered some general principles (as well as a number of highly practical aspects) of pricing and negotiating, all necessary steps in building a more sustainable and much more successful interpreting business. We were also able to devote some time to looking into how the interpreting profession is perceived from the outside, all in order to better understand our potential and existing clients.

The seminar covered all the bases for me. From reaffirming some practices I had tried out tentatively or providing applicable insights into “something that had felt reasonable to do somehow maybe,” to being an eye-opener.
Fedor Makhlayuk

Despite this edition being held in a special one-day format, we still wanted to see our participants brainstorm at least a couple of new cases together, as this often leads to them finding new and exciting solutions to different marketing and negotiating problems. It also means that they are more likely to start implementing the new principles and ideas sooner, and in a more direct manner. And once again we were not disappointed. On the contrary.

We were particularly happy with the way this edition’s participants responded to the new information, and how they took to the format, and all the commentary and remarks showed that they had come prepared, and with a solid understanding of their respective markets, but with an open mind and a desire to learn more, and to figure out how to navigate it better and more efficiently.

It was super helpful and I’ve already used some of the techniques today trying to ask a client some questions rather than blindly giving them my rates.
Natasha Kharikova

We always say that it’s best if people come prepared, and with a well thought through agenda, and with this group this was clearly the case. Perhaps that’s why the one-day format didn’t seem as daunting as we had feared at first, and why it seemed that everyone had found answers to at least some of the questions bothering them, and for that we are immensely grateful.

Notwithstanding my already considerable experience on Russian interpreting market, I’ve learned a whole number of new insights from Julia regarding the principles of self-promotion among prospective clients, psychology of negotiations, ways to convince the customers of the value of interpreting services and the need to pay for them adequately.
Alexey Prokhorenko

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It’s become a tradition of ours by now that we devote considerable attention to the general atmosphere we create at the seminar, and we were extremely lucky – and very grateful – to be able to return for the second year running to the truly incredible Impact Hub Moscow. We would like to thank their team for all their help in the run-up to the seminar, as well on the day, and for making sure our participants had a wonderful time and nothing to worry about, except getting to the seminar, and getting the most out of it.

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Last year we thought that we’d found our perfect Moscow location, and that we could not have possibly wished for a better place to hold the seminar. This time simply proved us right:  a beautiful location in the heart of Moscow, wonderful atmosphere, and lovely people to help along the way – in all honesty we could not have wished for a better place.

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If you would like to hold a Know Your Worth seminar in your area, please contact us via this website, or by contacting the seminar organizer Tatiana Kaplun at kaplun.tatiana@gmail.com.

The Business of Interpreting: FAQ 10 – How can I check my profit margin?

I just walked 3000 steps more today than yesterday! Recently I was given a pedometer, and now I can see how close I am to the ideal 10,000 steps per day. And more to the point, I can keep track of my performance.

As interpreters, there are metrics we should be tracking in our business as well: How many days did I work last year and the year before? How much did I earn during each of those periods? We may become even more detailed, noting the types of clients – international organizations, individual businesses and sectors, government ministries, courts, etc.

Two key metrics to evaluate profitability

As business people, there are two essential metrics that we should track, ones we hear about whenever we watch Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den: CAC and LTV.

CAC, or customer acquisition cost, is a business person’s way to understand if their clients actually make them money. In our case, CAC is the cost of convincing a client that they want to buy our service.

To put it simply, CAC may be calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring clients by the number of clients acquired over the same period. For example, if we spent 1000 CX (currency X) on marketing in a year and acquired 10 clients, the CAC for each client is 100 CX.

In our case, we could measure CAC expressed in money or in time, since we usually charge by the day and we know what our day costs. If our daily fee is 800 CX (100 CX per hour for an 8-hour day, including all lunch and coffee breaks, to make the math easy), we just spent the equivalent of 10 hours marketing, and were able to acquire 10 clients, each with a CAC of 1 hour.

If we then consider how much we project to earn from a client over time, the LTV or customer lifetime value, we can determine if that individual client is profitable, and then compare that client to others to see which are the most profitable. In other words, we can see who is helping us to cover our expenses and earn us a profit, and who is literally costing us money to work for.

How it works

So let’s say it took us the equivalent of 4 hours to market to Client A before s/he agreed to sign a contract for 3 days (3×8, or 24 hours) of work. That client is profitable to the tune of 20 hours.

On the other hand, if it took us 10 hours to convince Client B, who ended up hiring us for only one day, Client B cost us 2 hours. If we do not expect to work for them again, and they are not amenable to giving us a referral or a testimonial, then Client B was not worth the time we invested.

Know your cost of living

Before doing this exercise, make sure you understand your expenses on a monthly (recurring costs such as rent or mortgage, food, health insurance, transportation, child care, office supplies, etc.) and annual basis (monthly expenses plus all one-off payments such as a car, a holiday, a computer, an emergency fund, etc.). Divide this grand total by the number of days you can realistically expect to work in a year to get the bare minimum rate you must earn per day worked to be able to break even. (Download Julia Böhm’s excellent article for information on what to include by clicking here.)

For example, if you must earn 2000 CX per month, then in the case above you would have covered only 1800 CX of your monthly expenses (Client A brought in 2000 CX, and Client B cost you 200 CX). So you would need one more day of work for someone who is easier to sell to than Client B.

If we expect to work for a client again, and don’t have to expend more effort or money to convince them to hire us, the LTV just keeps going up. So if we could plan on Client A hiring us even one more day, we would have just earned another 800 CX at zero cost. Whereas, unless they radically change their behavior or give us lots of referrals or an amazing testimonial, we should just stop trying to sell to Client B. After all, why keep a client who continuously makes changes, thus using up far more time than we have budgeted for? Let them go!

Of course, we may decide to work for clients who don’t make us much, if any, money – but only if we know our expenses, that they are covered, and we have another reason to work for them. Reasons abound: we like the cause, we want to gain a toehold in a new market, we want the prestige… but we must know what those clients cost us.

Evaluating your clientele

So how do you do this? List all your current clients, and try to remember how much money or time you spent in convincing each of them to buy your services for the first time. Expenses would include the cost of one business card, time writing emails, a portion of your website, any dedicated expenses such as transportation to a meeting, etc. It may have been very little, if it was a referral from another client; it may have been a lot, if it was someone whom you had to introduce to interpreting.

Do this for all your current clients and rank them by CAC. Do you notice any trends? Are clients from a particular industry less expensive to acquire than others? Make sure to do this exercise for any new client you acquire.

For the same clients, consider how many days you have already worked, and how many more days you might realistically work for each, as well as how much more money, time and effort you will have to expend to convince each of them to hire you again.

Then calculate how much these clients could earn you and see if there are any common features among them. If there are, this should be your niche, your specialization. In fact, this approach could be another way to come at the ideal client question I posed in FAQ 3: If you already know that your most profitable sectors (lowest CAC and highest LTV) are electric power generation, or environmental protection, then you have found your ideal client niche.

If this niche isn’t your favorite, consider if you can make it a favorite and specialize. You have already made inroads into the sector, which will save you a lot of preparation and research time for future jobs, meaning that your effective daily earnings have just increased without having to increase your nominal fees.

If you can’t, then try and understand why you are able to market yourself so successfully to one niche, and not so successfully to another. Once you have that figured out, your business should grow in your ideal niche, and you will know for certain that all your clients are profitable.

Time to start keeping track of your metrics!

Originally published on the blog of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (https://aiic.org/site/world/newsEvents/blog)

The Business of Interpreting: FAQ 9 – What is the customer decision journey?

What will trigger a potential client’s realization that they need an interpreter? And how will they go about finding one? Hard to say right off the bat, so let’s start by thinking about how we search for something, for example terms for a medical conference. The internet, of course – but where exactly?

There are many search engines available, bringing up lots of websites – some gathering all sorts of terminology, others giving you just one term at a time. One of the medical speeches will be about how substances in smaller quantities can be helpful, but larger can kill you – digitalis is one example. So you look up digitalis and get lots of photos of flowers, one of which you just saw in your garden. Really? What’s its common name? Foxglove! Hmm, where did that name come from? And you find that in various Gaelic languages, it’s “folksgloves,” like fairy folk. Then you wonder, do languages other than Gaelic mention the fairies when talking about this plant? And down the rabbit hole you go, not looking up from your computer for hours.

The internet has so many different paths that no one’s journey is alike, even if they start at the same place. And really, maybe no one even starts at the same place either – you noticed the digitalis, maybe another interpreter focused on nanoparticles.

Our potential clients face the same problem. They could start with a search for linguists; they may understand that they want spoken or oral translators. They might even know the word interpreter, though some of those hits will bring up actors or computer programs that execute other programs.They could look for an individual, or an agency. They may already know someone who knows someone. Or they may simply call the local university to ask for a student who speaks that language. Or the embassy of that country. There is no set path.

The customer decision journey

So let’s take a look at the typical customer decision journey. It starts off with a trigger, something that prompts a search, in this case for an interpreter. That trigger could be anything – the boss wants to invite a famous speaker from another country to the AGM, the CEO has just thought about expanding into overseas markets, or the EU suddenly realizes that all their French interpreters with German will be retiring in the next few years. In other words, it could be anything.

The next phase of the journey is research. This is the scary part, as clients most probably don’t know you, may not even be aware of your industry, and they could go anywhere. They have multiple paths available, such as recommendations from friends and colleagues, television, print media, the yellow pages, and of course the internet.

Social media may help, if you are a prominent contributor of content that educates buyers on your own website as well as on LinkedIn and other platforms where serious clients would expect to find a professional. But it may also hurt, since it is easy to find others doing the same thing as you, as well as numerous other distractions. And SEO doesn’t always work here, e.g. if the client heads in a direction that is different from what you consider logical – keep in mind that phone call to the embassy! This phase is when clients gather and evaluate most of the information they need to find the interpreter(s) they will finally hire. In today’s world of immediate gratification, it may take very little time.

Once they have evaluated the information, clients start contacting the interpreters and agencies they found. In fact, well over fifty percent of their buying process will have been completed before they ever contact anyone – which means that clients already have in mind a ranking of the people or agencies they are contacting, and if the first person who answers even comes close to what the potential client wants, they will most probably get the job.

So any information they get from you both during and immediately after the search phase will be critical, as it will differentiate you from the mass of other providers that they are in effect interviewing.

This is where all your homework on what value you provide and how you differ from other interpreters will come in handy. Never merely state a price and end the call – you must have a conversation. The easiest way to start would be by asking where they found you, which is good market research for you as well. After that, make sure to ask all the questions you need to do due diligence on the client and the event, and listen carefully to the answers. If their problem is one you can solve, let them know that you will get back to them in [name a time] with an offer. Then get back to them at that time without fail, to start building trust.

The next point on the journey is when you are offered the job. This is only the halfway point in the customer journey, and takes little time, just like the trigger. It takes place once and is the start of the second half of the cycle, a portion that most of us ignore.

Groundwork for the future

You shouldn’t think that you can simply sign the contract, provide the service, get paid, and have a satisfied client. You may not realize it, but there are multiple contacts you will have with the client during the process of providing your services: obtaining documents, providing input on equipment, advising on how to ensure the event is truly multilingual as opposed to an event with a superficial patch of last-minute interpreter hires. Each one of those contacts will lead your client into thinking that you are easy to work with, fulfill their needs, and have an engaging personality – or it could prove the opposite. At the end of the day, it isn’t just your interpreting – it is this phase that makes or breaks you.

In fact, mediocre to bad customer experience is the norm, so anything you can do to enhance this relationship and experience will ensure that clients see you not simply as a service provider, but as the expert and partner that contributed to a successful event. Clients will not only know, like and trust you for the future, but they will become your advocates in a densely crowded and highly competitive market.

If a client is happy, ask for a written testimonial or a recommendation online, and for possible referrals to new contacts. The written aspect of a testimonial cements their opinion of you in their minds, and the social aspect shows others that clients speak positively about you, which of course is much more valuable than you talking about yourself.

At this point, you have come full circle back to when something new triggers their need to hire an interpreter. But since the previous experience was so positive, why would clients waste time repeating the research and evaluation process? They call you directly, and you take the shortcut directly to the point where you are hired again.

This is a simplified model of how a client finds a service provider. There are many other models that make the rounds, such as the funnel model (you run into that when you click to receive a free report and are required to give your email address to have it sent to you), or the hero journey (described by Joseph Campbell and exemplified by Luke Skywalker), but this one sums up best what we ourselves have to deal with when clients find us.

I bet that most of those that called you out of the blue have already done a minimum of research, at least to find your name, even if that was simply searching for “spoken translator” + “your foreign language” + “your city”. It’s your job to then make their calls to you into such engaging conversations, showcasing your value to them, that they go no further, and become your biggest fans.

Originally published on the blog of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (https://aiic.org/site/world/newsEvents/blog)