How to sell translation services (for translators who hate self-promotion)

How would you like your existing clients and colleagues to do the self-promotion for you and open the doors of their network to you? Imagine having prospects wanting to work with you from day one.

But the question remains, how do you get past clients and colleagues to do the selling for you?

The answer is referrals. The truth is the power of referrals is undeniable because it’s a highly persuasive method to get us to buy things. Research suggests that referrals:

  • Buy more
  • Need less convincing
  • Are more loyal
  • More likely to be repeat clients
  • Negotiate less

Overall referrals are more profitable. That means you can spend less time getting new clients and earn more at the same time.

People trust the opinions of other people they respect. In some instances, the opinion of complete strangers influences others to make a purchasing decision.

For example, how many times have you opted against going to a restaurant because of bad Yelp reviews? Or perhaps, you went to see a movie because it was highly recommended by a friend?

Day in and day out we use word-of-mouth referrals whether we realize it or not. Freelancing is business based on relationships. And people like doing business with people they can trust. So why do we as freelance translators overlook referrals?

I have found there are two reasons:

  1.  We’ve tried asking for referrals in the past but had little to no luck getting new clients.
  2. We think word of our good work will spread naturally and clients will come rushing in.

The problems with both of these methods is that they’re too passive. You can’t be sheepish if you’re trying to squeeze every opportunity you can out of your existing client base and colleagues.

Your best clients have a network of colleagues that are just like them. If you can help prospects achieve their goals with your translation services or help them overcome their biggest challenges, then it’s your duty to reach out to them.

Your existing clients aren’t doing you any favors by referring you to their network. When you’re asking for referrals you’re coming from a place of service. It’s an opportunity for you to help their colleagues with your translation services. 

 Introducing the power referral script 

Besides not directly asking for referrals. The biggest mistake freelance translators make is ask for referrals when they’re in desperate need of new clients. 

So when should clients be asked for referrals? The best time to ask for a referral is when a client lets you know that they’re happy with your work. 

I have a tested and proven referral script you can use on your clients. The best part is you won’t have to fumble when you’re talking to your clients or wonder what to say to them. The script works both over the phone and in email. 



Does this method work for translators working for agencies? Absolutely yes. There is also another technique I like to use called the, “Foot in the Door Strategy” to nail down clients from companies and agencies I want to work with.

You can get the word-for-word email script to the Foot in the Door Strategy by clicking on the link above.  Just by using these two methods you should be able to double your clientele within the next 90 days.

Don’t get disappointed if you don’t get a referral right away. When it comes to generating referrals for your freelance translation business it’s best to rinse, lather, and repeat. Having a system in place will make referral selling a streamlined process.

Eventually new clients will start trickling in with your network doing the bulk of the work for you. And down the line your referrals will multiply to the point where your clients and colleagues will feel like your 24/7 personal salesforce. 

But don’t forget to reciprocate. You have to give referrals to your colleagues in order to continually receive them. And with your clients you need to bring your A-game. That means not only does your work have to be of superior quality but you have to give them the red carpet treatment every time you work with them. 

Now I want to hear from you. Have you used referrals in the past? Share you results with us by using the comment box below.

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  • Simon Akhrameev

    Reply Reply January 7, 2017

    Thanks for the post, Maryam. The idea is really great! I always ask for a feedback from my clients, but for some reason, I never asked to refer me to their contacts that could potentially need my services. I will definitely try this approach with one of my current customers.

    • admin

      Reply Reply March 3, 2017

      You’re welcome. Asking for feedback is a great way to gather valuable information about clients. Keep me posted on your progress using this strategy.

  • Melisa

    Reply Reply April 15, 2017

    Hi, nice article! But I have a question. Could you expand on how this would work with agencies? What if you have a lot of experience with and good feedback from a company that say “we do not do referrals”? Thanks!

    • admin

      Reply Reply May 31, 2017


      Good question! I would recommend you connect with your project managers on LinkedIn and see if they’re connected to other project managers from agencies you’d like to work with. Some of them have worked for a number of agencies and have colleagues that turn to them when they need an interpreter or translator. If you have a relationship with a project manager, it shouldn’t be difficult to ask for a recommendation. Now some may refer you, others may not but you won’t find out until you ask!

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