Corinne McKay’s ‘Marketing to Direct Clients’ course – a review


By Claire Harmer


I took Corinne McKay’s Marketing to Direct Clients course back in April and a few people have asked me about it since then, so I thought it might be helpful to write a review. I also thought it would give me the perfect opportunity to go over some of the things I learnt.

I enrolled on the course as I’d been thinking about re-working my marketing materials and website for a while, with the aim of landing more work from direct clients. In addition, there were various aspects of direct client prospecting that I felt uneasy about (for example – emailing someone I didn’t know, rather than meeting them in person) which I was hoping for some advice and guidelines on. Now that I’ve completed the course, I’d definitely say that I feel more confident going forward and would recommend the course to any translators or interpreters who are keen to work with direct clients.

A bit about the course structure:

  • The course lasted 4 weeks, and for each weekday Corinne sent us a task of the day, which included watching pre-prepared presentations, listening to podcasts, drafting emails to prospective clients, etc. For some of these tasks we were asked to send our ‘homework’ to Corinne so she could give us some feedback, which was very beneficial. She was always happy to share her experience of what had worked for her in the past and what hadn’t.
  • Two 60 minute Q&A sessions were scheduled each week, where we could ask Corinne any questions we had relating to direct clients, what we had been learning on the course or freelancing in general. I found these invaluable – reading a book about marketing to direct clients is one thing but being able to ask an expert on the subject your own questions is another. These sessions were recorded and the link for each one was sent to us via email, so if you couldn’t attend a live session you could listen to it another time. The recordings were not only helpful if you missed a session, but were also useful for going back over some of the questions that were asked and taking notes. It was really interesting to listen to other participants’ questions too; many were questions that had occurred to me at one time or another. Equally, those which hadn’t gave me new ideas, sources of inspiration, or insight into a different language combination or specialism.
  • There was also a Google Group which was open to all the course participants. For each Q&A session we could all submit two questions on the Group, which were answered by Corinne either during the session or in writing via the Google Group if we ran out of time. The Group was also great for sharing ideas and asking the other participants questions – what QA processes people used, how to track expenses, what CAT tools we all used, whether Twitter was useful for finding direct clients, etc.


A few examples of things we learnt about on the course:

Warm email prospecting

A key aspect of the course for me was learning more about the various ways to contact potential direct clients. Corinne gave us concrete examples of targeted marketing emails, paper letters, and sample translations as methods of pitching our services to them (read a great article about the first two here). In terms of marketing emails, Corinne recommended an approach called ‘warm email prospecting’ developed by Ed Gandia, a successful freelance coach, trainer, copywriter and entrepreneur.

Ed’s course is no longer available on his website but his e-book on the subject is available to read for free and Corinne has written a blog post about what she learnt from the course. Another source that may be of interest is Tess Whitty’s interview with him.

N.B.: As part of my marketing campaign I’ll be trying out all of the methods Corinne talked to us about (targeted marketing emails, paper letters, and sample translations) after the summer, so I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!


Deciding who to contact

Corinne also helped us to identify who we should contact at companies. She emphasised that every industry is different. For example, in the legal sector paralegals are the people who are likely to deal with translators, whereas in the pharmaceutical sector regulatory affairs managers would probably do this. However, she did give us some good ideas for people to contact in general (even if they’re not the right person they should be able to point you in the right direction/give you an indication of whether the company may be interested or not):

  • Any person/department with the word ‘international’ in their title (i.e. international relations department, international marketing department, etc.)
  • PR/Sales/Marketing/Communications departments, as they have more of an external focus and their job is to generate business and spread the word about the company.
  • Corinne mentioned that the best option (if you can find them) would be programme or project managers for the kinds of things you work on, so for me that might be a Clinical Trial Manager.

Pulling clients to you

During the course, Corinne talked about how to proactively find direct clients, i.e. at their industry conferences and trade shows (she hosted a great podcast interview with FR>EN translator Joanne Archambault on this subject), on LinkedIn and Twitter, in their association directories and their industry publications. She also talked about how to pull clients to you, so through features like your online presence, having specific pages on your website for specific services (something which I’m hoping to do when I get round to it!), getting referrals from other translators, writing for your clients’ professional journals and presenting at their conferences (for example talking about best translation practices in their industry). Corinne also mentioned that client-facing newsletters are a good way of pulling clients to you, as there are not many translators who write for people on the client side. This is something I’m hoping to develop later in the year, but first I need to come up with enough ideas!

Having a translation partner

Another thing I have been thinking about since taking Corinne’s course is working with a translation partner. I’d already heard a bit about Corinne’s translation partner Eve Bodeux in some of her blog posts and videos, but on the course we learnt a bit more about how they helped each other.

Corinne stressed the importance of having someone to whom you can refer your direct clients when you’re on holiday or out of the office for the day, explaining that you may be the only translator they work with, or at least the only translator they have for your language combination. Unlike with translation agencies, with direct clients there’s a risk that you could lose them if you’re unavailable even one time. Providing them with a solution if you’re ever unavailable will show that you have thought ahead and that you will not leave them stuck in a tricky situation.

Corinne suggested including the direct contact information of your translation partner in your out-of-office email (with their permission first, of course!) when you are away. She says that in 14 years of freelancing this method has never lost her a client. Obviously you also have to be happy to do the same for your translation partner when they are away. Corinne has written a great blog post on this, which you can read here.

An overall review:

All in all, I found the course extremely useful and Corinne’s positive outlook helped me to overcome several confidence issues I had, particularly when contacting prospective clients for the first time. I think when you work for yourself, and in most translators and interpreters’ cases (including mine) by yourself, it’s easy to overthink things or to doubt yourself. Corinne’s course gave me the information, tools, and inspiration I needed to create a concrete marketing plan and gave me the confidence to contact direct clients I had been thinking about contacting for months (a year in some cases!). During the course, Corinne reiterated that you don’t have to feel 100% ready to contact a potential direct client – as she pointed out, we may never feel ready!

Corinne also runs other courses for translators including ‘Getting started as a freelance translator’, ‘Beyond the basics of freelancing’ and ‘Breaking into the book translation market’ (a new one which she told us about on the course!).

If you have taken any of these courses, or any others you would recommend to fellow translators and interpreters, it would be great to hear from you. All comments are welcome in the box below!


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