Lesson 123: Developing a translator’s USP – challenges and opportunities

Lesson 123: Developing a translator’s USP – challenges and opportunities

Continuing this month’s thread, I wanted to look at the ways to develop your USP. I’ve read several articles on this topic, and while they’re obviously useful, they’re concentrating mostly on USP for companies. As much as I agree that a freelancer is a company in its full rights, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that a business hiring a few people or selling products will be working on its USP in a different way than a specialist freelancer.

Last week, we looked at some tips on how to get on the right track when comes to thinking about USP. You’ll find many more exercises, pieces of advice or guidelines on how to work on your unique proposition, but I think there are several challenges related to that when we’re talking about selling translation. Well, to start with, our work is best if it’s unnoticed. How can you make that stand out? How can you make translator’s invisibility unique?

Areas in developing a translator’s USP

One of the most recent articles I came across suggested looking at three areas when developing your translator’s USP: your promise, what’s unique, and what’s compelling. In other words, your USP should include the promise you make to your customers, the explanation of what makes you unique when compared to other providers and what catches the customer’s eye, or attracts them.

That’s a challenge, no? First, looking at the promise, what are the things that come to your mind that you could promise your clients? Superior quality, personal approach, individual attention… The problem is that we’re all saying that, including translation agencies, and some of us are miserably failing at it. I haven’t ever met a translator who’d say they deliver poor quality, yet the universe is full of bad translations. Is this promise really going to work? Even from the client’s perspective it seems unclear. Do they understand the issue of quality in translation? Do they know what its value for them? Do they realise how much it can cost them (e.g. in lost sales) to cut corners and save on translation? I don’t think so.

Perhaps we all got this promise thing wrong. Perhaps quality isn’t what we should be promising to make our services stand out. Perhaps a good USP should aim at looking for a promise that matters more or is clearer to the client. I went almost full-on into promising better conversions and sales, thus higher monetary return.

Uniqueness is an issue in our industry, I dare say. Only this year I’ve heard of several cases of colleagues being too inspired by websites belonging to other, established translators, from design to copy. Others try to replicate USPs of others, and yet others seem to think that copywriting means copying somebody’s writing. Maybe, just maybe, this comes from the fact that we’re so used to taking the ideas drawn up by others and working on recasting those into other languages. Maybe this is what makes some of us think that we can “transcreate” somebody’s USP and appropriate the results.

I know it’s a challenge to be unique in a profession where you have to be invisible. But there are ways of doing it. Why don’t you try to leverage on your personality, interests, or developing a unique approach? If it’s hard to make the service itself seem unique (which I also think isn’t entirely true), be more innovative when comes to the packaging.

Finally, compelling. I don’t know about you, but for me it is a challenge to make my translation services so attractive to prospects that they simply can’t walk away. Translation to a large extent is still seen as an expense, not an investment. With the little client education that I’m doing on my end, I can see that it’s hard to convince businesses that translation can bring them good returns. For them, it seems to be an ancillary, necessary cost of expanding abroad. Is there a way of making it compelling?watch full movie Tammy online

I’d say it’s doable if you use the emotional approach in your USP, not only the hardcore rational we’re so used to. What about discovering what your prospects’ aspirations are and using this to talk about translation? Or is it impossible? Tell me in the comments below!


  1. Monika Kenderessy , on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:53 Reply

    Morning Marta,

    This article is a perfect replacement of my missed morning coffee: it keeps my wheels in motion.
    It seems to me, based on this article and my experience, that the best course of action in finding your USP is to explore yourself and the market. We are all different hence there should be something unique about us. Once it’s found the other steps seem to be somewhat easier.
    I’m just wondering about one detail here and it is in regards to where translators are positioned nowadays. If we all (or most of us) manage to create our USPs would or would it not appear to potential clients as
    1. Translators are marketers rather than linguists;
    2. There was something wrong with the service that necessitates this kind of marketing;
    3. Freelancers do not form a community and potentially pushing the client towards an agency?
    I’m really just wondering about these without too much insight into marketing, but I’d appreciate you reading it.

  2. Karolina Łachmacka , on Mar 10, 2015 at 15:40 Reply

    Thanks for this deep insight, Marta! I shared some views on the similar topic lately. Can’t agree with you more! And thank you once more for the BSfT!

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