Business cards for translators

In 2015, I bought tickets to a translation conference. Full of hope about my first live event, I soon asked myself – wait, do translators need business cards?

Do you need business cards as a translator?

Do I need to remind you? Translators work remotely. We mostly translate in the comfort of our homes, away from potential clients.

I can hear you saying ‘Yes BUT… what if I come into someone who needs translation services? You never know’. No you don’t, but you can take a guess. If you spend most of your day at home, and go out to buy groceries, walk the dog or take your children to school… chances to meet potential clients are slim.

I kept a couple of business cards in my wallet ‘just in case’ for months. They’d slowly fade inside the wallet, and I swapped them out with new, pristine ones. I don’t remember ever handing out one.

As a translator you do need business cards, though, when you attend live events with colleagues or potential clients.

What should you include in your business cards?

The very important information you want clients to see first when they open your CV. Or any online profiles you have, actually.

  • Name and surname
  • Language pair, extended since you have plenty of space
    ✓ Russian to English
    ✖ RU > EN
  • Area(s) of expertise. If you specialize in agricultural machinery and are attending an event in the field, only list that area. If you are attending a translation conference and you have 3 areas of expertise, it’s fine to list them all
  • Contact info (email & phone number)

I always had bad timing. The same year I attended that conference, I moved to the UK. I had printed more than 200 business cards. And probably handed out 4 or 5. I was left 195 business cards that were totally useless because my phone number had changed.

Should I create my translation business cards myself? And how many do I need to print?

Please don’t. You want your business cards to look professional. Not exactly the impression you’ll give if they look like you made them in Paint.

Head over to Fiverr.com and look for Business card design. You can have them done professionally for as little as 20 €. That’s easily affordable, even if you are just translating as a side hustle.

Alternatively, if you use an online business card service to create them, use one of their templates. Moo.com (not an affiliate link) has great ones that will work just fine.

As for how many… not as many as you think. Careful here – business cards printing services always offer you discounts based on quantity. They are an amazing way to make money… for those who are selling them. Unless you are attending a 1-month networking marathon, 100 business cards should suffice (probably for years).

Final thoughts

Most of the time, business cards for translators are nothing more than a case of shiny object syndrome. Translators often go through cycles of feast and famine. During the famine stage, you might be tempted to try out new marketing methods.

Business cards, without a networking opportunity already planned, is a classic one. A logo for your translation business comes second. And opening a translator blog is probably the third one (and the most expensive).

I can think of many ways to get a bigger bang out of your buck. Many of them are listed in my guide for aspiring translators.

PS: You may be wondering how the story ended. Well, a couple of years later I started to attend video game conferences to get direct clients in game localization. I had new business cards printed. They worked. I was happier this time.

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