As often, this article concerns mostly new translators. I remember that when I started, I did not have confidence in me as a professional ("I do not have enough experience, if clients give me a chance it is because they feel pity for me or because I offer lower rates", etc.). Also, I always under estimated myself, thus giving a negative image of me to my clients and potential clients. With time, I identified some avoidable mistakes and some advice that can help.
1. Do not capitalize on your weaknesses: for instance, do not say “I just got my diploma but...”, instead say “I have a diploma/bachelor/master from such school, such studies”. The nuance may seem minimal, but removing the expression “I just got” may help to make a big difference. Anyway, your clients will probably see your CV, in which they will know early enough that you do not have enough experience, so do not emphasize this aspect! On the contrary, highlight the positive points: (you are a beginner as a translator but) you have already worked at a lawyer’s chamber/publishing house/…? Discuss it and explain to the client how this is a positive aspect instead of apologizing in advance for your lack of experience. The idea is not obviously to cheat and to invent a life, but to simply value your strengths.
2. Make yourself an important image: find a logo that represents you, display it on your CV, on your website, etc. Be active on social media (I know, I insist a lot on that), have a professional active page where the client could know more about you, about the people who follow you, etc. Keep a good record: in your profession, it is certainly important to have an impeccable spelling. If your articles are full of mistakes, you will scare away your clients instead of attracting them. Avoid writing in capital letters (very aggressive) or putting ten exclamation/question marks while writing.
3. Separate private and professional life: point 2 aims to show the client who you are as a professional. You may sure talk a little about your private interests, but do not publish 1000 pictures of your baby/pet on your page, do not make private jokes with your friends in the comments of your page, etc.
4. Always be polite, even in case of refusal: did you apply for a job offer and the client answers that he had found someone else? It happens. You were even lucky, because most of the clients do not even care to inform you in such a case. The best thing to do in such a situation is to answer politely that you are happy to know that they had found someone, that you hope that it will go well and that you are always available if they need help for another future project. You could also possibly ask to know why the client preferred someone else (does it have to do with the price, experience…?), but adopt the right tone - avoid the “What does he have that I don’t? / can I know what you did not like about me? «how funny it can be, imitating an ex-hysteric
5. Same thing in case of criticism: it may happen that the client sends you a negative feedback for a translation project and for many reasons. If you made a mistake, admit it honestly, apologize (say you are sorry, not “yes but it is because my son was sick/I did not have enough time…” you are wrong, no matter the reason) and promise them to be more careful in the future. The clients will calm down fast when they’ will notice that you admit your mistakes, and will be more likely to forgive you. However, you may obviously explain yourself if you think you are right, but do not get mad at the clients, explain calmly to them why you made such choice and ask their opinion.
6. Finally, obviously behave like a professional : do not accept projects that you may not be able to handle, send your translations in due course (or in advance, it’s always a wonderful surprise), be clear about your schedules (if you are available only from 10 am to 4 pm, tell the clients in order to let them know when they can reach you), be reactive (do not take 3 hours to answer to a direct offer, the client might give up and look for someone else), Besides, always answer to the clients even if you will not accept their project, so they should know they have to look for someone else (unless stated otherwise, some send a collective e-mails to several translators asking to answer only if one is interested), you can also recommend a colleague (a trust worthy one) to replace you in the project.
In conclusion, have confidence in yourself. Are you a beginner? Everyone had to begin once, it is not a weakness. The freelance translator faces a huge competition since it is a profession which is not regulated as far as the certificates are concerned and it is practiced from a distance by colleagues worldwide. So, maximize all your chances and do your best!