My suggestions are for freelance translators only. If you are employed as full-time translator, you will not want for work, if your employer knows what is good for him. As already mentioned in my post about reverse translation, I worked as a full-time translator in Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticaly Limited (IDPL).
From where can one locate clients? From anywhere is my short answer. Let me elaborate with a few concrete examples from my own experience.
It was 1982. I was proceeding by flight to the Hyderabad Unit of IDPL for some very urgent translation assignment. The flight took one hour. I was leafing through The Hindustan Times provided by the Indian Airlines as courtesy to the passengers. As I was scanning idly the situations vacant page, one advertisement caught my attention. A television antenna manufacturer had advertised for the post of an accountant. Definitely of no concern to me but the fact that it was having German collaboration was of interest. I dashed off a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the company in question and posted it as soon as I reached Hyderabad. It was a handwritten letter. By the time I came back to New Delhi, I received word from the company to come for an interview. It was an eye-opener for me. From then onwards I started looking out for more such opportunities.
For example, there is a government publication appearing every month. It contains the list of government-approved foreign collaborations. I used to consult this and prepare a list of Delhi-based companies whose German/French collaborations had been approved. Then I would dash off a handwritten letter to the CEO of the company in question. Further developments such as getting replies, having face-to-face discussions with the company directors, turning out good translations etc followed with clockwork regularity in quite a few cases.
Another mehtod would be keeping the eyes and ears open. Whenever new persons are introduced to me, I would talk to them about themselves and they liked such talks. I would know about the companies for which they work and get details of possible German/French connections of the firm. Rest is as already described. Visiting Indo-German and Indo-French Chambers of Commerce for preparing a list of their Delhi-based members is also part of such exercise.
So far so good, let us see now about the drafting of such letters. It is by God's Grace that I found an effective formulla in the first letter itself written by me to the antenna manufacturer way back in 1982. There are just a few changes in the content, especially in the numerical values such as years of experience, age etc. Let me reproduce that letter here.
Sub.: German/French translation services
I am a freelance German/French translator with 7/4 years' experience in the above languages. Being a graduate electrical engineer having worked for 11 years in that capacity, I specialize in translating all types of technical literatures as well as interpreting for the visiting technical experts speaking only German or French.
Given your German connection, I feel that you will be in need of the above services in your line of work from time to time. In case you are interested, we can have a more detailed discussion on the subject.
In those days I did not even have a telephone. Hence all communications took place by letter. Once I obtained telephone connection in 1990, I would mention the telephone number as well. I am mentioning this here just to show that the absence of facilities should not deter one.
Let me describe the response to the above letter. I was called for discussion and I was subsequently entrusted with their German translation work. With time I got their French translation jobs too. During the first discussion the CEO told me that the fact of my being an engineer as well as a translator intrigued him and he wanted to know more. Whatever it might be, the main thing is the getting of work.
We should also be clear as what not to write and speak during subsequent discussions. Before concluding this part, I would like to mention that with the advent of the Internet things are much more easier. But the basic principles remain.
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday -
2 days ago