Why You Need to Keep Swipe Files for Your T&I Business

Swipe files are something I believe every translator or interpreter should be keeping for their business, regardless of whether they prefer to work with translation/interpreting agencies or direct clients.

So, what’s a swipe file? In a nutshell, a swipe file is a file or folder you keep on your computer, in your email, on your phone, or other device that you update often. You can refer to it any time you need to create new marketing content or want to do research on a certain client or market you wish to target with your services. These files could also be called info banks, data mining, or content collecting. There are many ways to keep and use swipe files to remember information that could help you market or grow your business in other ways.

Here are a few ways to organize swipe files for your business and the kind of information you could keep in each one.

Create a swipe file folder or a series of folders and store them on your computer’s desktop or even in a cloud-based file organization system, like Dropbox or Google Drive. Gather information about your ideal client and save it in this folder or in an organized series of files you can refer back to when you need content to feed your marketing efforts. Take screenshots of social media posts or forum conversations with things that your ideal client wants to know or has issues with (e.g., their pain points, challenges, etc.) and that you can help them solve. Make notes of little details, quirks, or interesting tidbits that are specific to your target market. You never know when this type of information will come in handy for a marketing campaign!

The more information you can gather about your target market’s challenges, the easier it will be for you to market your solutions in a way that speaks to your ideal market. If you see an ideal client asking a specific question in a forum or complaining about something related to their job, take a screenshot of this, post a comment if you have a solution, and bank the information to help you create marketing content, like social media posts, warm emails, or blog posts.

You could even keep a swipe file that’s specific to each of your current clients that you consider to be ideal (i.e., those you want to continuing working with!). Keep this information handy so you can use it to add a creative touch to your emails.

Here are some examples of information to keep about your current/ideal clients:

  • Their achievements or awards
  • New ventures, like opening their doors to do business in a country where one of your working language(s) is spoken or adding a new location
  • Important dates like birthdays, work anniversaries, etc.

Use this type of information to send short notes to them like “I remembered XXX was today. Good luck!” or “Congratulations!” Your clients will notice you took the time to reach out to them and wish them well. This may seem like a small gesture, but it can be significant in maintaining great working relationships. Messages like these also keep you top of mind. They are a friendly reminder to clients that you’re available to help them, and they don’t feel like a sales pitch!

Keep a swipe file of images on your smartphone. Have you recently received a package or a piece of mail with something you ordered or with a marketing slant that you found very effective? How did this piece of mail make you feel? Valued? Understood? Happy? Clearly, it’s not practical to keep every package or piece of effective marketing that makes its way into your mailbox. Instead, snap a photo and add the image to a folder on your phone. If you can sync the folder to your desktop computer, even better!

Over time, you’ll have a collection of photos saved of packaging or messaging that you found effective and worth noting. Could you do something similar for your clients? How could you find a way to “package” your services to make them feel valued, understood, or happy? This type of information can be incredibly valuable when you’re tweaking your client onboarding process, submitting invoices, or even sending basic emails to clients. You’ll be able to take the common invoice or email and tweak it to make them feel how you did when you opened that fun package in the mail. Be creative and have fun with it!

Add a folder to your email account and name it “Marketing Swipe Files” or “Ideal Client Swipe Files.” We all get marketing emails from time to time, or even daily for that matter. Which emails or newsletters do you find yourself opening time and again? Add these emails to your “Marketing Swipe Files” folder in your inbox. Analyze which emails you’ve found the most effective in marketing to you, as a customer, and that really “speak” to you. What did the business or sender get right to keep you opening their emails and engaged with their content? How can you do something similar in your own business for your clients?

On a similar note, from which emails do you find yourself unsubscribing? Instead of deleting them, keep a folder to house these unwanted emails so you can look back and remember what you don’t want to do in your own marketing campaigns.

In a separate “Ideal Client Swipe Files” folder, store emails that you’ve sent back and forth with your clients (remember, only the ideal ones!) that you want to have handy the next time you’re crafting a marketing email or writing a new social media post. Did someone ask you a question that you’re often asked? File it in this folder. It could very well be the question that inspires your next blog post topic or social media post. Does your client speak a certain way or use specific jargon or terms? Take note and try to incorporate these into the messaging the next time you write to them.

When gathering content for your swipe files, it’s important to also look to other industries for inspiration. I get a lot of my own inspiration from graphic designers and copy editors, for example. I find that both work similarly to translators and interpreters, and they also find incredibly creative ways to market to their ideal clients through both images and copy.

Make the information in your swipe file work for you. Once you have a decent amount of content in your swipe files, analyze the information you’ve collected.

  • What can your swipe files tell you about your ideal client?
  • What can you do with this information to improve your marketing efforts?
  • What can you learn from what others do in their industries that could be carried over creatively to ours and help you to stand out from others who provide the same services as you?

Over time, you’ll continue to update your swipe files as you learn more about your ideal client and about marketing in general. It can be fun to collect this information, and it should ultimately give you a lot of insight. Set some time aside on your calendar each week or month to search for new information to add to your swipe files. Doing this will allow you to keep your content fresh and create content based on what your ideal client would want to see from you. It also helps you stand out as a translator or interpreter in your language pair(s) or area(s) of specialization, because it shows you know your client, you did your homework, and you took the time to find out more about them and their needs.

You can be as detailed and collect as much information as you want to store in your swipe files. They are yours to use for marketing your business or learning more about the market in which you want to work. You may find that your ideal client or target market can change over time. All the more reason to keep updating your swipe files to remain relevant in your marketing efforts.


Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Membership Committee (2018–2020), Public Relations Committee (2014–2018), and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog-home. madalena@accessibletranslations.com

“Business Practices” will alternate in this space with “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.

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