Daniel Freedman, web strategist for LinguaLinx, concludes his two part series by discussing how translators can best use the Web to establish themselves as professionals who solve business problems.
In the first part of this series, I provoked some lively discussion with the provocative suggestion that translators should reject much of the conventional wisdom about web marketing.
The advice was to de-emphasize Facebook, Twitter and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). My contention was that if you are a translator, your attention should be focused instead on just two key things:
1. Establishing yourself as a translation expert
2. Making sure you have a website that proves your expert status
Let me begin with a personal anecdote.
In a previous life, I was an executive at a prestigious and well-funded NGO in New York. A colleague knew that I was an Anglophone from Quebec. She had heard me speaking French to a French diplomat at a conference, and had evidently been impressed. She therefore leaped to the entirely unwarranted conclusion that I should be the person to translate an important letter to a French government minister.
I demurred. I said the task was so important that we needed to hire a professional translator. I even suggested we hire two or three translators and then select the best version. I volunteered to coordinate everything.
My suggestion fell on deaf ears. I heard nothing more. Months later, I was horrified to stumble on the letter that had been sent. It was a catastrophic fiasco of a word-for-word translation. I can only conclude that my colleague had done the work herself, dictionary in hand. It was awful. I was mortified.
But here’s the point. Translators need to appeal to people like me, had I been entrusted with the task. The decision-makers may not be translation pros, but many can recognize professionalism and integrity when they see it.
So you need to show professionalism and integrity on your website. For a great example see the website of Lukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz, who was kind enough to respond to my earlier blog post. If I needed a Polish legal translator, I would hire Lukasz in an instant. In fact, I have already passed along the URL to my upstairs neighbours, two young lawyers (one works in refugee law, the other is a former clerk to a Canadian Supreme Court Justice).
Which brings us to another key point: cyber-serendipity. If you make an effort to establish yourself as an expert, good things may happen. But you have to make your own luck. Another thing I like about Lukasz’s site is how much his own mission and values come through. It may be a bit cranky and idiosyncratic for some tastes, but at least prospective clients will know where they stand. This can save everyone a lot of time and trouble.
The site also neatly sidesteps the issue of posting a full resume on the web. Another respondent to my earlier post had raised the problem of identity theft. But there’s not much to steal on Lukasz’s site. There is just enough there to make you want to contact him for further information. That’s ideal.
I would, however, advise tact and diplomacy in what you post. If you have professional issues with the disrespect often shown to translators, may I make a gentle suggestion?
Your website or resume may not be the best place to raise these issues loudly.
The risk is that you come across as a malcontent. Newsflash: employers tend not to like malcontents. They want professionals who can do the job well. On the other hand, you have to make clear what you will and will not do. Think carefully about striking an appropriate balance.
Your ProZ.com profile is also crucially important. Take the time and trouble to present a complete picture of your capabilities. Above all, avoid seemingly minor formatting errors that can spell doom. I’m told the dreaded “wall of words” often rears its ugly head. Use many paragraphs and lots of white space.
Anything you can do to enhance your expert credentials is an asset. Write articles on ProZ.com or elsewhere. Appear at conferences. Train new translators.
Above all: let the world know you are a professional.
Former everything Daniel Freedman has been a television news executive and a PBS Online guy. A late onset athlete, Daniel has also edited The CrossFit Journal and done web strategy for The Personal Trainer Development Center and Precision Nutrition. These days, he selects clients who match his passions, including a coffee company that sends free samples! He is trying to talk a travel client into a free trekking trip for (ahem!) “research” purposes. Currently Web Strategist for LinguaLinx.