If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a solid online presence is more important than ever, especially for translators and interpreters.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our online presence is more important than ever. Not only has just about everything moved to a remote setting during this crisis, but the “new normal” has also served as a bit of a forced reminder for most people that they can search for just about anything they need online. In addition, due to the stay-at-home orders that were issued around the world earlier this year, businesses have quickly pivoted their offerings to accommodate their clients online.
So, how has the pandemic made having a solid online presence even more important for translators and interpreters?
First, we have to remember the fact that most of us work with clients from various places, even interpreters who tend to work in their own cities or regions. Our clients can hire us from anywhere, and most of us, especially translators, can work from anywhere. That means that the easiest way for clients to find us is online.
While I would never say that in-person events are not valuable, the pandemic has shown us that travel plans, conferences, trade shows, and gatherings of any kind can go out the window very quickly. We can’t control this. But what we can control is how we show up online: our online presence, the platforms we use, the content we create and share, and the ability to reach our clients wherever they are.
You own your online presence, especially your website. Events and networking opportunities may get canceled, but no one can take your online presence from you, pandemic or not. There are potential clients out there right now searching online for services like yours, with more to follow in the coming months as businesses begin to ramp up activity. You need to be ready for them with a website that will capture their interest and showcase your work to the best advantage. How? Here are five strategies you can use to help achieve this goal.
1. Decide what you want to be known for when it comes to your professional work. Consider other translators you know who specialize in certain areas and/or languages. When you hear about jobs that fit their expertise, you immediately think of them, right? That’s what you want your colleagues and clients to do as well when it comes to your own professional work.
For example, what do you want to be known for when it comes to:
- Your specialization(s);
- Your language pair(s);
- Your work style and ethic;
- Your expertise related to the translation or interpreting assignments you take on; and
- The value you provide to those you serve?
Once these points are clear in your mind, think about how you can share them with your clients and colleagues so that you become known for and associated with them. Yes, this is related to marketing. But you can become known for certain characteristics or fields of expertise by showing up as someone with a professional identity that reflects those characteristics or fields.
Here are a few ideas on how to market yourself as an expert translator or interpreter:
- Speak about topics in your field of expertise. (Even though in-person events are not happening at the moment, there are plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge via online professional development events.)
- Attend lectures, workshops, conferences, trade shows, and other events that are being offered virtually.
- Write articles or share news about issues in your field.
- Volunteer for professional associations in your specialization(s) or special interest groups within a larger translator/interpreter association that fit your specialization(s). (Think ATA divisions!)
- Connect online with other colleagues in your specialization(s) and language pair(s) who you can network with and share ideas on a regular basis.
While I know it’s not always easy to talk about yourself, you have to consider that if you don’t tell people what you do, how will they know?
You need to talk to people and engage with them. These are the best ways to become known for the professional work you do.
2. Choose the most strategic places to showcase your professional work for your ideal clients. Hands down, the number one place to showcase your work is through your website. You must build your online home—your website—first and the roads leading to it—social media, search engine optimization strategy, etc.—second. Once you have a website in place that you’re sure speaks to your ideal clients in a way that appeals to them and specifically portrays the type of work you want to do in the long term, you can work on other areas of your online presence to complement it.
So, what are those roads leading to your online home? Here are a few paths I would recommend you start paving first:
- Your LinkedIn profile;
- Professional directory profile listings; and
- Social media accounts on platforms where your clients are hanging out and actively engaging on a regular basis.
First, let’s start with LinkedIn. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked tools professional translators and interpreters can use to their advantage. In fact, after your website, I would say it’s the most important piece of your online presence to get right. Why? Because LinkedIn is a massive search engine used by professionals to find other professionals. Professionals are on LinkedIn to do business.1
Second, your professional association directory listings should feature information similar to what one would find on your LinkedIn profile and website. Now, before you think this is overkill, hear me out. When customers need a translator or interpreter and don’t know where to look, they turn to professional associations. If your profile is up to date, clear and concise, contains your contact information (and please link it to your website!), and stands out from others in your language pair(s) and area(s) of specialization, clients will be more inclined to reach out to you instead of someone else whose profile is not as comprehensive.
Finally, we come to social media. I don’t push social media a whole lot when it comes to marketing your professional translation and interpreting services. This is because most clients are more inclined to look at the other three pillars of your online presence first: website, LinkedIn profile, and professional directory profile listing. That said, if you know your clients are hanging out on Instagram or Facebook, then by all means be active there! Here are two examples:
- A translator who regularly works on marketing texts for fashion and cosmetics is more likely to find their clients on Instagram than other social media platforms.
- However, a translator whose bread and butter lies in translating genealogical records and related documents is more likely to find their ideal clients on Facebook. Why? The fastest growing demographic on Facebook tends to be users age 65 and older.2 So, it makes sense to invest in some Facebook ads to target a group like this if you’re already active on Facebook with a company page for your professional services.
And of course, there are those of us who work in fields where our ideal clients are simply not looking for professionals on the mainstream social media platforms. That’s okay. We have our websites, LinkedIn, and professional association directory profiles where they can find us.
3. Determine how much time you have to work on the various platforms where you will have an online presence. It’s easy to get excited about improving your online presence, but it can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Ask yourself these questions.
- How much time can you realistically devote to making improvements?
- What can you do to make the time you spend more efficient?
- What actions can you take to see the biggest return over time?
Look at your weekly schedule and figure out a time when you can fit in an hour or so to work on your online presence, whether it’s making updates to your website, searching for articles clients might find useful that you can share throughout the following week, or engaging with colleagues and clients on social media platforms.
4. Clarify how you will engage with others online. Part of honing your online presence is determining how you’ll engage with others online, including clients and colleagues. While clients and colleagues are two different audiences, both are essential to growing your career. That said, they are different so the way you engage with them online should be authentic and effective. Here are some questions to help you brainstorm how to do this:
- What can you share with clients to help them in their daily work?
- What can you share with colleagues that will help them but still reflect your professional expertise?
- What are the best places to engage with these groups online?
- How can you support clients and colleagues and their goals when you engage with them?
- What do you want clients and colleagues to remember about their experiences engaging with you online?
A few colleagues have told me that they don’t believe you should connect with other colleagues on social networks like LinkedIn, but I could not disagree more. By engaging professionally and in a supportive way, your colleagues can be the source of some of your greatest “helping hands,” referring you for new projects, new clients, and other opportunities.
However, it’s important to know where to delineate what you share with clients and what you share with colleagues and the purpose behind both. For example, if you write a blog aimed at colleagues, don’t put it on the same website where you would direct clients. Blogging for colleagues on a client-facing website can cause confusion for clients. After all, the goal of a client-facing website is to appeal to your clients, not your colleagues.
5. Choose one to three platforms and commit to them. While it would be nice to show up everywhere online for your clients, it’s also true that we’re busy professionals who are pulled in many directions. By choosing one to three platforms and devoting time and effort to them, you have a much better chance of reaching your ideal clients in a noisy online world. These platforms (one of which should be your website!) should all be client-facing. Once you determine which platforms are the most strategic places for you to show up for clients online, then you can also devote time and effort to engage with colleagues. While it’s good to be in touch with colleagues and nice to interact with them online, they are not usually the ones who pay your invoices. So, be mindful of how much time you spend engaging with colleagues versus clients.
Start Small and Build on Your Foundation
Take these strategies and implement them in small steps. This will ensure you have a better chance of following through on your plan and creating a sustainable online presence you can continue to refine over time.
- Start with your website (your online home) and work on the other pieces (the roads leading to it) next.
- Your online presence is something to continuously refine. It’s not a one-and-done project or effort.
- Your website will continue to need updates to fit your ideal clients (who may evolve over time). Your LinkedIn profile should reflect the same changes you make to your résumé or the “About” page of your website. Likewise, your professional association directory profile should be a reflection of your website and your résumé.
To summarize, a solid online presence is a cohesive image of your expertise and a clear message of what it’s like to work with you. Continue to experiment with your online presence and make updates as your business and client base evolve.
It’s more important than ever to make sure you have a strong online presence, and that’s not going to change anytime soon! How do you plan to improve your presence? What’s already working for you and what would you like to tackle this year?
- If you need a little LinkedIn jumpstart, check out my article, “Four Things You Didn’t Know LinkedIn Could Do for Your Business,” http://bit.ly/LinkedIn-strategies.
- Aboulhosn, Sarah. “8 Facebook Statistics Every Marketer Should Know in 2020,” http://bit.ly/Facebook-stats.
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Membership Committee and Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s 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. Contact: email@example.com.