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 »  Articles Overview  »  Business of Translation and Interpreting  »  Marketing Your Language Services  »  The Freelance Translator's Website: Futile Accessory or Professional Tool?

The Freelance Translator's Website: Futile Accessory or Professional Tool?

By Marina Varouta | Published  02/26/2007 | Marketing Your Language Services | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://deu.proz.com/doc/1170
Author:
Marina Varouta
Deutschland
Deutsch > Griechisch translator
 
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THE TRANSLATOR'S WEBSITE AS A MARKETING TOOL

The effectiveness of a website as a marketing tool for the freelance translator

A website may represent an important investment in time and money, but it is an indispensable tool for today’s freelance translator:

  • Prospective clients can find you through search engines.
  • Prospective clients who find you on PROZ.com or other translator communities might want to see a more personalised presentation of your experience and services.
  • Web search hits serve to somewhat "prove your existence" as a freelancer. As soon as the customer visits your website, they are convinced of the consistency and seriousness of your services. This depends, of course, on the design and presentation of your website.

Website conception and misconceptions regarding the freelance translator's website

Regarding design

Your website is like your "shop window", so its appearance is crucial. Avoid home-made designs, standard FrontPage® templates and Word documents converted to HTML web pages, which defy not only your potential clients' aesthetics, but also the W3C web design standards and search engine requirements. A professional web designer can provide you with a professional homepage which tells your clients: "I am taking my services seriously".
Of course, you must invest money on such a homepage, but it will certainly pay off in return. It is better to reduce your marketing costs by having a 3-page (e.g. "Home", "Services", "Contact") professionally created website, rather than investing days and weeks in creating a 15-page unprofessional home-made website. Keep in mind that you could have worked on translation projects and earned money during the time you spent creating your own ugly homepage and desperately trying to fix incomprehensible for you html or css bugs!
Optimally, your website design will be adapted to your specialty fields and service offerings. Ask your web designer to at least somewhat adapt your website to your personality and to your specialties, through the use of colours and graphic material. The website should be kept serious and interesting, avoiding an affluence of flash effects and video animations, unless they can better illustrate the essence of your services.

Regarding multilinguism

Your website should preferably be available in your specialty languages and, if possible, also in English. This reinforces your offer of services and assists search engines in finding your homepage. If you are a French to Spanish and Spanish to French translator, and your homepage is only in Spanish, do not expect that many French potential clients will find you through Google™. French prospects will search, for example, using the following words: "traducteur français espagnol" or "traduction médicale français espagnol". If your website does not contain those words because it is written only in Spanish, do not expect to figure amongst Google™ results and do not expect your website to be discovered by the potential client.
If you cannot afford to invest time and money to translate your homepage into all of your languages, try to feature your specialty languages or most requested languages.

About web hosting and domain names

Creating a homepage does not mean you are online: you have to pay a "web host" who grants you "web space" for your "web pages" and you also have to register a "domain name". You may compare this to renting an office and registering a brand name.

Choosing the appropriate online address is an important step to a successful website:

  • Rule 1: Avoid free web hosting, which provides you with complicated long addresses such as http://members.tripod.com/translation or http://translator4you.spaces.live.com and chases your clients away with its pop-up advertisements and huge commercial banners on non-translation subjects. You may find web hosting packages at affordable prices, depending on your needs with respect to web space and the web technologies your website uses. Before assigning the web design to a professional, you may discuss web hosting issues with them and tell them explicitly if you prefer to adapt the website technologies to your budget, or the other way around.
  • Rule 2: Choose a semantically significant address, naming your essential services (e.g. www.translations.com, www.translation.at, www.traducciones.es, www.website-localization.com, www.ad-hoc-interpreter.com, www.subtitling.net) or making reference to your services in an indirect way (www.translated.net, www.localizeme.com, www.translate-it-in-english.co.uk). In the URL, you may mention your specialty fields (www.traducteur-technique.fr, www.medical-translator.net, www.biomedicaltranslation.com), your specialty language (www.traductores-espanoles.es, www.english-translations.com, www.frenchtranslations.co.uk), your name (www.müller-übersetzungen.de, www.gibson-translations.co.uk). A significant domain name helps search engines retrieve your website. If you wish to keep your website strictly professional, avoid "informal" or "frivolous" URLs such as www.1translator4u.net, www.the-cheapest-translation.info etc.
  • Rule 3: Keep your URL as short as possible. Of course, a URL such as www.medical-translations-french-english-german.com may contain the essence of your services, but will it fit on your business card? Will your clients be able to remember it?

Regarding website maintenance

The maintenance of your homepage at least once a year is essential. Your return clients want to see your website "move". This reassures them that you are still "on the scene", actively working and developing your services. Clients appreciate permanency. Small changes may suffice: translating your website into your new working languages, adding your new software, changing the old photos, adding some new clients and feedback in your references, adding your new or upcoming projects, adapting the web design to the constantly evolving web standards.

CONTENT CREATION: THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF THE FREELANCE TRANSLATOR'S WEBSITE

What should I mention on my website?

What will make your website most effectively stand out from the crowd is its content: your specialties and the way they are presented, through an appropriate design. An ideal personal translator website should contain the following features:

A HOMEPAGE with a welcome message. This "welcome message" could be a short text describing in three sentences your "who – where – what – how":

  • Who are you? What kind of translator are you (languages)?
  • Where are you located (country)?
  • What are your specialties (in terms of fields)?
  • How are you different? (in terms of quality or other)?

Try to make this start page appealing, so that your website visitors wish to learn more about your services.

Here is an example of translator start page, simple, short and professional:

I have been working as a self-employed translator and interpreter for English, German and Swedish for many years. During my professional career I have specialized in the following areas of expertise: geotechnics and environmental engineering, electro-technics, computer and network engineering, mechanical engineering and materials testing, aviation and space technology. Please request a detailed offer for the translation of your brochures, catalogs, operating instructions, software packages, advertising texts, websites and technical literature. Prices depend on the number of lines (50 characters per line including spaces), degree of complexity and urgency. (Source: http://www.uli-bjoerklund.com)

Your BASIC CONTACT information:

  • Full name (real name)
  • E-mail address: You must provide a working, permanent, return e-mail address. Be aware that accounts at Hotmail®, AOL®, Yahoo!™ and the like do not give an impression of professionalism or permanency

Your SERVICES:

  • Your service types (e.g. proofreading, editing, translation, localisation, interpreting, vocal transcription, back-translating, software localisation, certification/attestation, DVD subtitling...). Specific types of service if needed (e.g. Interpreting ad-hoc, consecutive, simultaneous, public service interpreting...)
  • Your working language pairs (e.g. English to French, French to English, Chinese to English...)
  • Your specialty fields, general (e.g. business, health care, art...) as well as specific (e.g. marketing, hearing care, contemporary art...)
  • The document types you translate, e.g.:
    Legal: deeds of sale, property and insurance contracts, family, county and high court orders, pleadings, divorce settlements, European Court of Human Rights pleadings, EC legislation and reports, Council of Europe reports...
    Medical: doctors’ reports, patients’ notes, case studies, medical equipment manuals...
    Telecoms: equipment manuals and user instructions, software interfaces and technical specifications, tender documentation, regulatory requirements, licensing agreements...
  • The SOFTWARE you use (especially CAT tools: Trados, déjàvu, wordfast, SDLX, TransitXV, etc.). You may include a mention of your translation memory units or dictionary entries ("Over 150,000 translation memory units").

Detailed information on your services will assist search engines in delivering your website among their search results. A search engine searches for words. Potential clients may enter specific words according to their specific needs; they might search for, for example, "medical equipment translation, German to French". So you MUST detail your services and deliver as many specific words as possible to search engines. If those specific words correspond to a prospect's needs, they are more likely to find your website, and thus to choose your services.

What else can I mention on my website?

Your PRICES:

  • Rates per word, per line, per character or per hour.
  • Payment methods accepted. If you wish to work internationally, you have to offer international payment methods such as PayPal®, Credit Card Payment, Moneybookers™, etc.
  • Your payment and service delivery procedures.

SUPPLEMENTARY CONTACT information:

  • Postal address including country name
  • Telephone number
  • Fax and mobile number
  • Any other contact information you wish to publish (ICQ®, Yahoo! Messenger™, Skype™, etc.)

The more complete your contact information is, the more trustworthy your services appear: explicit contact information including address, telephone contact and access plan reassures clients that you are an existing service provider.

Your BACKGROUND and EXPERIENCE

  • Translation education
  • Experience
  • Your accreditation, qualifications and memberships
  • Clients and references, if not confidential
  • Client feedback
  • Types of clients

A LEGAL NOTICE
According to your country of residence, you might be obliged to mention your VAT or other local tax identification number, your full name and full address, or if you own a translation agency the full name and address of your agency, the terms and conditions of use of your homepage, your service and payment conditions, your privacy policy and business confidentiality policy

What should I avoid mentioning on my website?

  • Your detailed hardware information: Translators commonly mention their detailed hardware specifications. Nobody is interested on how many MHz and RAM your computer has, or your Hard Disk model and size, or your printer brand and specifications. Just make sure that your computer platform will not create any problem in your cooperation with people using other platforms. Without mentioning the details of your system, ensure that your client has no doubts that you will be able to receive and open their documents and deliver to them a translation in the same format. Keep your computer up-to-date and make sure that you have software for reliable Mac/PC file conversions.
  • Trivial software: Does a cook mention in his curriculum that he can boil eggs? Does an IT specialist mention that he has a good knowledge of Windows? Why should a translator mention that he can translate .txt, Word or Excel documents? Mention all your DTP and CAT tools though.
  • The software version, unless it is significant.
  • 1000 specialty fields: Be specific. Customers like it when they feel that you are a "specialist" of their interest field, and not an "I-do-it-all" translator – unless if you are really specialised in numerous fields and can prove it through accreditations and references.
  • Errors: Customers depend on your perfection and will not forgive language or typing errors on a translator website. If you translated your website in languages other than your mother tongue, a native speaker should proofread it. Here is a real example of this kind of error:

    We offer translations from all Europian languages into Albanian and vice versa on all major subjects. All our translations are produced and double checked by native spakers of the target language. (Source: http://www.albaniantranslations.com)

  • Personal interest information: Unless you are a hobby translator wishing to make new friends on the net, avoid including your personal information such as links of personal interest, long reports on your hobbies or private life, links to friends homepages, family, pet, house or vacation photos, tourism information about your country, etc. Here are some examples of this kind information included in real translation homepages:

    Miltiadis (my husband), Victoras (11 y.) and Alexandros (8 y.) are the rest members of the team! Alexandros has his own website! You are welcome to visit it! You will need to know Greek to read the text, but he also has plenty of nice photos... We all send you our love!... (Source: http://www.greek-translations.net)

    My current employer allows me to do freelance work at the office during quieter times. The office computer has MS Windows XP Professional installed, with MS Office 2000 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Additional software include pretty much the same as at home, mentioned above. (http://www.leuce.com/translate)

OPTIMISATION OF CLIENT ACQUISITION THROUGH THE WEB

Optimisation of your website content

Use or ask your web designer to use website statistics tools to get information on the people who visit your homepage: Which countries do your website visitors come from? Which kinds of computer systems, internet connections and Internet Browsers are they using?
Use the statistic information to improve your website. Here some examples of possible optimization:

  • If 50% of the people who are visiting your website are located in France, but your homepage is only in English, consider translating it into French.
  • If 40% of the people who discovered your homepage on Google entered the keywords "English medical translator", consider adding more detailed information about your medical translation services to convince your prospects.
  • If 75% of your visitors have slow internet connections, consider removing any heavy graphics, videos or animations that are weighing heavily on your visitors computer systems and making the visit to your homepage difficult.
  • If the average consultation time visitors spend on your website is 5 seconds, your homepage is in need of a major overhaul: consider changing its design, adding more content, making it more interesting, more liable to capture the interest of internet users.

Will my translator website bring new clients through my door?

Having a homepage is not enough for encouraging new clients to come through your door. You have to generate site traffic. The more people that visit your homepage, the more possibilities you have that among those people someone shall need or know someone who is searching for the kind of services you are offering. If your website and services are convincing, you shall gain new clients.
How to bring visitors to your translator website?

  • Submit your URL to the most common search engines.
  • Reference your website on the Internet: translator forums, translator communities, specialized translation portals, but also classified directories such as dmoz.org or dir.yahoo.com.
  • Reference your website in printed sources: yellow pages, translator magazines, subject-specific catalogues, ads in local newspapers.
  • Every mail, letter or invoice you write should have a link to your website. Your business card should include your website.
  • Always "boost up" your visitor rates by using online marketing tools such as "Google™ AdWords" or advertisement banners.
  • Distribute postcard or flyer ads and include your URL.

Advertising your homepage should be maximized.

More prospects coming via your website converted to clients

Through your website, prospects might request a quote or more information about your services. It is imperative that you ensure that everyone who makes this crucial first step to make contact with you through your website is

  • Contacted immediately - check your emails daily and reply to prospective clients within one working day if possible! The faster you respond to requests the better. Prospects cannot bother to wait for an answer and your business rivals are eager to take away your promising new clients!
  • Handled properly and effectively – always take the time to reply courteously and thoroughly to all requests. Be as relevant and personable in your marketing communication as possible. A new business opportunity is opening for you: do not miss it!
  • Followed-up consistently – keep track of all the people that have requested information via e-mail, whether this leads to business cooperation or not! Capture and record as much information about them as possible - at least their name, e-mail address and the kind of service in which they showed an interest. This information can be used to support future communications. Make sure you establish follow-up procedures, for example:

    - if a client does not reply to your offer, e-mail them some days later to inquire about their reaction to your service and prices;
    - when a prospective client says he needs time to think about it or to "compare prices", do not "just forget all about them". Kindly recontact them after some days, expressing interest but avoiding being "pushy";
    - if a prospect who did not convert into a client re-emails you several months later, retrieve their personal information in order to personalize your communication - prospects appreciate you remembering them and their needs;
    - use all captured contact information for your future marketing activities.

This way, you ensure that potential new business clients or collaborations do not slip through the net and get lost in the world-oh-so-wide-web.

© Marina Varouta-Binder, 2006 - http://inamarr.com

NOTE:
The website content cited in this article was accessed on December 5th, 2006. Any changes after this date cannot be controlled or updated by the author of this article.



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