In the fall of 2018 I ran a survey to see what are the biggest website-related challenges of freelance translators and interpreters. In addition to four closed questions, there was one open-ended question.
Responses to that question show that the biggest challenge is not copy, design, or even SEO. It’s strategy.
Here are the responses and my answers to them. If you are struggling with similar problems, I hope this will help!
Response 1: “Applying all the SEO and copywriting tips I read and hear from experts”
I hear you. There are so many tips and so little time to implement them (more on that later). Start with this question: “Why do I want to implement all of the SEO and copywriting tips?” In other words, what is your business goal? More clients?
You could be doing any of these tasks:
- Implementing all of the SEO tips to make your website more visible (more on that later)
- Start targeting your ideal clients on LinkedIn
- Perfecting your cold email skills
- Sending sales emails
- Actively asking for referrals
You can do all this once you know what you are trying to achieve and who you are targeting. Based on that, decide what exactly you are going to do—in, say, the next six months.
Voilà! Now you have a plan, and can focus only on those tips that are relevant to your plan.
Response 2: “Figuring out which fields to specialize in and how many fields is appropriate. I don’t want to pick too narrow of a niche but also don’t want to be too generalized.”
Chris Durban on @TranslationTalk (enough said):
Sorry, that was scattershot: how about “minimum viable audience”? https://t.co/InjLoPyqvD You identify the smallest number of clients/text types you need to live, even prosper. Amazing how many undiscovered specialisms there are out there.
— TranslationTalk / Chris (@translationtalk) November 19, 2018
Response 3: “Pressure from people around me (including from other industries) to make my website into something it’s not, e.g. a blog, a subscriber magnet, “content””
Chris Durban says:
Hi! Word of mouth seems to work for my target audience. To date my web presence is a non-client (non-)blog (chrisdurbanblog) w/events and talks, plus sites for books (prosperous https://t.co/Xljf9DDoPh and https://t.co/DfZYEWYarw), and assoc listings for SFT and ITI.
— TranslationTalk / Chris (@translationtalk) November 19, 2018
Angela Benoit says:
In this tweet lies the secret of how I found three “dream clients” in six months without marketing to them:
Be excellent. Let your work speak for itself. Your name will get passed around.
Yes, it is that easy.
— Angela Benoit (@AngelaCBenoit) October 9, 2018
Back to your website: what is it for? Is it doing what you want it to do? If yes, then if it ain’t wrong, why fix it? If no, what can you do?
Response 4: “I don’t want to sound fake by marketing my services because I’m a beginner.”
My suggestion is to have a one-page mini-CV website for agencies if you think that you’re not ready to take on direct clients. You could also postpone working on a website until you are more confident in your skills. Writing copy about yourself is super-hard, and it can feel icky and wrong (and trigger an existential crisis – or is it just me?)
It doesn’t have to.
Talk to fellow translators in your niche or your mentor (if you’re part of the ATA Mentoring Program). Maybe they can help you find a way to talk about your experience and services that will not be all Saul Goodman. The Copywriter Club has an amazing podcast episode with Tanya Geisler about the imposter complex and its evil twin, the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Response 5: “SEO, I don’t know enough about it”
OK, this is one of my favorite things to hate. Why, oh why, are so many translators focused on SEO? Below is a screenshot of what Ubersuggest, a SEO research tool, shows for “translator Spanish”. Where are people going? That’s right, dictionaries and MT.
This is what Ubersuggest shows for “localization Spanish” How many estimated visits? That’s right, just six. Per month.
So, you can try to rank for high-volume words… even though it looks like people are not doing web searches for actual human translators. You can focus on long-tail search queries and hope that those six website visitors will all decide to work with you. Or you can focus on other ways of getting clients, from blogging (in case Margo Aaron did not persuade you that this whole thing sucks) to being excellent at what you do (and perhaps gently nudging clients to refer you to their business partners) to whatever else might work for you—and, more importantly, for your target audience.
Response 6: “Being perceived as a professional (content, images, design, colours), but at the same time being me and being attractive to potential customers”
On being you: Abbey Woodcock has an amazing tutorial book titled” What They Hear When You Write: Find and Perfect Your Unique Writing Voice” (includes worksheets).
Response 7: “Time. Because I have so little.”
Ouch. I hear you. Maybe this could help:
Response 8: “Figuring out how to present my varied specializations to my equally varied targets, since those fields are pretty different from one another.”
Could there be a unifying idea, maybe personality-related, that can tie those fields together to be presented on a home page? If not, why not create separate websites?
Response 9: “The biggest challenge is to present myself in a way that would attract a client.”
Do you know your ideal clients well? Can you ask your existing clients what attracted them to you? Start by trying to gather information from your ideal clients and go from there.
The poll is still live here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeL-OSjKrKBayX6-9vhmhncYZVSdSp8350lazXbq4Fyle2rlw/viewform?usp=sf_link. If you have different challenges, and want to share them, I’m up for take two!
Have a different opinion on how to tackle the challenges? Leave your ideas in the comments!
Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter helping companies optimize their localized Russian copy for their Russian-speaking target markets at yourcopyinrussian.com. She also publishes tips on how T&I businesses can make their website more persuasive and relevant to their prospective clients. You can read them at pinwheeltrans.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katya_howard.