In Part I I wrote about the different paths to a career in freelance translation, and Part II covered the essential tools you’ll need for getting started. This final installment will concentrate on making sure that clients can find you – specifically in an online environment. Although written for translators, it also applies to any other freelancing you might be interested in.
Shop Window for Freelancers
The first thing you’ll need is a website – your shop window. Some translators prefer a blog, but personally I’ve found that a separate, free-standing website, with a link to my blog, has been vital; particularly in my field. Many of my clients are corporate, such as mining companies and law firms, and blogs are somewhat more informal, even though many are professional, and have been expertly put together. Some, like WordPress blogs, allow you to set up a landing page, which will function more like a website. Take a look at your competition and decide for yourself, then create something that is uniquely your own and suits your needs.
Should you decide to go ahead and create a website, you can either get a web designer, or build one yourself. If you’d like to go it alone, there are many great online website building tools. Most are free, but you might like to pay for their Pro packages. Some of the platforms are Jimdo, Weebly, Yola and Wix. I built mine using Weebly (great service and support), although I’ve built other websites using these platforms before. In time I might like to develop my site, and may need to hand it over to a professional designer. In the meantime, being able to change, update and fine-tune (at any time), somehow appeals to my slightly control freak tendencies.
I chose a simple design, with a clean interface, and a few pages that give a brief overview of my business and services. If necessary, a single page stating what you offer and how to contact you is a great start. It’s also a good idea to use SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) on your website, and make sure you come up in Google searches. Using Google’s keyword tool is similarly quite useful.
In addition, if you’d like to create a logo, try Inkscape or other alternatives to Illustrator, many of which are free. I don’t have experience with these, but believe that Inkscape is quite good. You could also ask a graphic designer to create it, and then forward it on to you as a jpeg, which you’d be able to use on your site or marketing material.
Your Street Address
Getting your own domain name is relatively inexpensive and definitely recommended. It’s your street address. You’d need to buy the domain name, through GoDaddy for example (Weebly also lets you buy domain names directly). You’d then also need hosting for your site. A local South African company that I can’t recommend highly enough would be Texo. I’ve been with them for a few years and they’re great.
This will also mean that you get a dedicated email address, rather than a free hotmail or gmail account. Whilst these might be handy, I can’t help but think that having a specific address ie. Yourname@yourbusiness.com , is a far better option. For the same reason that you’d do some investigating when you get an email from a potential client using gmail, so would a client want to know that you’re an established business. Investing in this is a great for your business.
Your Blog – The Engine Room
Once your website is set up and functioning as a distinct entity, consider starting a blog. See it as your engine room. It’s great for sending out news about your business and industry, as well as for generating content, which should all tie in with your business and website. This will in time build links between your two platforms, and is a great marketing tool. It’s also a lot of fun, and engaging with virtual colleagues is immensely satisfying.
There are many platforms to choose from. Previously I’ve used both Blogger and WordPress, but have come to rely on WordPress – it’s by far my favourite tool. There are many themes and extra widgets to play around with. It also seems a little less ‘buggy’ than Blogger.
This particular blog is still in its infancy, and I will need to work on having a more coherent feel, and better navigation, between my website and this space, but this will come in time. Figuring out these details is part of working as a freelance translator, and great if you enjoy wearing many hats as an entrepreneur.
Social Media: Engaging with Passersby & Neighbouring Shop Owners
The best part about social media is building a network of people who do or talk about things that interest you. It’s an excellent marketing tool, but mostly it’s also The Great Watercooler. As a freelancer, one can become isolated, and though solitude is a perk, it’s also important to reach out and connect with others. I use Facebook as a personal account, and Twitter for Muse Translation, as well as a separate, more general account. I’ve also recently opened one on LinkedIn, which I’m not enjoying as much as Twitter, but time will tell. You could also look at Pininterest (many are being quite innovative), or Google+ if you prefer. Personally, I would rather chose one or two, and not spread myself too thinly. Social media can become a bit of a time suck if you’re not disciplined about it, and defeats its purpose.
And so we come to the end of this three-part series. There are many other aspects, and I’ll be blogging about these over the course of this month. Hope you’ve been able to pick up some tips for starting your business!