If you're communicating as a business professional using online methods, you need a website. Plain and simple. I recently read a discussion among translators about their websites and it made me think about the various options one has when it comes to creating and maintaining a professional website. And while I very much believe in the "to each, his own" way of doing things, I can't help but think that there are a lot of missteps made when it comes to building and designing professional websites. In our industry, a well functioning, visually appealing website is essential in attracting new clients and leaving a lasting impression.
One thing to remember when creating or updating a website as a freelance translator, interpreter or small agency owner is that your site doesn't have to look similar to that of every other translation or interpreting professional around you. In fact, differentiating yourself is key to a website that converts leads into clients.
When I first started my business, I knew that I needed a website. It's simply a part of doing business these days. Even though some millennials might argue that a lot of business is done on social media now, I'd argue that while that may be true in some industries, that's not where my clients are finding my business and I'm willing to be it's not where yours find you. While we use social media as a marketing tool, it's usually not the driver of most of our traffic. Search engines are. And so, a professional website is absolutely an investment worth making.
And just by taking a few hours to research sites of those in the same field or language pairs as you, it's easy to see that a lot of translators' and interpreters' websites are collecting dust. This is good… for you. By being savvy about your website and using it as a real marketing tool, you can stand out as a professional while your site helps you convert leads into customers.
Here are some tips that will keep your site looking fresh, professional and help you attract the customers you want to be working with on a regular basis.
Your site should have some basic information and pages on it that tell clients about you, what you do well and how you will help them. Remember, your website is less about you than it is about your audience. Build it for them.
I'd say, at a minimum, your website should include all of the elements below.
Think of the landing page of your website as the Home page. This is where clients will arrive when they find your site through a search engine or as a backlink from another site or social media channel. The point of a landing page is to make the person visiting your site want to stay and look around for a while. It is a first impression, so make it good!
One thing I noticed in my search of T&I sites when I was first starting out and was working with my developer on my very first site was that it seemed like the majority of T&I professionals and agencies lean toward using blue in their logo and on their website, marketing materials, etc. I realize that the psychology of color says that blue is a color that signifies trust and safety. But there are other colors on the spectrum. If you are handling sensitive documents or interpreting for clients, you surely better be trustworthy. Isn't that a given? Green is a nice choice, as it signifies growth. Think about what you want your customers to feel when they visit your website, as this might inform your decision on choosing colors, images, fonts, etc.
Take a look at most professional sites and you'll see something like an About page or a Learn More page that describes the person or business carrying out the work. If I am a customer looking for a professional translator or interpreter, I want to know the following bits of information:
- Level of education
Something personal about you
Language pairs (duh!)
Experience and background
Memberships, affiliations, certifications, etc.
Clients want to know you. In fact, by including a professional (and recent, please!) head shot, as well as a little information that reflects what kind of person you are, can go a long way in converting leads. Sometimes it's less about your skills than it is about your personality and approachability. Customers want to feel as though they know you. So, give them a little taste of what it's like to work with you!
A nice touch to add to the About page would be a downloadable PDF of your resume that is visible for clients to grab if they wish. You never know when the assistant of a decision maker is going to request the resume of several professional translators. If yours is already available on your website, you can save that client a step in the process. This shows that you're easy to work with already. Perception is important!
This information could also appear on your About page, but I would say that having a separate Contact page is actually a better option. One reason for this is because you can put a form on your Contact page for clients to fill out when they want to reach you and request a quote. You can use one that allows for a direct upload of their documents so that you can receive everything at once and your first point of contact with them is to request more information on their project, a clearer scanned copy of their documents or simply to send back a quote. This will save both you and your clients time.
If you're an interpreter and you only work within a certain geographic area, adding this information to your Contact page is a nice way of informing inquiring clients of your service area.
Another great reason to have a Contact page is so that you can visibly post the hours that you work, when your office is closed for vacation time and the best way to reach you. It's not the same for everyone, and most people like to know whether it's best to call you or email you in order to get a faster response. So, let them know.
A blog that you update and post to regularly could be a real traffic driver to your site, as long as you remember who you're writing for (your clients, not your colleagues!), you keep it professional (not personal!) and you update it consistently. Even if you only post once a month, make sure you post once a month. Whatever frequency you prefer, make sure that you are consistent. By showing up for your clients in a consistent way, you prove that you are reliable and able to share valuable content on a regular basis.
Not only does a content rich blog show your expertise, but it will also boost your site rankings in search engines. The more often you update and utilize tags and keywords on your site, the better. A blog is the perfect place to do this. So, never underestimate the power of a solid blog for your business.
To read more on this topic, check out Why Your Translation Business Needs a Blog.
Testimonials and/or Case Studies
When you are about to make a large purchase, do you read reviews? Do you see what others are saying? Well, the chances are that if you do, your clients do, too. And while the T&I industry doesn't have a review site like Yelp or similar (yet!), providing testimonials from your clients is a great way to share reviews with leads and get them interested in what it's like to work with you.
Case studies are another great way to show leads what your process looks like. When you share a case study, you tell the story of a client and the problem that you solved for them. This is a truly powerful way of marketing. And while you do need permission to share both a testimonial and a case study, you can start asking your best and most regular clients now. Most will be happy to oblige, especially if you make it easy for them. If you like, write a brief testimonial for them them and see if they agree to it. They may want to tweak something here or there, but in my business we've found that most clients have no problem sharing how you've helped them reach their goals.
FAQ pages are often overlooked when it comes to building a professional services website. These pages do not have to be tedious to read or long-winded. In fact, FAQ pages should be concise and brief. They are an opportunity to help you educate your clients, give them an idea of your workflows and what it's like to do business with you. If you have a good FAQs page, you can also weed out clients who are better off looking elsewhere for their translation needs. Stick to the facts and leave out any personal opinions on your FAQs page. Be creative!
What's not necessary…
There are a few things that you might see on professional websites that are truly not all that necessary. Of course, this is relative, but I have yet to see a T&I professional's website that included these items and really benefited from sharing them. So, in no particular order, here are some items you are better off removing or leaving off your site.
Including your rates on your website is really not all that necessary. If a client wants to know your rates, they'll ask. Remember, you don't want to sell your services based on price alone. The fact that you don't include them on your site may actually weed out low-paying clients or those who are not willing to engage with you before talking about prices. Competing on price is never recommended. There will always be someone who offers the same or a similar service for less.
Specialization in all the things
Whatever you do, specialize. But don't specialize in all. the. things. Please. As someone who receives a lot of resumes each day, I can tell you that if I receive a resume in which the translator or interpreter seems to specialize in or list every field imaginable as an area of expertise, it is quickly dropped into my Trash folder.
When you specialize in everything, you specialize in nothing. On the same note, if you try to please everyone, you please no one. So, choose one to three fields of expertise and truly specialize in those. Then, market the heck out of it.
404 Error Pages or Under Construction Messages
It's fine to let clients know you're working on your website, but if you leave up a 404 Error message (you know, those "Page not found" ones that make people quickly click off your site and on to another one) or one of those "This page is under construction" messages for months at a time, not only will you lose people who click to your site from search engines or backlinks from elsewhere, but it lacks a certain level of professionalism. It looks like you can't be bothered to finish the site or that you are too busy to keep up with it. Both of these are poor messages to be sending and poor first impressions to be making. If you do have one of these messages on your website, make it a priority to add real content and value as soon as possible to replace it.
Final (But Really Important!) Tips
If you want to stand out as a professional in the T&I industry, here are some tips that could truly affect the way someone who visits your site will see you. And who knows? One of these could just be the attention to detail that turns a lead into a client.
Good design is very important. I cannot stress this enough. If you cannot design your website, hire someone. Just as we encourage clients to seek professional translation and interpreting, we have to know when it's time to call a professional for services we cannot handle ourselves. And yes, there are sites designed by some who practice design as a career, but there are different levels of design that can take your site to a different level if you're willing to make the investment.
If you're savvy enough to spend some time figuring out some basic website design and back end mechanics like I am, then you should be able to use templates from the more popular hosting sites. I personally love using Squarespace. I have found the templates incredibly easy to use and the customer service is spectacular. While I did have a designer design my business website, the site where you're reading this blog now is one I designed myself after taking a brief online course and spending the time to learn how to navigate the back end where I can make changes and updates whenever I wish.
I'll be creating more resources here soon about how you can get your site set up on Squarespace and utilize all that it has to offer. It's easy to use and it can help you convert leads! This is not an ad in any form. I just really love Squarespace and I believe in its ease of use and how effective it is in designing a beautiful site with easy-to-follow analytics.
If you're still not convinced about the power of a well-designed site, some recent studies show that first impressions are absolutely vital. Whether a visitor will stay on a website is nearly 95% related to design elements.
While we are word people and we think our words speak for themselves, sometimes they simply aren't enough. And your website is the place to really stand out.
In a study conducted by Stanford University experts for Consumer WebWatch, results showed that the average site visitor puts more value on the superficial characteristics of a website (visual content) than the content itself. Almost half of consumers in the study determined their view on the credibility of websites based on how appealing they were in terms of visual design, layout, typography, font sizes and colors. While we word people may find that sad, it's the world we live in. So, make your words stand out by nailing visual appeal.
Email addresses are important, but don't get too caught up in them. Yes, if you have a professional website, it probably comes with an email address (or several). However, if you are an individual freelancer, most clients understand if you are using a free email address like Gmail, etc. If you are operating under a business name, it might look better to use an email address that is connected to your site and has your business website as part of the address, but base your decision on your own experience and use one email address consistently with clients.
Branding is key to attracting the right clients, too. Don't overlook this important aspect of doing business. Remember, just because everyone else may use the color blue in their logo or as a main branding color on their website, this doesn't mean that you have to. Stand out.
Branding is about more than colors and logos. There are lots of ways to build a brand. Decide what you want your customers to feel when they work with you. Then, find a way to make this feeling come to life through your website and other marketing materials.
Messaging is just as important as design and visuals. But beware. We are word people! And we can tend to be really wordy. I mean, just look at the length of this blog post. ;) If you think that your website has too much text on it, it probably does. Remember… these days, people don't read as much. They scan to find the points that they're looking for quickly and then they slow down only to read what stands out to them.
Video is another way to really hone in on messaging. In fact, video is now becoming much more popular for messaging than text that is meant to be read and absorbed. That said, your site will have written messaging on it in some form or fashion. Make sure that you are using copy that converts. If you're not sure what I mean, check out this book: How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-by-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often. It will change the way you think about website copy.
Lastly, if there is anything to take away from all these tips for your T&I website, it is this. Differentiate yourself. Try your best to look different than the hundreds or thousands of others in your area(s) of expertise, language pair(s), etc. One way to do this is with a stellar website. It doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg! If you're interested in learning more about how Squarespace can work for you and all the perks of using it, setting it up and maintaining it well, then make sure you sign up below for updates that will land in your inbox. I'll be working on those posts soon and sharing them first with those on the email list.