The world of translation and interpreting is anything but boring. No two days are the same, and the experiences we have from the work we do in our industry make us well-rounded and knowledgeable about many subjects. But one thing I have found over and over again in the past 11 years that I've worked in this industry is that we generally don't do the best job of making our work attractive or appealing to potential clients. In fact, for some clients, translation and interpreting is a foreign subject all together.
Making our professions and online presence more attractive to clients is essential, and in my opinion, it's part of educating clients about what we do and why working with professionals is a best practice. We have to show our potential clients and the general public what we do. We have to show them that the work we do will allow them to reach their goals. If we think that all we do is simply to provide translation and interpreting services, then we’re completely selling ourselves short. We provide services to clients that help them reach more audiences, grow their bottom line and communicate across borders.
So, how do we appeal to clients visually? In the past few years, I've come up with some ways that work very well in my own business. I have found that simply receiving inquiries from leads and sending out quotes for projects makes us just like the next guy who's doing the same thing. How can we stand apart? Here are some of the ways we do this in my business that have proven to be very effective. Whether you work alone or with a team, these strategies can be useful in helping you show the value you provide to clients.
1 | Your website should be a reflection of what it feels like to work with you.
For most of us, our websites are the first impression a lot of potential clients have of us because of the nature of the work we do. Translators don't often meet a lot of their clients because of the fact that they work as freelancers and don't necessarily need to meet face to face with someone in order to review a document and provide a quote.
This is why having an updated website that feels current and has up-to-date information about your work, skills and even some personal information that demonstrates your friendly and approachable demeanor is key. If your website looks like it was created in the 90s and hasn't been updated for about as long, it's definitely time to put some effort into it and make sure that it has some key components that will make potential clients want to stick around and find out more about you and your services.
Interpreters should not overlook the importance of having an attractive website either. Many clients who don't have access to interpreters will inevitably do an online search for one. If you have an attractive website with appealing images and copy, clients are more likely to contact you. If your headshot looks outdated, or if your website is all of one page with far too much text to scroll through, you may get passed up for another interpreter.
While it's important to have outstanding skills and credentials as a translator or interpreter, if a client does not get a great first impression of you based on your website, you could be losing opportunities. Take a look at the websites of others in your field and see how you can stand apart. Avoid trying to look similar to others who have been in the industry longer, or who have a longer client list than you. This has always been a priority for me in my business. I very purposely choose images and design that does not look like those of other small translation companies. It's been my experience that looking and sounding different from everyone else--giving clients a better feel for what it is like to work with you through visually appealing to them--will actually bring you more inquiries and convert more leads into clients. Use images that are attractive and copy that is succinct and communicates the value you provide through your work.
2 | Embrace social media.
Social media is here to stay, and when it comes to promoting your services to potential and current clients, it's important to consider which social media channels are effective. This all depends on who your clients are and where they hang out (virtually). If you're not sure, experiment. Spend a few months creating and posting social media posts on a variety of social media channels. Then reassess which ones were effective in driving traffic to your website. Which ones converted?
If keeping up with social media for your business is overwhelming to you, sign up for one of the scheduling platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite, Meet Edgar, etc. Schedule your posts in advance and then sit back and assess which ones had the most engagement, which ones had little to no engagement and which ones were fun for you to create. The answers to these questions will help you determine which social media platforms are worth your investment in time.
If engagement is low, stop posting. If you're not sure what to share on social media, spend a half hour looking at what other service-based businesses do. Behind-the-scenes posts are always well received. News-related items can be intriguing to followers as well. No matter your approach to social media, consistency is essential. If you post once every few months, you cannot expect to show up in anyone's news feed because current algorithms will not deem the random posts as engaging.
3 | Use professional graphics and images.
I mentioned already in number 1 that your website needs to be attractive in order to engage potential clients. The same goes for number 2, social media posts. As wordsmiths, most of us have no problem writing a caption or drafting some text for a website. But not all of us know about graphic design, photography, formatting and layout.
I personally like to use a lot of my own original photography for my business. But if I'm ever in need of a specific photo that is not in my library, I look to professionals. This doesn't have to be expensive. Sites like PEXELS, Unsplash and others have free, professional stock photography that you can download if your advertising budget is low.
When it comes to graphics, hiring a professional is ideal. While it isn’t always feasible, especially for things like weekly social media posts, there are other free resources you can use. All it takes is some time, a fairly good eye for design and the willingness to learn and experiment a bit. A free tool we use all the time in my business is Canva. Canva has lots of templates and layouts you can use, or you can create your own from scratch. The graphic at the top of this blog post was created with Canva. ;)
4 | Don't underestimate email marketing.
You may think that having a list for email marketing won't serve you in your business. I'd argue that it will certainly serve you. Whether you're an independent contractor or a small business, having an email list these days is absolutely essential. Why's that?
Think about it. Our social media platforms are rented space. If Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn disappeared tomorrow, how would we get the word out to potential clients about our services and what we do? This is where an email list comes in handy. When someone signs up to receive your emails, they're giving you access to land in their inbox.
And chances are much higher that they will see your message if it's in their inbox. Besides, social media platforms are constantly changing algorithms, so we can never be sure if our posts are even showing up in the news feeds of those we want to see our content. While social media is a great tool to use, email marketing can be much more effective.
Each time someone signs up for your email list, they're entrusting you with their email address. If they've given it to you, it's because they trust that what you'll send them will be valuable to them in some way. So, take this opportunity to send your email list a monthly newsletter or article you've written that could benefit them in their business or organization. Doing this will keep you top of mind with those receiving your emails and will show that you are consistently "showing up" with valuable information beyond the professional services you provide.
5 | Don't forget to make your documents attractive as well.
A lot of the work we do involves sending quotes, service agreements, invoices, etc. And while a lot of the information in these documents is boilerplate stuff, that doesn't mean your documents have to look boring. If you are a translator who rarely meets with your clients in person, this is an easy way for you to make yourself stand out and differentiate yourself.
Some documents you can spruce up are:
any other deliverables.
In my business, we receive loads of resumes from translators and interpreters. Some really stand out simply because of the visual aspect of them. If a resume is particularly well laid out, visually appealing and succinct, we are more likely to consider it. If it's messy, poorly formatted or missing information, we promptly delete it.
Every once in a while I receive a handwritten invoice to pay from an interpreter. Whenever I see this, I think that either the interpreter is not particularly computer savvy or they cannot be bothered with providing a more professional invoice. Standing out for being different from others can go both ways. Try to be the one who stands out for looking awesome and on top of things instead of appearing outdated or sloppy.
Think about it this way. If you were to have a meeting with a client in person for the first time, you would certainly dress appropriately and take the time to put on clean and professional business attire, right? You'd do this because you know that first impressions are key and you want to put your best foot forward. The same should go for the "look" you choose to share with clients online or through your marketing materials. And while you cannot change a lot of things about your personal appearance (not that you should want to!), you most certainly can change as much as you want about your business' appearance. Taking a little extra time make the visual aspects of your business more appealing will leave a lasting impression on current and potential clients. It also helps clients to see that you are a professional and that you take your work seriously.
What do you do to stand apart from other translation + interpreting professionals and create visual appeal for clients in the way you present yourself online?