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Freelance translators: Should you blog?

by Catherine Jan on June 1, 2011

This is the 20th post on my 10-month-old blog of my 19-month-old translation business in my 38th year of Life on Earth.

If I can start a blog and keep it up, you can too.

Launch your own blog if this means you!

  • You’ll write posts regularly
  • You write fairly well and—more importantly—you want to get better
  • You believe blogs are useful
  • You want to build your web presence

You might want to think twice if you fit this description:

  • You cannot commit to posting on a regular basis
  • You think blogs are pointless
  • You market your services in a non-blogging manner (or you’re so busy that you don’t need to market yourself at all)

Setting up a blog is the easy part. The care and feeding is hard.

What are the benefits of blogging?

Fabio Said on Fidus Interpres sees blogs as a business asset:

Blogging makes people aware of your work as a translator and brings new prospects, blogging makes people aware of the translating profession, blogging generates additional income…

I agree.

How has Catherine Translates paid off for me?

  • Clients see my blog and feel assured that I’m serious
  • Colleagues read my blog and refer clients or subcontract work to me
  • I write with more confidence
  • More people visit my website (now offline)

Now you may be wondering…

Should you write short and snappy posts?

Many readers like to see concise 300-word posts once or twice a week.

Or should you write long posts and publish less frequently?

I personally vote for in-depth articles.

In my experience, comprehensive posts are shared more easily by readers via social media. For example:

You can of course vary your types of blog posts. You can mix up long copy, short copy, podcasts, how-tos, interviews and so forth. For some inspiration, you can see these two blogrolls:

Resources for beginner bloggers

If you’re almost convinced you should start blogging, read Sarah Dillon’s 21 tips for timid bloggers. Then consult Riccardo Schiaffino’s Blogging 101 lesson and get your blog off the ground.

 

{ 14 comments }

Jill (@bonnjill) June 1, 2011 at 15:53

You should also consider blogging if you are opinionated and like to share those opinions ;-) That’s the secret to my success.

catherinetranslates June 1, 2011 at 16:50

That’s what I like most about Musings!

Katherine June 1, 2011 at 19:40

Hi Catherine,
Thanks for this helpful summary on the to-blog-or-not-to-blog question! I’m just starting out as a freelancer and am still on the fence about blogging, even though I love reading blogs! You’ve given me some food for thought. It’s my birthday today, too, so an apt day to begin looking in a new direction. :)

catherinetranslates June 1, 2011 at 19:55

Go for it!

mariosphere June 6, 2011 at 16:51

A word of caution to blogging in general: some postings in different blogs come across as condescending and pontifical. It’s okay to be opinionated, especially if you know more than other people, but flaunting insights tends to polarize readers and widen distances.

I prefer to make the idea, not me, to be the star of the show. Yes, I agree with Catherine in that writing a blog can help to improve your writing. I would avoid marketing or sales buzzwords, like “build your web presence” or any other colloquial or technical expression that only a small circle of people would understand, such as “translation QA” or “improving the ROI of your globalization efforts.” Instead, I find inspiration in the 3 translation challenges the Chinese scholar and translator Yan Fu spoused: faithfulness, elegance and expressiveness.

To be relevant and professional, there is no need to write a “hip” blog or a blog that pretends to tell others how to do things. To me, the key idea is sharing. Let’s share without being overbearing.

catherinetranslates June 6, 2011 at 19:09

Hello mariosphere,
I read many blogs that are resourceful and many that are entertaining. When a blog can do both, I subscribe. I have a soft spot for “opinionated” blogs because I admire the blogger for taking that risk, even when I don’t agree with his or her point of view.
If you recommend any particularly useful blogs, feel free to share them!

Alonso June 8, 2011 at 07:14

Blogging is good, but isn’t enough to get new jobs. The best way is to apply to online translation marketplaces.

Catherine Jan December 5, 2011 at 14:50

I have never received any work from ProZ or any other similar operations. But it obviously works for some people.

Caroline Lakey December 5, 2011 at 14:32

Hi Catherine,
Sorry for commenting on your post so late. I’ve been thinking about blogging as a business development tool, and there’s one thing I’ve been wondering about. As an English native speaker in France, I translate from French into English. My clients (especially direct clients) are local and therefore French-speaking, however if I started a blog it would be in English, partly because I wouldn’t want to showcase my French (due to the usual concerns about style in a non-native language) and partly because part of the aim of the blog would be to improve my writing skills, as you mention above.
I’d be interested to hear how you make this work for you!

Catherine Jan December 5, 2011 at 14:55

Blogging is the best business decision I’ve ever made. I exercise my writing muscles and have a great time while I’m at it.

Some translators do a fantastic job of blogging in their source language. This is even better for SEO and your visibility.

Céline Graciet January 3, 2012 at 15:11

Hi Catherine. I’m not sure I agree that you shouldn’t blog if you can’t commit to regular posts. First, you can’t know how you’re going to get on with blogging until you actually take the plunge, and from experience, most bloggers have quiet periods, which is fine. Second, irregular posts are still content, and (quality) content is a positive thing for any website. In the olden days of blogging, regular updates were important to keep your audience interested, but with RSS and content-sharing on social media, this is no longer as crucial as it was.

Oh and happy new year! :)

Céline Graciet

Madhu- the translator January 4, 2012 at 07:04

For a freelance translator, blogging is one of the finest ways to get yourself introduced to the whole world. So blogging, I think, is a must to continue as a professional translator and get a secured profession ahead.

Catherine Jan February 2, 2012 at 22:05

Céline, Madhu, thanks for your two cents!

Ksenia April 11, 2013 at 15:43

What happened Catherine? You haven’t written for a while but Google seems to like this page and is giving it a PR (page rank) of 3 !

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