By Catherine Theilen Burke
What are the advantages and costs of creating a website as part of your marketing plan as a translator? I consulted veteran translators on the need for a website as well as for tips on creating one, and asked project managers and those in charge of hiring at agencies if they judged potential translators on the basis of their websites.
Two years ago Frank Dietz led a workshop at the ATA conference entitled “The Freelancer’s Website: If you Build It, Will They Come?” Mr. Dietz’s presentation focused on whether or not every freelancer needs a website and evaluated tools for creating a website. He focused on “content creation as the most effective method for making your Website stand out of the crowd.” Mr. Dietz’s website can be found at www.FrankDietz.com  and includes 2200 glossaries. These glossaries are what can be called an added attraction and can enhance your website as well as increase traffic. Frank Dietz is well known!
Added attractions to draw people to look at your site can consist of resources, links, glossaries, tools, conversion programs, news and information. Translators look to develop their resources and to expand their reference capability. Who knows when you’ll need specialized vocabulary? Translators function as information brokers.
Web Design Tools for Every Need
Yves Averous recently made a presentation for the TransMUG, NCTA’s Mac User Group, on the software program from Macromedia, Contribute 2. Available for both Windows and Mac users ($79-$150), this impressive program made it very simple to set up a website by offering a series of templates. The user is offered a variety of handsome designs laid out with buttons you click on and fill in your information. Mr. Averous gave the analogy of a website as a folder of papers. In this folder you have your resume, writing samples, references, your resources, clients and whatever you want to communicate to your audience. You then organize the pages in an attractive fashion by arranging the first page of your website. Once your site is up and running, it is quite fun to type in your name in Google and see your web page come up.
These template programs make it very easy for beginners. Web based template programs also exist. Type in, “creating web pages”, in your search engine and you will get a number of options to investigate (homestead, etc).Many of these sites offer packages for $7-15/month and up. The packages include a domain name and search, software for creating the site and somewhere to put your website. Everything is done through the company’s web page online, one stop shopping. Again, these sites are best for beginners or straightforward designs.
Perhaps your point of view is that these templates would rob you of the opportunity to learn how to make your website from scratch. Again, it is a matter of personality, style, time and money. Borrow a book on creating websites from the library; it has only gotten easier to learn HTML with these guides. Take a short three-hour class to get the basics, or a semester-long one. Use free programs on the web to help you (HotDog, Netscape Composer, evrsoft). Options exist to fit your budget and timeline.
Name, Registration, Hosting…Go!
Once your have designed the site, you need to decide if you would like to name it something specific and easy to find. You can register a domain name (your name.com or the name of your business.com) to make it easy for people to remember. The cost has gone down and extensions have multiplied (.biz, .pro, .name etc). Type in “registering your domain name” on your search engine and prices now start at $6/year. As part of registering the name you wish to use, you will do a search to see if anyone has already claimed the address you have in mind. In addition to registering your name, these sites advertise the ability to promote your domain name with search engines, something you can also do yourself.
After arranging the contents of your page and choosing a name, you upload your website to your host. Now comes the next part, deciding where your website will reside. Some ISP servers give you a certain amount of space to have a website and specify it your agreement. Bear in mind that the size of your website and the amount of traffic you have affects the cost of hosting your website. Your website can reside free at a site such as Geocities, but it is not recommended to rely on a free site if you are proposing a serious business website. The space allotted is very minimal, there are restrictions regarding businesses and the addresses can be very convoluted, discouraging even your closest relatives.
Content, What Content?
Back to the subject of attracting an audience, in addition to providing tools and references, some translators become cultural liaisons. Christine Lemor Drake is planning to set up her website as a way of both listing information about resources she already provides as a touchstone for many expatriates as well as letting people know she has a translation business. In listing all the associations and resources she works with, she can refer people more efficiently and create connections through links. Some translators come to the profession wearing many hats; a website can be a representation of businesses and avocations. Some translators are affiliated with language schools, tour companies or publishing ventures that can be included via hyperlinks.
One word of caution though, in creating a website that shows your many talents: draw the line at including material that is too personal. Make sure your content is business-oriented if your goal is to generate work. You can create another website for sharing photos of children and the gory details of family vacations. Concentrate on your translation glories and fine tuning your CV.
Promoting Your Site Promoting You
Include your website on business cards, emails and correspondence. Let your colleagues know you have a website. Consider the website one your many marketing tools. Agencies use referral sites such as NCTA, ATA, Translator Café or ProZ rather than searching the internet. Also many agencies get references from other translators and look at resumés sent to them. But it is possible a project manager could see your website listed on the email accompanying your resume and check it out.
One of the advantages of having a website is the possibility of having direct clients (bypassing agencies). Having said that, one must consider the advantages of working for an agency. Be honest about your own capabilities. Sadly, agencies often consider “vendors” (translators) a small part of the overall translation process. From the time the agency negotiates a contract to the delivered product, documents may go through many steps including preparation of the document for translators in a proper format, editing, desktop publishing, editing to make sure numbers and symbols are not corrupted if a translation tool was used, proofreading and final checks. If you have knowledge of desktop publishing or if your prospective client can do DTP, final editing and checks, then they can hire you directly rather than through an agency. Having said that, some jobs from direct clients might be very straightforward such as documents, manuscripts, transcripts and letters.
From Professional to Professional
For those translators who have too much work and not much extra time, they have the luxury of waiting to make a website. Personality plays a big part in deciding whether to build a website. If you have an interest in learning new technology in your non-working hours, then it will come naturally. If you consider it part of covering your bases and are motivated, then it can be incorporated as part of your job. Others might have time constraints (crying babies, etc.) and plenty of work as it is.
An alternative to creating your own website is to hire someone to do it for you. If you are very busy and don’t want to invest any time learning, there are freelancers out there who can help you at hourly wages comparable to a good translator’s, although website designers are fewer than in the heady days of the dot.com era. It may be more cost effective and get better results. Remember that you have to create all the content either way. Mr. Dietz recommends finding “someone who has worked with freelancers/small businesses and who realizes you have an international audience.” If you hire someone, ask for references, a detailed plan and nail down a price.
Keeping it Fresh
One important aspect not to overlook is the updating of your website. Revise your site at least once a year. Nothing is worse than a website that hasn’t been updated in years. In updating, check all the links and eliminate those which don’t work anymore. Add at least some current projects or documents. It is always more impressive to be looking at a site recently updated.
In the end, it is an individual decision as to whether the benefits outweigh the cost in deciding to have a website. The pluses are getting your name out there and networking, learning new technologies and tapping into a low cost method of advertising. Weigh this against your time and resources and how much work you already have. Happy explorations!
Thanks to Frank Dietz, Christine Lemor Drake, Michael Metzger Christoph Niedermair, Yves Averous and Jost Zetzche.