Why Freelance Translators Should Have a Blog How blogging improves writing skills and markets your services




  • Greater than 2 minutes

    While sharing a casual cocktail with other freelance translators this cloudless Sunday, we touched upon the subject of blogging. A colleague asked me why I blog so often and how I find the time to do it under the mountain of work necessary to keep up with the translation profession. Granted, I’ve been backed up and haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, but I took this as writing prompt. I love it when people ask me specific questions, because, even if they don’t know it, they have given me a topic to blog about! Isn’t it funny how things work out?

    Blogging is a critical part of our profession. For one, all translators are writers. And all good translators are excellent writers. How do writers get better at their craft? By writing more. Just like going to the gym, writing is something we need to practice weekly (I wanted to say daily, but let’s be real – talking about going to the gym here). Keeping a blog forces us to write regularly and for a particular audience. I also like to write privately, but I find that the quality and style vary significantly when I know I’m going to be the only person reading it – I also don’t make an effort to research and teach an audience when I’m writing for my journal.

    Furthermore, as translators and digital nomads, online presence is essential. Blogging is a brilliant way to share knowledge, demonstrate expertise, practice writing, increase your online presence and market your services. Seth Godin says we should spend half our time providing our services (translating) and the other half improving our craft. Scheduling time for blogging should be looked at as an investment in your career. In order to gain better clients, we need to become better translators. To become better translators, we should write better than 98% of the population (according to Chris Durban), and for that, we need to practice writing – regularly. Sure, you can spend your week purely translating, but if you don’t invest time marketing, learning, and practicing, you will be left behind in the bulk market. I’m not arguing that blogging is the key to finding premium clients, but it is a convenient approach that juxtaposes unbillable tasks.

    When you’re inspired, write more than one blog post (and post them with some time in between). When you’re uninspired, read other translation or industry blogs. And when you’re moderately inspired, write anyway. Just like going from couch to 5k, writing regularly will become easier with time, and all translators should do it.

    Maeva Cifuentes

    About Maeva Cifuentes

    12 thoughts on “Why Freelance Translators Should Have a Blog

    1. Thank you, Maeva! That is exactly why we have The Open Mic! :) Writing is indeed a great way to showcase your language skills. And if you have some interesting ideas, building a strong audience and attracting clients will be a matter of time.

      Of course, it won’t happen overnight and sometimes it might feel like a very exhausting exercise (especially when you blog in your 2nd language), but at the end of a day I think it is worth the effort. Not only it helps you promote your services and your business, it also helps you make this industry a little bit better, provide value and make a difference.

      Thanks for the inspiration, I better get back to writing! I had this blog posts that I want to write and it’s been long overdue :)

      1. Thanks for the comment Dmitry! This is definitely why I love this community, it’s a great way to spread and find information and connect with other translators. Keep it up!

    2. Thank you, Maeva, for an inspiring post. I’d like to know your opinion on the following. You write and I fully agree with you that: “To become better translators, we should write better than 98% of the population”. But as we all (I presume) translate into our mother tongue (at least I do) and writing skills in different languages should be trained separately, we should blog in our native language. I translate into Russian and therefore should train my skills in Russian and should blog in Russian. Do you agree? What do you think?

      1. Thanks for the kind words Alena! You’ve brought up an interesting point. Personally, I only blog in my native language, and like I said it’s a great practice to improve your writing skills. It’s a good idea to blog in Russian, but you could also reach out to your clients (probably often English-speaking clients, assuming you translate from English), by blogging in English too! This platform, for example, would be a good place to do that and you could have your own separate Russian blog. In any case, continuous practice writing in both languages is never a bad thing.

      2. Interesting question, Alena! If you ask me, I think it all depends on your audience and what you’re trying to achieve with your blog. Blogs in English have wider reach and hence easier to promote (and with the help of The Open Mic it’s now easier than ever).

        Ask yourself why do you want to blog and who will be reading your blog posts? If your blog posts are geared towards Russian-speaking translators or clients, then you should probably blog in your native language. In that case you’ll be polishing your language skills (which in turn will help you be a better writer and a better translator) while building awareness for your brand.

        If you want your blog to have a wider reach and attract people from different countries and different cultures, then blogging in English could be a better alternative (yes, it doesn’t demonstrate that you have the language ability in your native language, but at least you can show everyone that you have a decent command and understanding of English and this is also important, after all it’s a language that you work with, so showcasing your writing skills increases your chances of being found and hired (if that’s your goal).

        Even though I’m Russian and it’s my native language I blog in English. For some reason, I feel like it’s what I should be doing and partly because I’ve been living in Canada for 4 years now and I have a website that is in English only. I figured, writing in Russian wouldn’t make much sense, because no one would read it (99% of my clients, for example, don’t speak Russian). Even though my blog posts are geared towards translators, sometimes my clients read them too. Even better: sometimes I get referrals or land new clients thanks to my blog and because peopled liked what I had to say or could relate to what I was writing about.

        The most important thing: don’t just blog because you think that you have to do this because someone told you that. This is not why people blog. People blog because they feel like what you have to say has value and that it can make a difference someone’s life and make people think. Blogging for the sake of marketing or attracting clients never really works. But if you focus on the message and your voice and your uniqueness, then a blog can be an amazing outlet that would organically lead to many new opportunities (both in life and in business).

        Just my 2 cents :)

    3. Thanks for posting Maeva!
      Personally I like blogging and writing, but I only started to blog on a regular basis last year. Now I plan to write a comprehensive post each two weeks. I simply don’t have time to write more (and writing a blog post always happens at late nights), but I also want add some frequency to my posts.
      I’ve considered whether to write in Dutch (my mother tongue), English (my “source language”) or both. Finally I considered to write in English because most of my blogs are geared towards other language professionals. My audience is much bigger now and I can share my knowledge, opinion and experience. (BTW, I always have an editor check my blog posts – I pay that expenses from my marketing budget and it pays off.)
      Writing in Dutch would certainly attract a difference audience – one I love too, but also one I believe has much less with the topics I write about.

      1. That’s a great point. Every 2 weeks is a good schedule for blog posts and I really need to make more effort to stick to it, rather than a burst of inspiration, then nothing!

          1. Absolutely true! I try to overcome this by jotting down all ideas that come up. Some of them are even older than a year because I have not found the right mode to write about them yet.
            As for my article on 1,000 words a day it took me months to find out how to write it, but afterwards I wrote it in an hour. And now it has gone viral on social media and sparked a great discussion.
            Patience is the key :)

    4. Excellent points – especially that if you don’t invest in something other than just your translations, you’ll be left behind. Blogging, social media, improving your writing/specialist knowledge, networking, website etc are also important!

    5. I’m reading this for the second time for inspiration. In some interview somewhere someone pointed out that many great writers, before they became rich and famous, were translators as a way to bring some money in.

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