I see the irony of not blogging being extolled in a blog post. If this holds your attention until the end, I hope you’ll agree that this post is a great example of why not all freelancers need to have their own blog.
About two years ago, I wrote a guest post for Corinne McKay: The Case Against Blogging. I suspect it is the most widely read piece I have ever had published online. The comments thread was a mile long and insightful, both supporting and knocking what I had written. I received emails off-line as well—only supportive though. The post also brought me the ultimate accolade for a translator: Pierre Fuentes found it inspiring enough to want to translate it. For those of you who read French, he produced this lovely post.
So what was all the fuss about? I said that I don’t think that blogging is an effective use of most freelancers’ time. I define success in blogging as the ability to attract new business. So if you are in it for the greater good, promoting the profession because it’s your passion, of course you should blog. Thank you. If you’re an entertainer – you blog for fun to entertain colleagues – thank you for making us laugh. That’s a good deed. But please don’t blog half-heartedly or infrequently, or because you feel you ought. It usually shows in the writing.
Blogging is a tool. We all need a well-maintained tool kit: an effective online profile; the right IT set-up; a network of trusted colleagues. For some people blogging is a worthy part of that tool kit. In my opinion though, the return on investment for a freelance translator writing posts that will largely be read by other freelance translators is unlikely to match the return that can be obtained by other available tools.
Even if we narrow the focus to word-of-mouth referrals from colleagues, the type of growth most likely to come from blogging, I still think other tools are more effective. How about spending time replying insightfully to term queries in mailing groups? Having just the right style guide or glossary to recommend when someone wants to learn about your field? Giving a training session to a regional group or writing for ITI Bulletin on your area of expertise? People are very likely to remember you when you have helped them. All of the above will show people that you have expertise in an area, and increase the likelihood of them recommending you for work. I suspect that writing blog posts and letting the world know on social media that you have a new post up is less effective for most. Now of course, if you write the kind of insightful material that means people share it all over the place, a blog may be right for you. But most of us don’t. And for us, I think other tools are generally more effective.
I had to analyse my own arguments earlier this year when I created a new website. I was using WordPress, a natural fit for a blog. Yet still, I couldn’t justify setting one up. What I did add is a news feed, where I post information snippets on things I’m getting up to: it’s there to show potential clients that I’m active in our industry. I concluded that this was good use of the tools available.
The argument that translators are writers and should show off their writing skills is a great one. So write. Write for regional group and network newsletters, ITI Bulletin or The Pillar Box. Is my exposure not much higher writing for those than if I wrote for my own blog? Does this post not raise my visibility? So I don’t blog. But I write. Please write. Tell us what you have to say, in a place where we will see it.
About the author
Karen Tkaczyk CT MITI works as a French into English freelance translator. Her translation work is highly specialised, being entirely focused on chemistry and its industrial applications. She holds an MChem in Chemistry with French (University of Manchester), a Diploma in French and a PhD in Organic Chemistry (University of Cambridge). She worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, then, after relocating in 1999, in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics in the USA. In 2005 she set up her translation practice in Nevada, where she lives with her husband and three children. She tweets as @ChemXlator.