website backend

Do I Need a Website?

I get asked about personal and business websites all the time, but the answer is not as easy as many might think.

If you do not do any type of freelance work, what would you need a website for? Also, nowadays there are many options such as a Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile, and you are already listed in your professional association’s directory. You may even have a blog.

So, if you are already on the internet and you are not a freelancer, do not bother with a website. That is my opinion.

However, if you do work as a freelancer and want to have an online storefront, a place where you can showcase your talents, a website can be much better than a blog or a LinkedIn profile.

How do you go about it?

There are many courses on website development and articles about what must be on your website. I am going to share my experience and how to set you apart. Your own website is a blank canvas and can showcase every aspect of your professional self. Make it easier for people to choose you. That is easy: show them you are the solution they are looking for, share your portfolio, have a contact form, remember the terms and conditions. These are very basic guidelines.

You are the solution

A website is a sales tool. Make sure you share with your potential clients how you can be the solution they are looking for. Their primary concern is how you can help them resolve an issue. Their interest in your credentials comes second.

Don’t start your home page with your education, certificates and all that jazz. Instead, talk with your client about how useful you are to them. Example:

Don’t
Do
I speak Mandarin and English and I have 20 years of experience in banking.
Put my 20 years of banking experience to good use when addressing your Mandarin speaking clients.
 
I have a BA in Marketing from ABC University and a Ph.D. in Communication.
My BA in Marketing and Ph.D in Communication will help make your messages irresistible.
 
I am an experienced translator with 15 years of experience translating from English into Tagalog.
I am the bridge you need between when your deal involves English and Tagalog.

 

It is a basic case of identifying the problem and showing them you are the solution.

Share your portfolio

As a dear marketing friend says, “Companies do not have CVs. They have portfolios. As an independent contractor, you should have one too.

Share your accomplishments with your potential clients. Let’s say you worked in a well-known case from beginning to end. There may be some news articles you can use as a background picture and superimpose a text that may read “Court interpreting is one of my superpowers. From November 25 through 28, 2018, I lent my voice to witnesses at the 11th Circuit Court.” Or if you led a webinar, take a picture of the marketing announcement and use that on your portfolio. If you are a translator, you can share pictures of book covers, for example.

A contact form

Make it easy for people to reach you. A contact form on your website will do just that. But also make sure your email is featured on every page (does the work footer ring a bell?). Your form should be an invitation, not just a practical thing. And make it personal, starting with the page’s introduction: “This is your space. Let me know how I can help you.” Let it reflect your personality. A colleague of mine has the following on hers: “You know how to use it. Just go ahead. I am waiting for your message.

The Terms & Conditions

This is where it gets a bit more technical but your website developer (or template) will have one ready for you to adapt to your needs or use as is. Basically, it shares with visitors how you are going to use any information they provide.

Is there more?

You bet there is. Some people have their rates on their websites, others frown upon it. Some have a blog as part of their website. And there is some discussion about what to do with testimonials. Some say create a page for them, others say pepper your site with them, even if you have a dedicated page.

How about a payment page? There are many online services you can connect to your website. You will also need to be mindful of security issues, the dimensions of photos and graphics used, which widgets and plugins to activate. Oh, and it is nice to have a sense of colors and font usage – even if you have someone develop your website for you.

If you read the whole thing, you can be either scared or excited. Which one is it? I am curious.

Some references:


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
woman with grey hair, in a red dress

Brazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester, Co-Chair of NAJIT’s PR Committee, started her career in translation and interpreting in 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with. In 2009, she co-founded the Florida ATA Chapter (ATIF), served as its first elected president (2011-2012), and later as president of its interim board.

As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more.

Gio has been a contributor to The NAJIT Observer since its inception in 2011, and its Editor since 2016. In 2017 she was appointed Chair of the Miami Dade College Translation and Interpretation Advisory Committee, which she had been a member of since 2014. In 2018, Gio was elected to the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Association of Translators and Interpreters,  Abrates, as its General Secretary.

You can follow her on Twitter (@cariobana), learn more about Gio on her website, and she can also be reached at gio@giolester.com. Click here to read other posts by Gio.

20 Comments
  • Helen Eby
    Posted at 16:58h, 10 January Reply

    Yes! Freelancers should be acting as a business. Our profile should be everywhere. On our professional association page, on a website, on Linked In… Sure, you might not be able to hand out your biz card at the appointment, but the dude took down your name and can look you up. Be findable. And when he finds you, make sure the information is:
    – accurate. Fibbing will get you in big trouble.
    – to the point. People hate wasting time.
    – helpful to your audience. They love learning stuff at your site! Showing you are a subject matter expert will get you very nice brownie points.

    Go for it and toot your horn! As someone at a Toastmasters meeting said, if you don’t toot your own horn, someone else will use it for a spittoon!

  • Daniela Schmidt
    Posted at 18:20h, 10 January Reply

    I agree with Giovanna and Helen. I have a website: sliu.org, which I have just recently made short and sweet. However, in our profession, especially rare languages like mine, in the last 15+ years I observed that most of my business comes from the interpreter program, colleagues, and participants referrals, as well as the way I offer the continuing education, its quality, and customer service. I am not doing anything in my business that would annoy me when I deal with other businesses like up-selling, waiting long for a return call, robots or unreasonable rates etc. Moreover, everything I do is to empower and cause personal growth in my participants, without tight focus on ROI. This is counter-intuitive since most consultants and freelancers, even staff interpreters out there focus mostly on the fees and income they make. Some also take continuing education just to satisfy the requirement, without any interest in learning or personal growth.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 00:12h, 11 January Reply

      Daniela, you are right, word of mouth is very important. BUT people will want to check you out, and the most efficient way is by putting your name on Google. And they will be wooed by your website.

  • David Mintz
    Posted at 18:42h, 10 January Reply

    If you do decide to publish a website, there are a few additional points to bear in mind.

    (1) Do the website right. This might seem self-evident, but I think a sloppy or amateurish site speaks ill of its owner. “Do it right” is a broad and vague category, so I’ll elaborate a bit:

    Your site should adhere to all the latest and greatest best practices. It should be secure, fast, mobile-friendly, and accessible to people with disabilities. If you want to reach non-anglophone audiences you should consider internationalization and language negotiation, so that you can automatically serve a translated version of a resource based on the preference set by the browser.

    Understand something about Search Engine Optimization, a/k/a SEO. There’s little point in having a website if people don’t find it in search engine results. This is actually bound up with the preceding point. Sites that are fast, served over HTTPS (as opposed to the now outdated plain HTTP), and mobile-responsive get better SEO marks than sites that don’t.

    (2) Choose your hosting service wisely. This will require some research.

    (3) If you build it yourself, with your bare hands, great. If you hire someone, try to learn enough about what she/he/they is/are doing so you can ask questions and understand the answers. Are you going to use WordPress, or some other content management system?

    (4) If you deploy it, you are gonna have to maintain it. This might be more of a pain that you expect. The technologies change fast and you have to keep things up to date, or else delegate to someone trustworthy (and pay for it). As for content, you might consider putting something fresh out there once in a while. Don’t be like me, who changes the content of his personal site only rarely. It looks sloppy and stale when a site looks like it’s intended to present current information when the latest stuff on it is years old.

    (5) Test it out on a non-public-facing or password-protected server and get opinions from people you respect. Try it out on different devices and web browsers. As for content, I happen to disagree with some of the advice given above.. For example, I think it’s unseemly for court interpreters to boast publicly about their prestigious gigs. But that’s my subjective opinion. The point is that you should consider consulting others to see what they think before you go live.

    I’ve talked too long. Maybe I should write my own blog post about all this 🙂

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 00:14h, 11 January Reply

      Definitely! I was not trying to be all-inclusive because that would turn into a book. Hence the referrals at the end. And yes to the blog post idea. could you focus on two points and deliver a killer post for us to publish??? Send it to tno_editor@najit.org

  • David Mintz
    Posted at 18:49h, 10 January Reply

    Sorry, I forgot to mention another point in my earlier comment. I think a strong argument in favor of a personal site is that it is YOURS; you control it and are beholden to no one. Facebook, LinkIn and other social media, yeah they’re fine (I guess) but if you want to present yourself without a lot of extraneous crap and distraction involved, roll your own.

  • Michelle Washington
    Posted at 21:16h, 10 January Reply

    I agree 100% that freelancers should have a storefront website. I have two-one for Krio and another for Haitian Creole. I have had my websites for more than two years and with the current engine search algorithms, I am finding it difficult to appear in the searches of my prospective clients. I have paid for three years of hosting. I am leaning towards discontinuing the service as there is more to it than creating the sight. The time and expense I’ve invested are not paying off. I would love to conduct an experiment. Can you find my websites when you do a search for my languages? If so where do I rank in your search? First, second, fifth or not at all? Then I will post the efficacy of creating and maintaining a website as suggested.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 00:28h, 11 January Reply

      Michelle, are you at all involved in your websites’ design? I did my own and I did not focus on SEO until it was exactly as I wanted it. So NOW I am slowly going over each page and working on that, as I update the site.

      It may be ignorance on my part, but I really loved when I could just put my desired keywords on the and have just one place to work on.

      When I searched for “Krio interpreter” I got a lot of paid advertisement and on the second page, your LinkedIn profile is number 6 on the list. And when I searched for Krio interpreter, Michelle Washington,” I got LinkedIn, Translators Café, Proz, Translation Directory and your site was #7!

      When I search for “Brazilian Portuguese Interpreter,” my site is nowhere to be found! I mostly get referrals from previous clients. But I do need to work on my SEO.

      • Michelle Washington
        Posted at 21:52h, 15 January Reply

        Geo,

        Yes, a friend helped me build my sites and now it is up to me to maintain them and go through page by page to improve SEO ratings. This means every month I must look for and apply WordPress updates, host updates, etc in addition to trying to improve visibility. From your kind response, I see that I appear in a browser search under OTHER websites. Alas, my own websites are still invisible for all practical purposes. I can still provide potential clients with a direct link to my websites but this provides limited benefits. No one can find my site when looking for a Krio or a Haitian Creole interpreter. The major purpose of my websites are to introduce clients to me. Allowing clients that I’ve already met to learn more about me is a distant second.

    • David Mintz
      Posted at 15:49h, 13 January Reply

      While I’m no SEO expert, I would venture to say that it might be a bit ambitious to expect to make the top ten in the search for “Krio interpreter” or “Haitian Creole interpreter” because you are competing head-to-head with the entire world. If you narrow down the search with more specific terms, like your geographic location, that might be more realistic. For example, I created a site for my local distance-running pals and me. Enter “distance runners clubs” in a search engine, and we’re nowhere. Make that “distance runners clubs south orange nj” and we come up number one (on duckduckgo.com) , preceded only by somebody’s paid ad.

      And of course, you can and should make sure you’re listed in all the professional associations’ online directories.

  • Vicki Bermudez
    Posted at 21:43h, 10 January Reply

    David, I appreciate your comments immensely! Two years ago I contracted with someone who purported to be an expert, paying what we both believed was fair, but the product I received was so shoddy that I will not refer anyone to it, for the very reasons you stated. I take great pride in doing the best at whatever I do, but you wouldn’t know it, if you looked at the website, and the website builder has been most unresponsive to my pleas.

    At some point I would like to do it again, and I will also keep in mind your comments about being mobile-friendly and SEO-optimization as well.

    Gio, like you, I have always believed that you need to present your product in terms of the benefit to the user, and I loved your suggestions about how to present yourself as a problem-solver.

    Helen, I agree with you regarding being completely truthful. We’ve probably all experienced finding out that someone we thought was an expert, proved otherwise.
    And Daniela, I liked yours and Helen’s ideas of offering something of value. I’ll have to incorporate that as well! Thanks to all for some great suggestions!

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 00:33h, 11 January Reply

      I feel your pain, Vicki. That’s why I decided to do it myself. My first site I did in the early ’90s using Notepad – all raw HTML. For this new site, I chose WordPress and I like the way I did it. I need to find the time to work on it – as I told Michelle (^^). But I love the fact that when I need something done on my site, I just have to find a mirror and my Website Gal is right there for me! Love that freedom.

      My hosting company is awesome and I get the best customer service and support ever. Anytime there’s an issue I can’t resolve, they are there for me and with advice also.

      • David Mintz
        Posted at 15:11h, 13 January Reply

        Dude! High five! We come from the same era, those early, primitive days when a few intrepid nerds and tinkerers started authoring HTML pages. I became Internet-curious back then and was also involved in NAJIT. I built the very first iteration of najit.org and put us online back when the World Wide Web was still an exotic thing. Incredibly, the tool I used was Windows Notepad. What a marvelous, long strange trip it’s been.

    • David Mintz
      Posted at 15:39h, 13 January Reply

      Damn, I’m sorry you got burned. We’ve all surely noticed how the quality out there runs all up and down the spectrum, from spectacularly elegant and cool to shamefully sloppy and/or woefully inept. If a company is itself a tech company, or if it has lots of money and a modicum of tech sophistication, it has the wherewithal to make sure its website is killer. For the rest of us, it’s a challenge. Even though there are services and products that purport to make it inexpensive and easy to create a quality website — ease AND quality AND economy? — I am skeptical. A lot of WordPress- and SquareSpace-type sites are mediocre, or worse. And I cringe when I see, e.g., nonprofit translator/interpreter organizations spend big bucks, relative to their budgets, for things like a membership directory that has a clunky interface and performs poorly.

  • Beate Maier
    Posted at 15:38h, 11 January Reply

    I hold a master’s degree in translations (not in a rare language combination) and have been in this business for more than 30 years. I never had an own website and do not intend to set one up. Nor am I on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like. Instead I have been an active full member of several professional bodies including ATA and NAJIT and selected social networks, so that clients and colleagues can find me if they really look for a language expert and know where to look.

    This concept of personal presence, limited visibility and selected channels has proven to be very effective and paid out well: Over the years I saved a lot on money (e.g. for hosting, legal advice, e.g. on data protection, liability, etc.) and time (constant website maintenance, no “drive-by” clients bothering me with odd one-time jobs or language combinations I don’t serve) which I could invest in more valuable activities while still being offered good jobs from people who trust me and whom I can trust. Plus that I simply do not have the time to check and answer to comments & blog posts and the like on me and/or my services – I have to work and rather dedicate my time and effort to my clients, professional advancement and my family.

    Not having an internet site of my own was one of my best business decisions ever – there are better options to promote my services and still get valuable and well-paid business.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 15:50h, 11 January Reply

      And that is a very valid option, Beate Marie. On the other hand, I get clients from my website, from my ATA profile and from client referrals. Love it!

  • Beate Maier
    Posted at 16:33h, 11 January Reply

    Maybe you misunderstood what I meant: I do get business from my ATA, ATICOM, BDUE, DVUED, NAJIT, two business and two social network profiles and referrals from clients and colleagues. In my opinion you can attract more valuable business by making yourself known through dedicated channels, personal presence/contact and visibility during on-site events, seminars, conferences, phone calls and visits. Electronic communication and media are only the second best way to shine and show who you are. Many freelancers tend to think that their website/internet presence will do that part of the job for them. Some (and most agencies) virtually hide behind it. e.g. through contact forms as the preferred or even the only way to establish contact. I advocate a straightforward personal approach: dialling a phone number, for example, may look old school but is definitely quicker and adds a human touch which in most cases is more efficient and sustainable in the long run.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 16:41h, 11 January Reply

      I did understand you very well.

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