This is a guest post by my colleague and friend, French to English translator Karen Tkaczyk. Thanks to Karen for submitting it, and she’ll be looking forward to your comments.
The Case Against Blogging
I don’t blog. I don’t aspire to, and I don’t think most of you reading should either. I hear all the time that we should be blogging to build our brand. I disagree. We should only be blogging if it will actually build our brand. Please don’t start yet another mediocre blog with infrequent postings on topics covered by many other people. I speak from the point of view of a freelance translator, but most of these points are equally applicable to interpreters, translation companies and those who provide services to our industry.
Not being first to your niche is a problem. If you would love to have a blog, but your ideal blog would imitate one of the successful T&I blogs, then I suggest you don’t bother. Let’s assume I think the ‘business practices for freelance translators’ market for blogs written in English is saturated (I do). Therefore your new successful blog needs to be narrower.
If you blog just because you find it personally satisfying and you don’t care whether anyone reads it, then fair enough. Someone may discover you one day, like other great artists, and laud you in the future. You may bring our profession glory. I salute you. But the goal of most of the translators and interpreters I know when they start blogs is to bring in business through networking. Many even start blogs hoping that it will bring in customers. Personally, my customers are not reading about translation. They read about their subject and want me to handle the translation so that they don’t have to think about it.
I should answer some of the arguments people give for blogging. First the strongest one for translators: the argument that translators are writers and should show off their writing skills. I say write anyway. Write for the numerous chapter, affiliate and division newsletters and blogs. Offer guest posts to bloggers you admire. Write for The Chronicle or T&I association publications in other countries. Editors usually need good content and often actively seek new authors. Some publications even pay for articles.
Another factor arises for the content of a blog showing off how good a translator you may be. I am a technical translator. The technical writing I use for almost all of my translation work is very different than the style required for a blog. There is no persuasive writing, wit or gentle humor in technical translation. That’s all dry, clear instructions and analysis. So in my case, producing well-written blog articles would be practicing a style of writing that differs from the one I need every day, the one I take pride in as I work.
One substantial advantage to writing ad hoc for many newsletters or online outlets is that you don’t have to stick to one topic. Taking detours into fascinating ideas that crop up occasionally may not be in the best interest of your blog’s niche. However, it may well be ideal content for a regional association newsletter or someone else’s blog. Think broadly and opportunities open up. However, if you prefer to think narrowly, then maybe a highly specialized blog is for you and you will be the first in your field. If you’re the first, and you can have twenty posts drafted, then I wish you well. If you are not first, and you would essentially be trying to creep into a market that is already well served, then I think there are more effective ways to improve your visibility.
For the record
I have considered the bigger picture. Should I discourage people from blogging at all, as posting articles in the ether that build up our profession may raise awareness and respect? Indeed, this is a strong point. If you’re in it for the greater good, may you thrive.
The observant among readers will have spotted that I said bloggers should have twenty posts written before they start. It seems to me that if you can produce and edit that much material, arrange it into an appealing order, and post regularly over a few months, then you may be set for success. I find that blogs with infrequent posts or that appear to have died slowly make the authors look disorganized or to have failed in their goals. It would have been better not to raise expectations.
Please take piece this in the spirit that it is intended, to help us make the most of the time we have as we run our businesses. I’m not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud, just a realist. Not all of us can be that blogger we aspire to be.
A successful blog will be:
- Uncommon (be the first in its field)
- Regular (have a predictable posting pattern)
- Novel (give me something new)
- Entertaining or Instructive (make me laugh or teach me)