When it comes to marketing your freelance business, it’s important to cast a wide net. Taking an “if you build it, they will come” approach, for example by putting up a website and waiting for the work to start flowing in, is definitely not the way to go. But how wide should that marketing net be? Specifically, should you be on websites such as Yelp, Craigslist and Upwork? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
In my opinion, here’s the main argument for being on these types of websites: many direct clients know nothing…zero about translation (and as I’ve mentioned before, that’s not their fault). So, when they want to hire a translator, they’re likely to look in the places they’d look to hire other kinds of service providers. We may not love the idea of a client thinking, “Wait, I found my lawn guy on Yelp…maybe translators advertise there too,” but if the client puts those two things together, you want to be the person they end up finding.
Additionally, the fact that Yelp and Upwork allow/encourage reviews is likely to inspire trust in a potential client. I think that increasingly, when we ask the question, “How do you find a service provider (whether that’s an orthopedic surgeon or a landscaper) who you feel is trustworthy?” the answer is “I read online reviews before I contact them.” It’s a good idea to put testimonials on your website, but the potential client knows that those are cherry-picked from your favorite clients; online reviews tend to portray a much more realistic picture.
Finally, there’s the fact that you can piggyback on these sites’ very high search engine rankings and advertising power (this is also the reason I think every freelancer should be on LinkedIn). It’s free to create a basic account, and when someone Googles “Italian interpreter Detroit,” these sites are probably going to rank ahead of any individual freelancer’s site.
Then, there are the negatives. Chief among these (and this also applies to LinkedIn, and to online translation marketplaces) is that these sites advertise the competition right alongside you. And when the client is buying something they don’t really understand, like translation or interpreting services, and there are lots of people offering that service, they’re likely to gravitate toward the less expensive people. Encouragingly, I’ve recently read several online posts by translation clients who have used these services (specifically Upwork) and specifically said that they did not go with the cheapest person, but rather with the person who seemed the best fit for the job. That’s very positive. But still, having 15 different translators to choose from is very different from attracting a client to your own website, which features only you.
These types of sites have a few other negatives: they may be a “closed system,” where you are prohibited from communicating with clients outside the platform. They may take a commission on any work you find via the site. They may encourage reverse auction-style bidding on jobs. They may force you to name a specific hourly or per-word rate and guarantee that any work you find through the site will be done for that amount or less. They also may attract clients who have very small budgets or are looking for an absolute rock-bottom rate, and those are the clients you can do without.
In general, I would put these kinds of sites in the “worth a try” category, but I would not depend on them as a source of high-quality clients. However I’m interested to hear from readers who have found clients through these sites or other, similar ones. Any thoughts?