Blogging for business: Five questions to answer before you start

Blogging: it’s dead! Blogging: you’ll never find clients without it! Is one of these true for translators and interpreters? Both are true? Neither? Is blogging totally 2009, or should you start blogging today, if you’re not doing so already? Having written this blog since 2008, I can say that blogging has absolutely been worthwhile for me, and I’ve identified five questions that might help you determine whether it’s right for you.

Question 1: Why am I writing (or considering writing) this blog?
This sounds so basic as to be not worth stating, but it’s really critical. What is your objective?

  • To have an outlet for your thoughts on some aspect of the language professions
  • To connect and discuss with other people in the language professions
  • To attract potential clients
  • To establish yourself as an authority about some aspect of the language professions
  • Something else entirely

It’s impossible to over-stress how important this is. Without a goal, it’s not worth starting a professional blog in the first place.

Question 2: Who is my target audience?
This follows from the topic above. The number one complaint I get from translators and interpreters who blog, is “I write this great blog, but I never get any work from it.” And when I look at these blogs, they are great…if you’re a translator or interpreter. If you’re a translation client, they are of no interest whatsoever.

Here’s the truth: if you want to attract clients through your blog, you have to write posts that clients want to read. Clients don’t want to read about how to market a freelance business, or how to research legal terminology, or translation software tips, or how to improve your memory skills for consecutive interpreting. In fact, they hire you so that they do not have to think about those types of things. Clients might want to read about:

  • Best practices when dealing with employees who aren’t fluent in English
  • Avoiding liability in healthcare situation with patients who aren’t fluent in English
  • How to publish a translation of a self-published book
  • Specific insights about X specialization: “Three must-attend events in the international development sector this year”
  • 10 expressions you can substitute for sports metaphors in your writing, so that it reads better in other languages

Question 3: Do I have the time and energy to keep this project going?
So (so!) many blogs suffer from what translation blogger Riccardo Schiaffino refers to as “the three-post syndrome”:

Here’s the best suggestion I’ve heard along these lines, from translator and blogger Sara Freitas. Before you even launch your blog, write 20 posts. Then:

  • If you release one post per week, you have your first five months of content in the bag
  • You know that you have enough time, energy, and ideas to keep the blog going

Question 4: What’s my niche?
When I started blogging in 2008, there were about three and a half freelance translators writing blogs. It was completely possible to write a blog with rambling anecdotes about one’s life as a freelance translator–not to be all transparent about my blogging strategy back then…-and generate a significant amount of readership. For the first year or two that I blogged, I had no strategy, no purpose, no target audience; and still, readers came, because there was not much else out there.

These days, throwing the blog spaghetti against the wall doesn’t work. You need a niche. Maybe your idea is to establish yourself as an expert in the chemical coatings sector, or as the premier Uzbek translator out there, or the go-to German conference interpreter on the West Coast, or as a translation technology consultant for big corporations. I say go for it. But don’t launch a “my life as a freelance translator” blog, unless you’re writing it purely for your own enjoyment, which is also fine, as long as you’re clear that that’s your goal.

Question 5: How am I going to attract readers to this blog?
The internet in 2018 is a crowded place. If you just build it, they may not come. You have to build it, then shout from the housetops that it’s there. Some content marketing experts even estimate that you should spend 25% of your time creating content, and 75% of your time spreading the word about your content. Again, unless your blogging goal has zero to do with increasing your work volume, income, referrals, etc.

Assuming you do want to drive traffic to your blog, you need to think about:

  • How to spread your presence across other social media platforms, so that you can put your blog posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. etc.
  • How to attract movers and shakers in your target audience to your blog
  • How to start an e-mail list so that you can contact your blog readers directly
  • Perhaps, how to re-purpose your blog content into videos, e-books, etc.
  • How to get the word out about your blog in “relevant content communities”-that’s bizspeak for “Find places like Facebook and LinkedIn groups that attract the kind of people who would be interested in your blog, and spread the word about your blog there.”

Blogging can be a significant business driver for a freelancer. In the ten years I’ve been blogging, my books and online courses have grown into about 40% of my income, and the main channel through which people find out about them is my blog. It’s so worth it–for me. But I also see lots of translators getting frustrated about what they see as the lack of results from their blogging efforts. I think that using these questions can help you avoid some of that frustration.

Readers, over to you: thoughts on blogging for business?

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