Branding is an important part of building a career as a freelance translator. While we think of branding as something only for large companies or famous products, it can also play a key role in the foundation of your success in the field.
What is branding?
Think of companies like Nike, Apple, or even Disney. Each of these has a distinct image that comes to mind and a set of feelings that goes with it. That is their brand at work. A brand is a distinct image that companies create so their target audience can immediately recognize it. The feelings associated with it – fitness and health, efficiency and sleek design, or joy and laughter – are also part of that brand. They are immediately recognizable and memorable. They are where you turn when you start looking for athletic wear, a good computer, or a family holiday destination. Even if they aren’t your final choice, you still start with them and recognize them.
As a freelance translator, your personal brand will do the same thing. It will make you immediately recognizable as an expert in your field, as someone reliable and knowledgeable, and as the perfect person to turn to in a time of need.
How does your freelance translator brand relate to marketing?
In short, your freelance translator brand is the foundation on which your marketing plan is built.
Many freelance translators, along with freelancers in general, shy away from marketing. Good work, they often think, will speak for itself. While there is truth in that idea, it is also not enough for freelance translators today. People are bombarded with information on a daily basis from a number of different avenues: phones, computers, emails, billboards, and more. Good work is out there, but how do you find it? How do you know who to trust? How do you even find someone?
This is where your freelance translator brand comes into play. It is the focal point of your marketing techniques and strategies. These don’t have to be anything super fancy, like a T-shirt with your logo on the front but can be as simple as what you post in your social media feed, on your blog, or write on your website.
Why does branding matter for freelance translators?
Effective branding and marketing serve a few different purposes that can make a big difference for freelance translators.
Makes you a bigger fish in a smaller pond
Effective branding and marketing help eliminate the competition. By showcasing your specific expertise, knowledge, and experience, you illustrate what sets you apart from the rest.
For example, if you happen to translate documentary films about marine biology, then your social media feed is a great place to share your work*. You can also blog about people you work with in the field or whose work you admire and would like to translate. This shows you are connected and that you have your finger on the pulse of what is happening.
*When you share your client work on social media, make sure you are not bound by the non-disclosure agreement.
Positions you as the trusted expert
Translators and freelance translators, in particular, worry about the steady development of translation software. Yet, as handy as people find Google Translate and DeepL, there is still a need for a human being to review the text. The subtle nuances that make language so distinct, expressive, and powerful require the mind and eye of a professional. Effective branding makes you the professional people think of first when they want that touch to make it perfect for their audience.
Establishes your reliability
Effective marketing and branding for freelance translators showcase not just your work, connections, and expertise, but over the long term, it also establishes your reliability. Clients and potential clients see on a regular basis that you complete projects on time, do good work, and your clients are happy. Your freelance translator brand tells them that if they want a job done right, you are the person to do it.
Provides networking opportunities for new assignments
As you hone your freelance translator branding and marketing, you will come to the attention of people and organizations working in your area of interest. More than one freelance translator has a story to tell of a great assignment or long-term client that came through their social media feed or LinkedIn profile and got in touch. It’s worth the effort.
Connects you with others in your field
Even as you strive to eliminate your competition, you also want to stay connected to them. Other translators, especially those doing similar work, are your allies. Yes, you are all trying to catch the eye of some of the same clients, but these people are in a sense also your colleagues. It’s a great way to share information and tips, but perhaps most importantly, it is a great way to get referrals. If another translator can’t take on a new project or learns of an opportunity where multiple translators are needed, you will be at the top of their contact list.
How to Create Your Freelance Translator Brand
Creating a powerful and recognizable brand requires some time and preparation to ensure that you get off to a good start. While it might be tempting to charge forward with social media posts and a blog, it is worth it to give the following questions some thought and create a plan.
Who are my clients?
Give some thought to who your current clients are and the kind of work they ask you to do. Are they all in the same field or scattered in different fields? Is it interesting work? How does it pay?
If you find that your current roster of clients is in a particular niche that you like, then consider how to find more of them.
Or maybe you would like to move into legal translation work because you loved those assignments when they came your way. Branding can help highlight what you are interested in and good at as a freelance translator and help you see what next steps you might need to take in your career, such as specific certifications or professional organization memberships.
Who are my competitors?
Take a look around and see who is working in the same field or area as you are. Remember, these people may not be in your geographical region, so make your search a broad one. Check out professional organizations for translators but also those that cater to experts in the field. Translators, writers, and editors often also belong to those groups in order to connect with experts and keep up to date with current trends.
Which market trends can I take advantage of?
Talk to your competitors and clients, attend meetings of that professional organization, and read their newsletter or blog to find current trends in your field. Is there one you can take advantage of? Is there a trend you see coming and could perhaps even lead? Finding answers to these questions in relation to your work and the direction you want it to go is part of your freelance translator brand journey.
Where to Begin Your Freelance Translator Brand Work
You’ve done the research, answered the questions, and you’ve got an idea of where you want to go with your freelance translator brand.
Now, how do you implement it?
The answer to this depends on your schedule and your clients. Think about where you like to spend your time. Are you a Twitter or Instagram fan or both? Or is LinkedIn where you like to roam around? Wherever you like to be is probably where you should start. That will make your branding work feel more like fun and less like, well, work.
You should also think about where your clients and potential clients spend their time. Are most of them on Twitter or LinkedIn? What kind of information or material is best suited to them? Most likely, you will have found some of this information when you answered the above question about who your clients are. The sweet spot you want is the one where client preferences and your own overlap.
Implement your plan
Now that you know where to target your efforts and how to make the most of those efforts, you get to have the fun of implementing your freelance translator brand!
Define your position in a unique way
What will you say when you introduce yourself? How do you define your position?
Create unique ways to explain your position such as “Tech nerd/Avid game translator,” “Traveling foodie and gourmet/food writer,” or something similar.
Schedule a time for this as part of your regular workday
This helps ensure that you keep your branding efforts consistent and current.
Create a calendar of posts on SNS or for your blog or newsletter and follow it
This helps keep your efforts focused and gives you a deadline to bump up against.
Nike and Apple didn’t become leaders in their respective fields overnight. They did it by consistent effort, paying attention to the work and people around them, and trying new things.
The same will be true for you. Give it time and keep at it. We look forward to seeing your T-shirt!
Originally from Ohio, USA, Bailey is an experienced freelance writer and editor, especially for technical and scientific content. With an MA in English and a background in science, he also has more than 20 years of experience in teaching English around the world.