Writing good website copy: 6 links

My website is getting an overhaul. I’ve bookmarked the following articles to help me out. See these resources:

On being concise from the Yahoo Style Guide: Get to the Point

On highlighting keywords and phrases from Open Forum: 7 Website Improvements That Will Increase Sales Now

On being user-centered from A List Apart: A Checklist for Content Work

On preventing choice paralysis from Smashing Magazine: Design to Sell: 8 Useful Tips to Help Your Website Convert

On writing good “about” pages from The Blog Tyrant: 12 of the Best About Us Pages on the Internet and from Six Revisions: Guidelines for Writing a Good About Page.

How can your website be improved?


Why having a day job makes me a better freelancer

Two years ago, Riccardo Schiaffino summarized the contents of a Colorado Translations Association seminar on About Translation and included this line:

NEVER sound desperate

(especially when you are).

This is why I work two days a week as an English teacher in Parisian companies.


For the first eleven months of my freelance career, translation provided my only source of income. Underemployment almost turned me into a monkey. I spent more time filling out agency forms and doing unpaid tests than actually translating.

I was starting to grow a tail when I came across this blog post on Intercultural Zone. Patricia Lane gives this advice to a struggling freelancer:

What I suggest […] is to split your time between getting yourself established as a translator (your career) and taking on any ol’ part-time job (unrelated to your career) to keep afloat financially.

I took this advice to heart. Why was it the right move for my freelance career?

Because it was liberating.

I do not need to be assigned every job I quote for.

I can count on two full days of work every week. If I have no translations one week, that makes no dent in my grocery budget.

Better quoting

My head is screwed on tighter when I submit quotes. My time has become even more valuable. I am not racing to the bottom.

If I land an interesting project, I am thrilled! If I don’t, I’m disappointed about not taking part, not about missing out on the income.

Other perks of having a day job

Not only am I less needy for work but

  1. I get out of the house. I talk to humans using my voice, not my keyboard.
  2. I brush my hair.  My shoes gets shined, my face gets powdered, my shirt gets ironed.
  3. I march. Few can keep up with my rapid pace as I head to and from the train station. My brain doesn’t get this much oxygen at home.
  4. I part from my computer. This gives my arms, back and eyes a rest. Anyone else translate using a font size of 20?
  5. I network. I got my current translation project, which is very exciting, after being referred by a fellow English teacher.
  6. I learn. I’ve given lessons to people in publishing, oil and gas, electricity, finance, in the automotive industry… I hold a backstage pass into the corporate world. This awareness of company challenges helps me translate business documents.


Having a part-time job is useful for me at this point in my career. What do you recommend for freelancers who are still building up their clientele? To take a walk on the wild side and put all their energy into freelancing? Or to make the transition into freelancing less financially stressful by keeping a day job?

Do you publish your Terms & Conditions on your website?

I recently came across the article 15 Professional Details That Can Land You More Work by Logan Zanelli. His eighth recommendation: establish your own policies. He advises freelancers to publish their own payment terms, cancellation policies and deposit requirements on their websites.

By establishing your own business policies, communicating them to your clients, then sticking to them, you’ll help build respect for yourself and your business. Plus, your clients will see that you’re serious about your business, and not just “winging it”.

I personally don’t have my Terms & Conditions available on my website right now. They are more or less a simplified version of what the Société française des traducteurs recommends. The ATA provides a Model Contract for Translators here.

I checked up on several freelance services websites. To my surprise, very few freelancers post their own policies.

The French-language blog La Marmite brought my attention to the Terms & Conditions of Medicalangues. What I like about these terms is their brevity. This medical translator expands on just four points: purchase order, format, payment and insurance. This means that clients will actually read them instead of going through fifteen wordy clauses. They will quickly and clearly understand that payment is due within thirty days after billing.

I’d appreciate hearing other views on publishing policies upfront. Are your terms and conditions available on your websites? Why or why not?

Are your terms easy to understand and to the point? Or long, comprehensive and more protective of your rights?

The freelance translator at home: instructions for use

This entry is my own translation of Céline’s Vivre avec un traducteur, mode d’emploi. I translated  it with Céline’s permission. Céline, an English to French translator, blogs in French at Ma Voisine Millionnaire.


Today’s post is for all the men and women out there who have crossed paths with a freelance translator—and have decided to live with him or her. Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, civil union partners—this one is for you. This guide will help you understand the lifestyle and needs of your significant other.

But let me remind you that I’m referring to freelance translators­—not in-house ones. Self-employed translators are an entirely different breed, always on the prowl, ready to pounce on any possible lead… but we’ll get back to this later.


When you head out for work, the translator is sitting at the desk, staring at the computer. When you get back from work, the translator is sitting at the desk, staring at the computer.

While you’ve been going from meeting to business lunch to getting work done, time has stood still for the freelance translator.

No, this is not true. As a matter of fact, the freelance translator has a remarkable ability to hold the same posture for hours on end.

Look at his or her work area—the keyboard and mouse are designed for good ergonomics. The large monitor is set up to prevent eye fatigue. The armchair keeps the translator’s back straight. The computer is powerful and has endless features. The freelance translator has done everything to make his or her lair as cozy as possible.

So what does your freelance translator actually do all day?

Once you are out the door, your sweetheart executes the task that sets the workday in motion: make tea/coffee. (Check the appropriate box.) Next, the translator sits down, hot drink within arm’s reach, and proceeds to read email, RSS subscriptions, favourite newspapers, the Twitter timeline, and so forth. As paradoxical as it sounds, the work-at-home freelance translator is often very informed about the happenings of the outside world.

But do not make the mistake of thinking that just because the freelance translator can tell you about the latest UN resolution or the debate on new legislation, your better half has accomplished nothing.

Au contraire. The translator is an advanced multitasker who can listen to music, catch up on tweets, negotiate contracts, make progress on the current assignment, all while sipping on a caffeinated hot drink. All from doing that day-in and day-out!

Are translators workaholics? Fortunately, no. The freelance translator also has hobbies and a social life.

Leisure time

If you can only remember one characteristic of the freelance translator species, take this: this individual is hungry for culture. What could be more unsurprising for a person who spends all day doing work-related research? The translator often remains, even outside of working hours, a veritable geek.

Whether we’re talking about volleyball, oriental dance, backgammon or scrapbooking, the translator has done all the necessary research on the chosen activity. The amateur chef can tell you when the first Kenwood mixer came out. The hard-core skier can list names of world champions from the past five years. Just don’t get me started on the film buff!

The worst of it all: the freelance translator talks as if all these facts were common knowledge. “You did know that mascara come from antimony-based powder, didn’t you?” says the freelance translator who likes cosmetics, ready to talk history to the Sephora ladies.

Social life

Fortunately, the freelance translator has a social life. Correction: two of them. First come friends and family. Friends who go way back are surely aware of the translator’s odd behaviour and they already know of his or her ability, at a family Sunday lunch in January, to explain the history behind the galette des rois. Or this need to translate during the holidays while everyone else is taking a nap…

As for newer acquaintances, the translator is often all ears. Yes, the freelance translator is extremely curious about others and is especially interested upon meeting someone in a technical profession. Full of new terms! (I told you, the translator is a geek.) Sometimes the translator will go so far as to leave a business card. You never know…

Sometimes, the translator cannot help but share his or her knowledge. If you’re about to spend a relaxing evening with friends, don’t take out the Trivial Pursuit! After the linguist makes five straight wins, no one wants to play with him or her again.

The freelance translator’s true self really comes out when meeting individuals of the same breed. You are probably wondering why your partner happily spends Saturday morning (yes, Saturday morning) to attend a talk about translation, Moldavian verb tenses or tax laws for the self-employed. Let me assure you: the translator is not insane.

While you have spent the whole week with co-workers—who you would not dream of running into on the weekend—the translator has not seen a living soul. Sure, he or she talked online all week. But you’ve got to understand that the translator needs to see others who share the same lifestyle, to talk about subjects all translators are interested in. It’s like going to Disneyland! The most awesome part is seeing how the translator lights up to explain the importance of the latest grammar rule reform or to get you to see a Czech film subtitled in German.

The freelance translator brims with enthusiasm. Isn’t that what you like most about the one you love?


I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed the original. Thanks, Céline! Feedback welcome.

Interview with Eve Bodeux: How can freelance translators get the most out of LinkedIn?

With this question I approached Eve Bodeux, French to English translator and Localization Consultant at Bodeux International. A Twitter contact had spread the word that she was giving a webinar about social media for translators.

For now, I blog and I tweet. And I’d like to get better at using LinkedIn.

Eve’s LinkedIn profile is exceptionally “full” and I’m pleased she took the time to share her own approach to LinkedIn.


Catherine: Firstly, what advantages does LinkedIn have over other professional networks such as Viadeo or Xing?

Eve: LinkedIn, Viadeo and Xing offer similar services, but each is focused on a particular region. LinkedIn originated in the US and has a large following in North America. It does offer various language versions which allow users to add different language interfaces to their profile. This lets people target other LinkedIn users in different countries.

Viadeo and Xing offer similar services to LinkedIn and they also offer the option to create multiple, multilingual versions of a profile. They are of French and German origin, respectively. Their user base is more Europe-focused, but they also do offer interfaces in English.

Whichever service you decide to use would depend on where you have the most contacts, what region you are in, and your strategy for making additional contacts in a particular region. If you have the time to devote to more than one of these professional networking services, you can of course, have accounts on more than one of them. The initial membership levels for all are free, with various other levels of membership at different cost and option levels.

Catherine: What are the basic rules of using LinkedIn?

Eve: Think strategically. Have a clear LinkedIn strategy with specific goals so that you can measure your success with this tool.

For example, you may have a goal to add a certain number of contacts within a given amount of time, you may aim to have your profile viewed a certain number of times per week, or you may decide to research a given number of potential clients every month.

Having a clear strategy will help you feel positive about the time you spend on LinkedIn and see any progress you make. You can always adjust your strategy as your needs or objectives change.

Build your network. Initially, you can build your LinkedIn network by seeing which members of your circle are already active on LinkedIn. Invite those people to become LinkedIn contacts. Look through your e-mail address book, or let LinkedIn automatically access it to tell you who among your colleagues is already on LinkedIn.

When you meet new colleagues or clients in person, be sure to follow up later by sending them a LinkedIn request so you can keep in touch and leverage that new relationship. These are high-quality contacts that are easy to add to your list of connections.

Carefully craft your profile. Your profile is your public face on this site. It is also what the LinkedIn search engine looks at to see if you match up with another user’s search.

Think carefully about the Headline section of your profile as this is where you “define yourself” in a few words. If you are a freelance translator, make sure the word “Translator” and your language pair appear in your Headline.

In addition, be sure to write, rewrite and proof the Summary on your profile. You can list all of your past jobs and experience on LinkedIn, but the summary section offers you a place to describe your skills and sell yourself in your own words.

Catherine: How do you feel about connecting with people with whom you’ve had only virtual contact or no contact at all?

Eve: If used wisely, LinkedIn is an excellent tool to broaden your contacts with individuals with whom you would never have been able to have contact otherwise, due to geographic or industry barriers. However, if used too much as a “sales” tool, it risks alienating people who might otherwise be interested in linking up with you.

When I receive requests from individuals I do not know, I do not categorically reject them; I do look at the content of their request and why they would like to hook up with me. For example, if a stranger sends me a request with the “canned” LinkedIn request that says, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I automatically reject it.

However, if someone contacts me and I don’t know him or her personally, but there is an interesting “pitch” as to why we should link up, I am likely to accept the request. For example, if a person mentions we are in the same industry but have different functions, or was interested in an article I wrote, or is in a related industry and has a specific reason for wanting to link up, I usually accept the request.

I do believe that part of the attraction of LinkedIn (and similar services) is that it gives us the opportunity to connect with interesting individuals around the globe. If you approach individuals thoughtfully, they will most always accept your invitation to connect. If they don’t, do not take it personally—their LinkedIn strategy may be different from yours. However, if most people reject your requests, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

Catherine: Do you recommend hooking up applications like WordPress or Twitter or SlideShare to your profile?

Eve: I do recommend sharing various applications through the LinkedIn interface. This gives more depth to your profile and lets you update it with little effort. For example, you can use WordPress to automatically feed any new posts from your blog to your LinkedIn account. If you have a presentation that you’d like to share with visitors, it is very easy to upload them to SlideShare and have it displayed on your profile.

Regarding Twitter, there are different schools of thought with regard to this application. If I follow someone on Twitter and am also connected to them on LinkedIn, I find it somewhat annoying to see the same content twice in both places. However, many people do not mind this.

If you have significantly different followings on Twitter and LinkedIn, you will be reaching different audiences with the same content if you pass your Twitter feed through your LinkedIn updates. You can also specify which tweets you would like to feed into LinkedIn, rather than have all tweets go to LinkedIn by default. Using this feature, you can be selective about what content you share on both platforms.

Catherine: Can a freelancer expect concrete results from investing time in LinkedIn?

Eve: As discussed above, defining your goals up front will help you measure results and adjust your approach if necessary. LinkedIn is a very visible place to be in today’s professional world and colleagues and potential clients expect it. Recognize that LinkedIn is a “long-term” tool. Getting on LinkedIn won’t change your life overnight, but it does increase your visibility and exposure.

In addition, you may actually get clients from LinkedIn. In the past year I have had more and more companies contact me cold, asking for consulting services. When I asked them how they heard about me, they all said LinkedIn! LinkedIn needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy, and today, it is a piece you cannot ignore.


(If you found this interview helpful, leave a comment and share the post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.)

I’d love to hear about how you use LinkedIn. Any comments?

Freelancers: 4 tips to tweet your way to new translation clients

I had heard of freelancers landing jobs through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter… but wasn’t sure of how much was made up and mythical.

No more suspension of disbelief because it actually happened to @TranslateTrad.

Backtrack to Tuttle Paris

I met with the Tuttle Paris group in November. Lilian Mahoukou rounded us up to talk about social media and branding. My interest was promptly piqued since I’d like to translate (and sometimes transcreate) not only websites, but Facebook pages, LinkedIn company profiles,  slideshares (my dream), blog posts, and why not, Twitter tweets.

I’d also like to get my own name out there using social media.

Our discussion, as interesting as it was, did not directly lead me to my client. Maxime Souillat, another attendee, is responsible. Also known as @beaucouplus on Twitter.

One of Maxime’s Twitter contacts later tweeted a request for a French to English USA translator. (OK, I’m Canadian, but I did grow up 45 minutes from Buffalo.)

Maxime suggested @TranslateTrad. Then came a direct message on Twitter. Then e-mail. Then phone call. Then quote. Then in-person meeting. Then translation. I lucked out because his website material was right up my alley.

My advice for finding clients on Twitter

If you’d like to get new clients using Twitter, I recommend four things:

1. Tweet about translation.

Anyone who is thinking of hiring you will skim down your last twenty tweets. So tweet something useful. When I first made contact with my client, I looked at my recent tweets and felt reassured. My tweets were mostly about web writing, translation and marketing. I did not tweet about my guinea pig.

2. Follow people who work in your industry to see what they’re tweeting about.

If you specialize in chocolate, follow the chocolatiers. If you specialize in wind energy, follow the wind experts. Keep an eye on recent developments and possibly “join the conversation” using Twitter’s reply feature.

3. Tweet out your home-made translation-related blog entries, newsletters, glossaries, and punctuation guides.

Give. And don’t be shy about that the fact that you eat, sleep, breathe and tweet translation.

4. Meet your tweeps.

Whether we’re talking about a twitter referral or any other kind of word-of-mouth recommendation, people are more likely to pass on your name if they’ve met you in real life. A handshake is worth a thousand retweets.

Good luck!

If you like this Twitter-related post, read my old post about using Twitter as a well-staffed learning resource centre.

Do you think that translators can use Twitter to get new clients? Have you ever landed work by tweeting?

My one resolution for 2011

Since I tend to avoid spooky tasks, I have made one promise:
Do real work instead of keeping busy.

Seth Godin says it better in his post called Measuring busy-ness….

Here’s to a happy, healthy and rewarding 2011! How do you feel about this brand new year? Have you made any resolutions?