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Freelance Translator Team Invests in Website; Not Sure About Outcome
Thread poster: Pavel Zalutski

Pavel Zalutski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
English to Russian
+ ...
Apr 6, 2007

Hey everyone!

Let’s discuss this:

My Russian freelance translator friends and I have been thinking about investing into a website of our own. It would be for Russian translations, and each of us would be in charge of a certain translation field. Apart from presenting each translation field as headed by a concrete personality who’s a narrow specialist, we wanted to make the website quite high-profile so that it doesn’t look like an amateur template-generated page. In other words, we wanted a website that looks 100% professional and inspiring to high-profile direct clients. (We also wanted to add increased value by adding, perhaps, a checkout system which could enable clients to skip waiting for a quote; instead, the system would use formulas to estimate ETD and price by counting words in submitted documents, looking into availability of myself and my subcontractors… etc. Well, the checkout system and its practicability is not the issue here that we want to discuss. By mentioning it, we just wanted to show that we want a website which stands out, which isn’t just a profile).

As you can tell, making a website like that would require a financial investment, especially if we wanted to market it, not just leave it hanging there in the web.

This is the question: will we get a return on an investment like that? Does anyone have success stories when they increased their business by refusing to depend on assignments from agencies and launching their website? I’m not talking about starting an all-around e-translation agency. I’m talking specifically about websites advertising freelancing services in a certain language.

We feel like we don’t know enough about how direct clients find translation service providers. (That’s because we’ve mostly worked with agencies). So is it possible that we’re just wasting money on a high-profile website to only find out later that it’s not really the channel to attract all those immigrants, law firms, and corporations who are in need of translations from/into Russian?

(It’s understood that by default we aren’t going to be the choice of clients with projects requiring multiple languages. We’re after those who might have specifically Russian translation requests).

If we’re going to spend money on putting our website at the top of Google search results, we want to know not only how often people needing Russian translations go online. We also want to know how often they end up ordering via the Internet.

I’ve worked with agencies who would give me tons of legal documents to translate for famous law firms. But is it really through the agency’s website that those law firms found the agency? If so, would the same law firm be likely to turn to me if they found OUR website and read about my specialized personal approach? Having a specific need to translate a contract into Russian, will the law firm be inclined to pick me, the specialized, dedicated-to-legal-translation-only guy with a cool website, or the all-pairs-all-fields established agency? How much real edge do we have when we launch?

Thank you for reading my stream of consciousness. You probably thought that I’m shooting at free market research – and that’s right. We have a budget for the website, but we don’t have one to learn whether this website is viable and something we really need. We wouldn’t want to spend our money and then just sit and look at our best website ever. It may even win some design awards… but will it win us money?

P.S. Just to moderate our discussion: Saying “don’t invest, just throw a couple of templates together and SEO those and start small” isn’t really the answer. We’ve tried those, and yes, it generated us some income, and we’re not satisfied. The question here is specifically about the viability of a significant e-investment by freelance translators. We know the effect of the small amateur pages. Now we need to find out the potential effect of a high-profile high-tech website with added features by a Russian freelancing team.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
"This is the question: will we get a return on an investment" Apr 6, 2007

My answer: I don't know.

You are talking about the fundamental (generic) question of risk. And the risk means (in a generic sense again) making or losing money.


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NataliaElo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
My exclusively personal opinion Apr 6, 2007

Dear Pavel,

I liked very much everything what you wrote here, it gives me the feeling you know the field. I wouldn't call myself a success story, but it certainly paid off for me.

My website was published in the net in December 2005 so it was easy for me to compare the results for the years 2005 and 2006. The turnover had grown four times and still keep growing. I can give you exact numbers privately.


I have to say however that due to my rather unusual language combination/country of residence setting I work mostly for agencies.
Pavel Zalutski wrote:

We feel like we don’t know enough about how direct clients find translation service providers. (That’s because we’ve mostly worked with agencies). So is it possible that we’re just wasting money on a high-profile website to only find out later that it’s not really the channel to attract all those immigrants, law firms, and corporations who are in need of translations from/into Russian?

Well, I regularly get enquiries from either Russians coming to Germany or from German hosts of such guests. Sometimes it annoys me, because I don't work with German and clearly state my working languages on my website, but most of the times I just pass the job to some colleague.

How do they look for a translator? I guess first they ask a guy sitting next to them in their office and then they just type in Internet "german russian translator Munich". Bingo. I get a phone call.

Besides, you can (and you should) place your website address everywhere, where it makes sense like Russian-language immigrants' portals, link collections etc.


If we’re going to spend money on putting our website at the top of Google search results, we want to know not only how often people needing Russian translations go online. We also want to know how often they end up ordering via the Internet.

Oh, please, just don't waste your money for paid Google ad. I'm on the first Google page for Finnish to Russian translations just by having the ProZ profile.



I’ve worked with agencies who would give me tons of legal documents to translate for famous law firms. But is it really through the agency’s website that those law firms found the agency? If so, would the same law firm be likely to turn to me if they found OUR website and read about my specialized personal approach? Having a specific need to translate a contract into Russian, will the law firm be inclined to pick me, the specialized, dedicated-to-legal-translation-only guy with a cool website, or the all-pairs-all-fields established agency? How much real edge do we have when we launch?

Well, here I have to second Vito, you never know until you try.




P.S. Just to moderate our discussion: Saying “don’t invest, just throw a couple of templates together and SEO those and start small” isn’t really the answer. We’ve tried those, and yes, it generated us some income, and we’re not satisfied. The question here is specifically about the viability of a significant e-investment by freelance translators. We know the effect of the small amateur pages. Now we need to find out the potential effect of a high-profile high-tech website with added features by a Russian freelancing team.


I used to argue sometimes on this template vs. proffesional website topic with some colleagues, but now I stopped. I'm just too busy for that.


HTH
Natalia


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Pavel Zalutski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
So do we have a success story here or not? Apr 9, 2007

NataliaElo wrote:

My website was published in the net in December 2005 so it was easy for me to compare the results for the years 2005 and 2006. The turnover had grown four times and still keep growing. I can give you exact numbers privately.


I have to say however that due to my rather unusual language combination/country of residence setting I work mostly for agencies.


Natalia,

The design of your website is amazing! No wonder your profits grew four times in 2006 (yes, please do give the numbers via the contact page in my profile).

But at the same time, just by researching these forums, I find so many people who say:
"Not one single person contacted me through my website, even though it was professional. So I just took it down".
"People request quotes through my website often, but they end up going with an agency".

So maybe the reason of their e-failure is because their website wasn't really professional and didn't have as much appeal as Natalia's?

Now, Natalia, just to be 100% sure that it's the website that quadrupled your income in one year, let me ask you two questions.

1) I hear a lot that a website is essential as a solidifying tool, i.e. you met someone in person, you gave them your business card with your website name, and they visited it, and the website REINFORCED their confidence in you, but was not THE MAJOR SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE. Would you agree? So are you completely sure that many clients of yours, whom you think you met through your website, relied on just the website impression to make up their minds?

2) Just after saying that your website put you on the fast track, you step back to say "but I wouldn't call myself a success story" and "however, I work mostly with translation agencies". So are implying that the website helped you reinforce your image with translation agencies, rather than got you direct clients?

I appreciate your feedback so much!


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Pavel Zalutski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Is this the instance of overall website uselessness? Apr 13, 2007

I decided to contact one site owner who advertises his services in a narrow field and a narrow language pair.

This is what I received back:

Well, I'm embarrassed to say the website I have is still my own (very) amateurish effort. I haven't got round to putting up the professional one up I had made.

However, if you google [specialization+language pair], I'm on the first page of hits and yet most clients still go with an agency. The enquiries I get aren't really worth pursuing, to be honest.

In a way, I'd be very cautious to take work from an individual too. It's a far greater credit risk.


What I am thinking is: IS IT BECAUSE THE PERSON HASN'T TAKEN THE WEBSITE TO THE PROFESSIONAL LEVEL THAT THE EFFECT IS SO LOW?


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Michael Bastin  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:34
English to French
+ ...
it works Apr 14, 2007

I have two sites, a personal one done by myself and a professional done by a designer and developper.

It has been working very fine for me, but I've dedicated countless hours in promoting both websites. After 4 years of operation, sites generate respectively 2500 and 7000 visitors per day.

The irony is that I spend so much time promoting these sites, that it's basically what I do for a living, having almost given up translation.

My recommendation would be to start something small, promote it, wait, and then invest a bit more while you build up your link popularity. (Content is king and links are Queen). It's a constant effort because many sites are competing.

It takes over a 6 months nowadays to break the "sandbox" period in Goole. Besides, "russian translation" is very competitive with many SEOed websites competing in the search engine result pages.

By experience, many prospective customers are looking for the cheapest price and it's easy for them to contact 10 sites at once and choose the lowest offer. Lots of time spent responding to requests without receiving any answer.

The advantage of having both a personal and pro website is that I cover all the spectrum. I apply a freelance rates when a request comes from my website and an agency rate when it comes thru the pro site.

The important thing is the conversion rate: you can have the nicest website in the world and not get any customer, while a well-promoted site with an ugly design is likely to attract a lot of individuals and students, aka time-wasters.

HTH


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Elizabeth Joana
German to English
+ ...
clients sometimes prefer agencies Apr 17, 2007

I have recently heard this comment which seems to be a partial answer to one of your queires. Clients may chose individual translators who give tailor-made service when they look for translations in one languge and field. However, it is a challenge to generate a substantial income from such assignments. When clients want to translate large volumes into many languages they will choose agencies, because it is more convenient for them to subcontract the whole job to one party instead of looking for a separate translator for every language/field. And such assignments tend to generate good income.

Having said that,

I have had two personal websites for several years now and they generate some income. The biggest advantage is that you can get customers directly, not via agency which charges its fee on your every page. My websites are not as high-tech as your plan sounds, I just don't have time to take care of them, because I prefer translation to marketing:) But still there is response and it is growing.

I think that it is a bit risky to place all your hopes in one project, why don't you do a bit of both options and in the meantime watch your business grow?


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NataliaElo  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:34
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Sorry for the delay Apr 18, 2007

I really am sorry for the delay in replying you, Pavel.


1) I hear a lot that a website is essential as a solidifying tool, i.e. you met someone in person, you gave them your business card with your website name, and they visited it, and the website REINFORCED their confidence in you, but was not THE MAJOR SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE. Would you agree? So are you completely sure that many clients of yours, whom you think you met through your website, relied on just the website impression to make up their minds?

Pavel, I almost never give my business cards to my potential clients simply because 90% of my work load are Finnish to Russian translations. How many agencies in Munich, where I live, would get a client to do a translation from Finnish to Russian? I tell you - none. Virtually all my clients came to me via email. I have no idea, whether they found (a) ProZ profile, (b) the website, (c) ProZ profile and the website both.

As I said I work for agenices, but from some of them I get jobs almost every day. Recently I got a new client from Munich with Eng to Rus jobs, who found me on similar to ProZ portal. As far as I know he wanted to have someone as close as possible, and for whatever reason he has chosen me amongst other colleagues in Munich with the same language combination.

To be honest I don't know what exactly they rely on. I guess for Finnish agencies my credentials might look good - education + exam for authorised translators'+ membership in professional association - and provable (all those things are possible to prove online). I guess the website just adding a tiny bit showing that I'm serous about what I'm doing.


2) Just after saying that your website put you on the fast track, you step back to say "but I wouldn't call myself a success story" and "however, I work mostly with translation agencies". So are implying that the website helped you reinforce your image with translation agencies, rather than got you direct clients?

I will start calling myself a success story when I afford to buy a MINI

Seriously, that's what I tried to tell in my first post, I do get regular inquiries from direct clients based in Germany, even Munich, looking for something what I don't offer - German to Russian or vice versa translation or interpreting. Actually it is strange, becuase I never included keywords like Deutsch-Russisch Übersetzer to the tags of the website.

I guess in your case it would be different, you live in the country of your working language, so I do still believe that it would make sense for you to have a well-made website.

The most important part of my website is NOT pretty intro (though I do like too), but keywords. My designer was very thorough, he explained me a lot of things, he made me compile long keyword list, answered my stupid questions and gave his opinion, whenever I needed it.

Some statistics - the website was online roughly one and a half a year, there were 1606 visitors, my visits are not included. I have no idea, whether it is a lot. I guess not. It is obviously much less than the figures Michael is giving us here, but on the other hand I don't even know what promoting my website means. The only thing I had to do since I got it was to update in the beginning of this year CVs and the reference subpage.


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Céline Graciet
Local time: 17:34
English to French
Just do it Apr 20, 2007

Sorry about stealing a famous motto/slogan, but it sums the whole issue up for me. My website, which was originally a birthday present from a friend, has turned into my main source of clients, accounting for 1/3 of my income last year. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost a lot of traffic following a dodgy Google update in December and so my keywords aren't doing so well any more, but I hope to fix it asap!

I see a few reasons why a website is precious to a freelancer: visibility, credibility (provided you look after its content) and searchability. The best thing is that, with a good website, you don't have to look for clients: THEY find you.

Céline Graciet
www.nakedtranslations.com


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Pavel Zalutski  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:34
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Did you know we had Google's #2 listing for "translation company" contribute to this thread? Apr 24, 2007

Michael Bastin wrote:

I've dedicated countless hours in promoting both websites. After 4 years of operation, sites generate respectively 2500 and 7000 visitors per day.


Oh God, I feel so privileged that the owner of BeTranslated, the #2 Google listing for "translation company", cared to leave feedback!

By the way, the owner of Applied Language, the company which is one listing above Michael for the same keywords, reports over GBP 3 million of revenue (without clarifying whether this figure is calculated for the recent year or since opening in 2003).

So this makes you think how prosperous you can get with a translation service appearing at the top of Google results.

I imagine what kind of clientele you can build with 7,000 visitors per day.

Your feedback is priceless, Michael.

It's hard to believe you do all the SEO yourself, having been a freelance translator at the start.

My recommendation would be to start something small, promote it, wait, and then invest a bit more while you build up your link popularity.


I feel extremely privileged to be counseled by the industry's top player, yet I feel a little lost at this piece of advice. What is small? Is paying for the kind of SEO that puts you at the top of Google considered to be 'big'? What kind of return can I expect from something that is 'small'? Isn't it like building a house: the walls can't be cardboard...

The important thing is the conversion rate: you can have the nicest website in the world and not get any customer, while a well-promoted site with an ugly design is likely to attract a lot of individuals and students, aka time-wasters.


What exactly do you mean by 'conversion'? My understanding was that it has to deal with the kind of engagement the client experiences when browsing the site that makes him/her proceed to checkout. So how does a website with ugly design manage to engage? You write: "ugly design, but well-promoted". So do you tie conversion rate to the customers' ability to find it on the web? Once they found it, it doesn't matter whether it's ugly or not - and that's what's conversion is about?

Why do you consider ‘time-wasters’, those attracted by a website ‘with ugly design, but well-promoted’, to be potential clientele? I mean, if someone’s surfing the web just to waste time, are they really in need of a translation?

And something I'd like to ask you as owner of an all-languages translation agency. What is your opinion on the efficiency of a translation agency dedicated to only a couple of language pairs? It's understood it wouldn't be chosen for projects requiring multiple languages at once. But if someone has specifically a En>Ru translation and that's that, how high is the chance to win such clients from all-languages agencies?


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