Social Media: Essential for Our Translation Business or a Mere Distraction?

When I first started my translation business, social media literally scared me.

I had never been a big fan of technology in general, and the thought of having to put myself out there to promote my business was a bit scary.

Nonetheless, I went ahead and did what everyone else was doing—I opened up a Twitter account, a Facebook business page, and updated my LinkedIn profile.

I still was not sure how these accounts were going to help me to find new clients, but I did it anyway.

After all, social media for translators is essential, right? Everyone else is doing it, so it must be the right thing to do.

Well, not necessarily.

I’ve been involved in social media for the past six months.

I’ve consistently posted on my Facebook page, shared articles on Twitter, and posted on my business blog.

But my diligence and online presence through social media has not led me to any potential clients.

So here’s my take on social media–

Social media is a great way to connect with other translators.

It is a way to learn about other businesses and what they do.

It is also a good venue to learn new skills and stay up-to-date with what’s new in the translation world.

But the truth is that spending countless hours on social media will not get me clients.

It may get me a lot of followers and recognition among my peers,

It may allow me to join a bunch of translation forums and vent about the ups and downs of our profession,

But I certainly won’t be making any money from it.

So yes, social media can be a distraction if not managed with care.

It can be a distraction from our most important goal: finding new clients.

Now, not everything is bad about social media.

I’ve truly enjoyed having those accounts and interacting with many fellow translators along the way.

It’s also given me an opportunity to develop my writing skills in my second language.

The key is to find a balance between interacting on social media and the time that we spend translating and finding potential clients.

Because clients don’t go looking for translation services on social media.

Now, hear me out for just a minute.

Pretend to be a client looking for translation services.

Would you go looking for a professional translator on Facebook? Twitter? Good old Instagram?

Of course not.

If you were a client looking for translation services, you would most definitely go online and do a Google search.

Or maybe ask a friend for a referral, right?

So, instead of wasting time sharing articles we haven’t even read ourselves on Twitter and Facebook,

Why not spend some time setting up our own website?

Why not start telling our neighbors, coworkers, friends and family members about what we do and develop some new connections?

This is exactly how I found my first client.

We also need to go where our potential clients hang out,

and out of all the social media platforms that are out there,

LinkedIn is probably the only one worth our time.

Joining groups in our areas of expertise through LinkedIn will give us exposure and an opportunity to become memorable.

But even LinkedIn can take away a lot of our time.

Remember—balance is the key.

Social media can be entertaining, instructive, and fun, but if we are not careful, it will drain us until we have nothing left to give.

The more we focus on our ultimate goal–finding clients– the less we’ll care about wasting our time engaging in activities that will suck our time and keep us from making money.

There’s no other way around it; we need to limit our time spent on social media and focus on those goals that’ll help us to progress and grow financially.

So, what do you think? Is social media essential for translators or a mere distraction?

Would love to hear what you have to say!

12 thoughts on “Social Media: Essential for Our Translation Business or a Mere Distraction?

  1. Now, that is a post I really want to comment on and, again, thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I have been harboring exactly the same feelings that customers will not come to me through social media. I still believe they won’t. It works indirectly.
    I have sort of changed my approach recently.
    Since I have been opting out of FB for all these years, just using Twitter, I have realised a few things that were not tangible at first.
    1. Recognition from your peers = as you say, this is what social media can do for you, right? Some of the best ways to find more work is actually from peers and colleagues.
    2. Social media is a way of letting the world know that you exist. Unfortunately. I have been resisting against the trend (partly because I have been busy with work) but if you think about all the people who have been doing well in the industry, there is a social media presence behind that. Regarding those that have been successful offline, this is usually people that have been in the business – and have established themselves – before the rise of social media. They don’t need SM as much as we do!
    3. Some of us might not be able to attend events for various reasons and SM is where this can help.
    4. To really make your SM presence work with a view to finding clients, all other aspects need to be fulfilled. Qualifications, testimonials, website, association.
    5. Through networking on SM, you learn what others do, you learn things perhaps no one will tell you. Naturally, you need to be selective and make sure that the advice given can apply to your case. In my main language pair, Italian to Greek, not all advice is relevant but you must be able to figure it yourself.
    6. Yes, they can really be a waste of time and distract you. That’s where you need to be careful.
    7. You need to keep your options open. Some clients come and go. Being on SM (along with taking care of all the other aspects and constantly improving and becoming always better and better at what you do), is better than not being on SM at all.

    Perhaps I should write a post on this, when I have more time 🙂

    Back to work!

    One of my biggest fears with SM was that I didn’t want prospects to think I have *no work* to do, which would be absolutely wrong. There, I said it! I am sure that many of us, tweet and write and share things on line even in the middle of projects we really ought to get back to! 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting, Magda! You’re awesome. Yes, there may be translators out there who have a ton of work and still make time to comment here and in other places, but I also know of many successful translators (you know who those are!) who are no where near any translation forums. Something to think about, right?

  2. Great post, Beverly. Exactly where I am at right now. I have had a steady contract for over six years now, but the constant traveling this past year has gotten to be too much. So, as I told my dad, I need to diversify my “eggs” and find more baskets.
    It’s so hard to know where to start, specially if you’re the introvert type. I’ve done the website, created profiles on similar forums and now I’m thinking….what next? I’m with you about the agencies. I’m hesitant to take that route. There are some good ones but the horror stories I’ve heard about the bad ones have really put me off.
    I love learning through all these posts and experiences shared by others, great insight. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Gina, for commenting! I’m sure there are a lot of great agencies out there that do great work. I have nothing against them. However, how do we filter through and find those that pay fairly and are currently hiring? The only way to find out is by applying to a TON of them and seeing what happens. And for us to do that we need to have TIME available. Social media will not help us to find clients. We do need to go out there and find them. Thank you!

  3. This is a really interesting question to me. I often feel torn between the real benefits from social media (clients, resources, problem solving, networking, professional development, referrals, etc etc-) through Facebook and LinkedIn, and the gigantic time suck that these sites represent. To top it off, I have family and friends scattered around the world, I also do volunteer work that requires a social presence in my community, and FB is the easiest way for me to keep up with both. My solution is to use a resource like RescueTime (free Chrome extension) to “ration” social media time, because it really does have benefits for me, but I need to make sure it is serving my needs, not taking over the time I have.

    1. You are right, Tracy! The key is to be in control of our time and how we use it to our benefit. I still have a lot to learn about this! It seems like social media has come to stay and the better we know how to handle it–or stay away from it–the better we’ll be. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I agree with your statement “But the truth is that spending countless hours on social media will not get me clients.”
    I had a similar situation trying to publicize some of the self-published books that I translated. I have a free Tweet Jukebox account that automatically sends out a few Tweets every day, and I rotate for 5 or 6 books. I also post these books on the side column of my blog. I don’t think any sales have come from this social media posting. There are a couple of articles that explain why this is so and I will post the links below.
    Basically the articles say that only a small percentage of your followers will see your tweet or your Facebook post. Facebook has algorithms that filter your posts to only a few of your followers. If you want to ensure that everyone sees it you have to buy advertising. With twitter it’s about how many of your followers actually get on Twitter every day and for how long.

    Here are the links about why so few people see our tweets and Facebook posts:

    1. Thanks E.S. for the links! In my short experience I’ve realized that finding direct clients through Social Media is a never-ending quest with zero results, but as Dmitry mentioned, it is an indirect way to make connections that remember you and will send clients your way (hopefully!). Good luck with the sale of your self-published translated books!

  5. From Dmitry at the Open Mic:

    It is definitely not a distraction if you’re strategic and professional about it. From my experience social media won’t bring you direct clients, but it will bring you more work through referrals from your colleagues. And the only way to get referrals is by being helpful and human. Posting irrelevant links all day long won’t yield any results, while participating in discussion and positively contributing to the development of the profession and community can help you earn trust of your peers. Some studies show that more than 80% of freelancers recommend their colleagues when they cannot take the project. You just have to be that person they would recommend. This can only be done through networking (and social media is the easiest way to network).

    1. Yes Dmitry, you’re right about that. Through Facebook and Social Media in general I’ve come to know many translators, although not a ton of them have earned my trust enough for me to feel comfortable recommending them. The key is to take Social Media as an opportunity to show your professionalism and writing skills to indirectly become a part of the select few that will leave a good impression on other colleagues. I certainly know who I’ll definitely recommend if anyone needs a translation from English>Russian. =-)

      1. From Dmitry at

        Thanks, Beverly! It should be noted, though, that it has the opposite effect too. I have a list of people who I would never contact simply because of the way they behave online. Things like: disrespectful tone, accusations, personal attacks, etc are a big no-no in my personal code of ethics.

        1. That’s how it should be, Dmitry! I think that after reading everyone’s comments I’m starting to see Social Media with different eyes and will use it strategically with a different purpose in mind. Thanks for your input!

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