When I was studying for my Master’s in Translation one of the things suggested to us that would be beneficial to our future career prospects as freelance translators was to start writing a blog. It was pointed out that sharing educational material might add value to the translation community and help other translators. Furthermore, creating fresh content would attract traffic to our website and also move it up the search engine rankings. At the time I remember immediately writing off the idea. I was up to my neck in university work and besides, what the hell did I have to write about?
But then something happened that not only gave me free-time by the bucketload, but also gave me plenty to write about. That something was Covid-19. As the situation quickly deteriorated back in 2020, the unfortunate decision was made to call a halt to the second module of the MA. We were told grades would be based on our previous work. As it wouldn’t be for another three months until studies were due to begin again on the third module, I suddenly had a huge amount of time on my hands. I wondered what I was going to do with myself as I lived alone and wasn’t allowed to visit anyone. I decided to totally revamp my website which had previously looked rather blank and amateurish. I also sent out some CVs which is a complete waste of energy at the best of times, nevermind during a pandemic. Then I started thinking about the possibility of writing a blog post. I’d been watching a lot of the news. They had just been reporting on panic buying, food shortages and empty shelves. What if I wrote something about that? I decided to give it a go and started typing away about the Corona virus and how it had led to this mayhem in the supermarkets. I had a good old moan about the British public for being so selfish and ended with a plea for us all to calm down. I found a photo of some sparse looking shelves on the internet and used it as my cover photo and that was it, my first blog, The Corona virus – like a bat out of hell? I nervously published it and then shared it on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
I didn’t know if it was any good and didn’t really expect much response so I was amazed when I looked at my stats page and realised that over a hundred people had visited my site to read it on the first day of publication. They were even commenting on it and getting involved in the conversation. Looking back I was really lucky because the world had just come to a halt and everybody was at home sat around twiddling their thumbs. People had nothing to do so reading my blog filled some time in. Likewise, I had all the time in the world so, encouraged by the response, I continued writing Corona virus related posts. As Mother’s Day was upon us I saw a fresh opportunity and wrote a heartfelt piece Mother’s Day and the Corona virus which basically stated that if we love our mothers we should stay away from them on Mother’s Day as, otherwise, it might be their last.
After a few more posts centred around the virus I looked at other sources to inspire my writing. It was Benjamin Franklin who had once said, ‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing’. I remembered that I had kept a diary for a year when I had been travelling the world and it was bulging with potential material for my blog posts. As I had ‘done something worth writing’, now I could ‘write something worth reading’. I set to work converting my diary entries into blog posts and began writing a series called Diary of a Backpacker. It was great reminiscing about my experiences as a traveller and I had a lot of fun looking at old photos which I could use in my blogs.
The posts were well received but I thought I was moving in the wrong direction. I knew that I wanted to specialise in tourism when I qualified as a translator so my travel writing could be justified to a certain extent. However, I thought it was about time I attempted something directly linked to the translation profession. I was dubious about writing a piece on translation as, being a student, what could I say that professional translators don’t already know and why would they care? But, at the end of the day, I’m not a theorist writing about new revelations in translation, I’m an inexperienced yet passionate translator and I can still discuss and contextualize aspects of translation in my own words. I’m still adding value no matter how many times an idea has previously been bandied about. Furthermore, it shows my knowledge and competence in the subject. I wrote a piece called What makes a good translator? and another called What is translation? They were fairly generic and weren’t anything ground breaking. However, they got me talking about translation and were aimed at readers with little knowledge of the profession just as much as they were aimed at fellow translators.
In that three month period of manic pandemic-induced writing I managed to chalk up a bounty of 15 posts. I couldn’t possibly comment on their quality but I was certainly prolific. I did diversify somewhat and, as I also offer my services as a copy writer, I saw it as an excuse to go carte blanche and dip my toes into some interesting yet random areas. One of my posts, entitled Baldness – a blessing or a curse? discusses how I overcame the traumas of hair loss. Surprisingly, it is a post that I find people are still reading now. It is quite niche and the blog title is obviously something similar to what other follicly-challenged individuals are typing into search engines in a bid to investigate what they can do to cure their rapidly retreating hairlines. I also wrote a couple of pieces which echo my love of history. Twas on the 9th of June – Happy Geordie Day! (currently my third most popular post) is an overall history of the city of Newcastle and a who’s who of famous Geordies, whilst The Industrial Revolution – why did it happen in Britain first? evaluates why it was the British Isles who played host to this incredible period of mechanization and urbanization.
As soon as my third module began back in the June of 2020, my energy was again consumed with studying and I didn’t have a moment to think about writing anything other than assignments. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the MA finally ended in January 2021 that my attention would again turn to blogging. I wrote MA in Translation as a review of my experiences studying the course with the Open University. It was of immediate interest to students, both past and present, translators who were interested to hear how my MA experiences compared with theirs, and also potential translation students who perhaps were in two minds about making such a big commitment. It is still my most read blog post to date and was shared on numerous occasions.
I only wrote three other blog posts last year. I had lost my writing mojo which can sometimes happen. I think this was largely down to the frustration and worry of not being able to secure regular work as a freelance translator which did affect my mood and motivation to write. But on those occasions when I did have the zest for typing, I decided to try writing posts that had a certain relevance to the translation profession and that might add some value on an educational or inspirational level. Kaizen, lightbulbs and Continuous Professional Development focused on the benefits of CPD and described my own professional development and self-improvement plans. New Beginnings in Catalonia told the story of how, after many years of struggle, I had finally managed to move to Spain and discussed my future prospects for finding work as a translator. A photo is worth a thousand words… but should I put one on my CV? was an interesting piece about whether or not to include a photo on your CV, bearing in mind that in certain countries this is seen as a cultural norm whereas in others it is not.
In 2022 I seem to have regained my writing mojo. As we come towards the end of March, this will be my fifth publication of the year which already outstrips my 2021 total. I’ve continued to write about subjects that have a vague connection to translation. In 25 cultural differences between Spain and the UK I write about my own cultural observations of Spanish life and how they differ to back home. It is currently my second most visited blog post and has probably been the most enjoyable to write. Me, myself and I – a personal profile is a shameless piece of self-publicity in which I blow my own trumpet with bumptious gusto, whilst Teaching – an additional string to a fledging freelance translator’s bow is basically an admission of failure and a nod to having a plan B for when things don’t work out. My most recent blog post A Spanish labour of love – the joy of language learning is a sentimental romance describing one man’s perpetual love affair with the Spanish language.
It’s now two years since I took that first leap into the unknown and started blogging and I suppose I have learnt quite a bit from the experience. If anyone was to ask me if they should start a blog I would definitely say yes. Being freelance can be a lonely existence and the ability to publish blogs on a regular basis is a good way to connect with people. Networking is a fundamental aspect of business growth and blogging helps to get your voice out there. You can share ideas and opinions with peers and anybody else reading. By making yourself visible it gives others the opportunity to get to know you and see what services you have to offer. Furthermore, you can demonstrate that you have a good writing style and you are credible. Your blogs may impress not only potential clients but also fellow translators who may wish to recommend you or collaborate with you. On a personal level, I find blogging good for the soul and it also helps to keep me sane when the work isn’t exactly pouring in!
My advice to anyone who is clueless about what to write about is to first of all think about the purpose of your writing. In some of my blogs I seek to be educational, whilst in others I aim to be inspirational or thought-provoking. I always want my readers to come back for more so I try to be entertaining when I can. Start writing some ideas down. Things are much clearer when written down rather than floating around in your brain. When new ideas come to you and you are away from your desk, record them on your phone. Be like Alan Partridge when he was recording his new ideas for a TV series! ‘Monkey tennis’ may be a non-starter but there’s nothing wrong with a first round of brainstorming before the elimination phase. Think about what is going on in the world. Think about your life. If you are a translator you don’t have to write about translation all the time. Think about what you know and what you’re passionate about. Go rogue and think outside the box. Drink some strong coffee or open a bottle of wine and let fly. You can always censor it later on! And don’t be scared that you can’t preach to those who are far more knowledgeable and experienced than you. There’s always something you can bring to the table. Use ideas that have legs and expand on them. One more thing, be kind and always think of others. The last thing you want is people arguing with you on social media about something controversial you’ve written.
Once you’ve published your blog you obviously want to get it out to as large an audience as possible. I post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. People will sometimes like your work and actually start sharing it. The more traffic you get visiting your website the higher you will rank in google searches. As for moving up the rankings, search engines apparently love websites that have new content added regularly. They love it even more if this content is interacted with by readers who leave comments. They are also quite partial to content that includes links. Using SEO correctly is something else that will help to improve your website’s ranking. Think of the right key words to use. When you give your post a title, try to think about what potential readers might type into a search engine when trying to discover your article. As previously mentioned, I accidentally hit the jackpot with my hair loss post as people from all over the world have been discovering it by typing something which is synonymous with my title. The post hasn’t brought me customers yet but at least it is helping to drive additional traffic to my site.
We may not be Shakespeare but we’ve all got a voice and we’ve all got something to say. I hope reading this has inspired people to give blogging a go. Good luck!