If you’re anything like roughly 31% of the world population, you are at least on one social media platform. As with any social environment, there are some tacit rules of social media behaviour that allow every user to enjoy their platform of choice to the fullest. In most cases, you don’t want to be perceived as rude or ignorant, or as someone who can’t be trusted. Even more so if you have a professional profile that you use to raise your brand awareness and connect with clients and colleagues alike. To be seen as a professional, you need your social media behaviour to be impeccable.
With Facebook groups and online forums like Proz, we now have the chance to connect with hundreds of colleagues from all over the world to chat, ask questions and exchange ideas. This really is a golden pot for young translators and interpreters who are moving the first steps in the translation industry: who knows things better than someone who has been there, right?
When looking for answers or advice on Facebook, Proz, etc., however, you should always keep in mind that there are unwritten rules of social media behaviour (or netiquette) to respect. If you don’t follow them, chances are you’re going to get angry responses from other group members, or no responses at all.
To make your life a bit easier, I decided to collect these unwritten rules of social media behaviour for young translators in this article. The list you’ll find below is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point.
Do your research first
The internet is a wonderful thing. Millions of websites, forums and blogs where you can find tonnes of information in just one click. As a professional translator or interpreter, a big part of your job is to research information. Before posting a question on a Facebook group or online forum, do your research. Most of the time you will find an answer within seconds. Sometimes you’ll have to dig a bit deeper to find what you’re looking for. Very rarely you won’t find the answer: that’s when you can ask your colleagues.
Questions like “how do I become a sworn translator” or “how many words are in a standard page” have been asked so many times that you would need all the time in the world to read all the answers! Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the page and use Google: use the Search box on a Facebook group or a forum to see if someone has asked your question before you.
Don’t assume that others owe you an answer
Don’t forget that when people give an answer to your question, they’re basically giving up their (precious) time for you. They’re doing you a favour. They’re acting as consultants, free of charge. If you don’t like the answers you receive, maybe your question was phrased badly. Or maybe it had been posted hundreds of time before (see my point above).
The translation community is highly collaborative. We all do our best to help younger colleagues, as in the end it will benefit the industry as a whole. Don’t assume, however, that just because you’re a newbie, you’re allowed to behave unprofessionally. Be polite, be smart and do your homework first, as I suggested in this article. You’ll get all the answers you need if you act like a professional.
Ask for the recipe, not for a slice of cake
Ok, it’s 5pm and I’m craving something sweet, hence the metaphor. What I mean is: ask how something is done rather than asking someone to do it for you. When you ask things like “Can you give me the names of good agencies to work with“, you’re basically asking people to give you hours and hours of work for free.
Finding a good client (agency or direct) takes time. You have to research information about their reliability, their policies and payment terms, the niche(s) they specialise in, etc. Plus, a client who is perfect for me might not be for you. If you don’t know where to start, this article explains what are the first steps to finding new clients. I also gave a speech in March on the subject: you can find the slides here.
KISS: Keep it Simple and Specific
As said a couple of paragraphs before, whoever answers a question on social media is offering their time for free. The more simple and specific your question, the more likely you will get useful answers. Existential questions such as “how do I become a freelance translator” or “how do I find more work” will put off potential helpers as they take ages (and a lot of effort) to answer.
Don’t bother asking about rates
Rates are one of the hottest topics in the translation industry, and one of the most controversial ones. Let’s start with the fact that rates are a very personal choice, so if you ask about how much you should charge for your services, you will get very different answers (if any). Your rates will depend on your language combinations, speciality fields, expertise, positioning, and ultimately on how much you think you’re worth.
Also, don’t forget that the people you’re asking are, in most cases, your direct competition. Not everyone will be happy to share their rates with you. Some translators, on the contrary, even have a price list up on their website. Try to have individual conversations rather than posting a public question, but don’t forget to do your research first! There are numerous articles and surveys that can give you an idea of how translation services are priced. I mentioned some of those in this article on how to define your basic rate.