Guest post: Professionalism in the age of social media

Welcome back to our guest series, dear readers! I hope all of you are doing great and at full speed with whatever you are doing. 🙂 But how about taking a coffee/tea/juice/lunch break to read this awesome post by today’s guest, Lloyd Bingham? I assure you it will be worth it.

Welcome, Lloyd!


Professionalism in the Translation Industry

We need to talk about online professionalism

Professionalism is a word we hear a lot as translators. As an unregulated industry, we naturally need to set, maintain and enforce our own standards, so that we’re taken seriously by our clients and the wider world. Professionalism is not a new idea by any means, but there is a relatively new dimension to it that we have talked very little about: the effect that social media is having. Yet, as a new phenomenon that is damaging our industry’s reputation, we do need to talk about it.

Professionalism is a subjective word. Typically, though, many would associate this concept with politeness, empathy and fundamentally not insulting other industry members. These attributes should be inherent of any person who runs their own business, not just translators. Just imagine if we as freelance translators had to be interviewed for the job like any other – no-one would hire us if we lacked these qualities, and quite rightly so.

While freelancers naturally find it harder to draw the line between our personal and professional lives, our presence on social media exacerbates this. We have professional profiles on social media, but we often become close to our colleagues and accept them as friends on Facebook. This amity is incredibly admirable and I wouldn’t change this principle for the world. But social media are making it easier for us to be unprofessional.

Blurred lines

Social media as we know them today are only about a decade old and we are still seeing a boom in their use for professional purposes within our industry. They have given translators a new set of powers, but much like superheroes we need to decide whether to use those powers for good or for evil.

The problem is that we sometimes let our personal feelings affect our professional lives and then take it out on the keyboard. Passive-aggressiveness has sadly become the norm within online forums and a culture in which it is acceptable or even encouraged to attack our colleagues and clients has been fostered. Regrettably, it begs the question whether we are infringing professional ethics or the codes of conduct of any professional associations we may belong to (see the ITI Code of Conduct, for example – sections 1, 3.5, 3.6 and 5.4 in particular).

Shameless shaming

Social media have become a breeding ground for vigilantes. Rude, hateful language has become standard practice and swear words directed towards colleagues and clients aren’t given a second thought. It’s the modern day version of putting someone in the stocks and pelting them with rotten vegetables if they’re lucky, or burning them at the stake if they’re not.

Picture a doctor criticising his patient or a solicitor mocking her client online. This is practically unheard of in the most respected professions. And as the translation industry currently fights to be credited with the professional recognition that it deserves within society as a whole, unprofessional behaviour online amongst its members does a huge disservice to this and undoes the hard work of those campaigning for respect for our work.

A new generation of unprofessionals

When newcomers enter our industry, they observe the aggressive behaviour of established professionals and view it as the norm. Sucked in by this culture and those who spearhead it, they quickly become party to it in an effort to be accepted into the community; this is effectively training a new generation of hostile, cynical and defensive translators with a warped sense of conduct with colleagues and clients.

To say our industry has its problems would be an understatement: bottom feeders, non-payers, lack of understanding, scammers, the list goes on. Ranting, however, as previously pointed out by Corinne McKay (on her blog) and Andrew Morris (in his Book of Standing Out) serves no purpose. Other than an inflated ego, fifteen minutes of fame and the self-satisfaction from a few ‘Likes’. I don’t often quote Thatcher, but something she did say fits well here: “If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing”.

Equally, self-pity does no good. And personal attacks are utterly out of line. Observe how you would never see some of our industry’s most recognised professionals, such as Nicole Y Adams, Tanya Quintieri and Chris Durban, who all voiced their support for Corinne’s article on this subject, being party to this behaviour.

The solution

No-one denies there are horrendous agencies, aggressive project managers, bad translators and evil scammers out there. And no-one should apologise for their internal animosity towards these and the emotions that accompany it. But we must be responsible in articulating our sentiments when faced with a problem.

From discussions with other professionals at the ITI Conference 2015, it is clear that the vast majority of translators are on the same page and agree there is no excuse for professionalism to be undermined in our industry. A change in mentality is severely overdue. The way we can go about this is not by suppressing problems, but by turning a problem into an opportunity:

  • Demanding clients are a good thing. They keep us on our toes and encourage us to challenge ourselves. None of us are in the profession for an easy ride;
  • Clients who won’t pay our rate or offer low rates are an opportunity for education. We should not waste it with patronising, smart alec answers. If they won’t listen, don’t work for them;
  • Clients who consistently don’t pay should be subjected to the formal procedures for recovering money owed. After a reasonable amount of time, it is appropriate to bring matters like these to the industry’s attention – albeit in a calm and professional manner – to inform colleagues and help them to avoid the mistake of working with that client;
  • Unsolicited emails from other translators, particularly those new to the industry,asking to work with you should be guided towards more appropriate channels of building up a client base. Otherwise, there’s always the ‘Delete’ button;
  • Criticism of our methods or ideas offer us a chance to challenge ourselves and promote healthy debate with our industry.

Not one of these issues has ever been solved with the anger, frustration and hostility that they are often been treated with. This leads to us becoming more closed-minded, distrustful, desperate, less ambitious and, ultimately, worse businesspeople. Some principles that should guide us when confronted with someone or something we don’t agree with are:

  • Assume good faith if faced with an undesirable scenario. Assume misguided views rather than malice. You will always be the bigger person;
  • Don’t take things personally. There’s no ‘I’ in translation community… there are two. The industry is bigger than a single person;
  • Don’t go in with all guns blazing. If there’s something that a client or colleague has done that still makes your blood boil, write an angry message… and then delete it;
  • Attack the argument, never the individual. Personal attacks are the epitome of unprofessionalism and any reasonable arguments immediately lose all validity once the sleeves are rolled up;
  • What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What goes on between our clients – potential or long-standing – is between us as individuals and them… no-one else. Not only is publically slamming unprofessional, you also risk breaking any NDAs you may have signed with clients and any codes of conduct of professional associations that you are a member of;
  • Set an example to the next generations. New translators are sponges. They absorb everything their elders say and do. Lead by example;
  • Challenge those who conduct themselves unprofessionally. As Edmund Burke allegedly said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

We are all ambassadors of our industry and have a duty to represent it responsibly. We should not be victims waiting to be rescued from the bad people in our industry – that takes away the point of being a freelancer. Rather, our careers are in our own hands. Shouting over and blaming one another is for amateurs.

Great post, Lloyd! I agree with every word you said. Thank you so much for accepting my invitation and taking the time to write such fantastic content!

About the author
Lloyd Bingham_Profile PictureLloyd Bingham runs Capital Translations in Cardiff, UK, translating from French, German, Spanish and Dutch into English. He specialises in marketing and business and is also a qualified member of the ITI.
Known for speaking on translator and interpreter engagement in their industry, primarily through the medium of Twitter, Lloyd has also turned his attention to online professionalism following a palpable surge in client and colleague bashing on social media.

Guest post: Social media strategies

Welcome back from the holidays, dear followers! And Happy New Year! 😀 I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I did and are ready to take 2015 by the horns — I am!

Our first 2015 guest is Catherine Christaki, a Greek translator currently living in Canada.

Welcome, Catherine!

Social media for translators — Follow & connect tips

In order to get the most out of social media, you must develop an ever-expanding network. How do you do that? Who should you follow on Twitter and connect with on LinkedIn?

The people I follow and connect with on a daily basis on Twitter and LinkedIn are the most important factor on why social media has been such a rewarding experience for me. It’s definitely not about the numbers and each social media user has his/her own ‘strategy’ regarding the people they interact with. I don’t follow back automatically everyone that follows me on Twitter and wants me to join their network on LinkedIn. My follow numbers on Twitter (5,564 followers, 2,036 following) might look a bit far apart but, trust me, there is a thought process behind it 🙂

So, if I’m following you on Twitter or we are connected on LinkedIn, it’s probably because:

  • I know you personally
  • You tweet or share in a language I understand
  • We are in the same LinkedIn group and we have talked there in the past
  • You are one of my current or past clients
  • You write interesting or insightful tweets, posts, articles
  • You share interesting links about translation, interpreting or linguistics
  • You engage with me regularly
  • You sent me a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn (please people, stop using the generic invitation if you don’t know personally the person you are inviting to join your network)

How do you find and choose the right people to follow or connect with? These are some of the ways I’ve used to expand my network on LinkedIn.

Get LinkedIn to help you

Use the ‘people you may know’ feature, accessible from your home page or your contacts page. LinkedIn will make suggestions based on the people you are already connected to – the more people you connect to, the more accurate these suggestions get.

Friends of friends

It’s likely that you will have common acquaintances (or ‘mutual connections’) with some of the people with whom you are connected. Look at their connections list in their profile, and find the people you have in common.

Former colleagues

LinkedIn will give you a list of all the people who have worked at a given organization. If you add the organizations you have worked for to your profile, LinkedIn will keep you updated when people who work there join up.

Join groups

LinkedIn groups help you find like-minded people to connect with. If you strike up a conversation with someone in a group or find what they have to say interesting, try inviting them to connect.

Use Advanced Search

Next to the people search at the top right of the LinkedIn interface is an Advanced button. If you click it you will find a page where you can do an advanced search for people by profession, company, or whatever’s relevant to you.

It’s similarly easy to find great people to follow on Twitter.

Find your professional contacts

This includes colleagues, existing clients and other professionals, like your website designer. Maybe you just got back from a networking event. Many professionals include their Twitter handles on their business cards so they’re easy to find. Otherwise, use Twitter’s Search function to find them by name.

Suggestions by Twitter

In the Homepage of your Twitter account you’ll see a ‘Who to follow’ section on the right-hand side. Click ‘View all’ and then click on the names to check out the profiles and timelines of the accounts that look interesting to determine whether you’d like to follow them or not.

Twitter lists

Many Twitter users use lists to categorize the people they follow. For translators, the most common names for such lists are Translators, xl8 or t9n (abbreviations for translation), Languages etc. Given the high number of linguists that I follow, I have four (yes, 4!) such lists full of great linguists that are active on Twitter, check them out:

Translation-Languages, Translation-Languages 2, Translation-Languages 3, Translation-other (Associations, events, CPD, products) 

#FollowFriday (or #ff)

Every Friday, Twitter users use these hashtags to recommend their favorite Tweeps to their followers. That’s a great way to find new people to follow.

Search for hashtags

Another great use of Twitter’s search function. You can search for the topics of your interest (usually #xl8 for translators or #1nt for interpreters), with the operator OR between the words, and see all the latest tweets that include one or more of those hashtags. In case of conferences, find out which hashtag is/was used for the event of your choice (for example #ata55 for the last ATA Conference).

These are the most regularly used hashtags by language professionals:

#xl8 & #t9n for translation, #xl8or for translator, #L10n for localization, #1nt for interpreting, #language, #CATtools, #g11n for globalization, #i18n for internationalization, #terminology

What is your favorite way of finding people to follow and connect with? Do you follow everybody back automatically? Let us know what you think and what is your follow/connect policy on social media!

Thank you, Catherine, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write to our blog. 🙂

My social media strategy is exactly the same as yours. I definitely do not follow everyone back. I only follow those who contribute with interesting things on Twitter. On LinkedIn, I only accept invitations from those I already know somehow or that writes a personal message explaining why they would like to connect with me. I absolutely despise those who randomly add people without even knowing them.

What about yours? Do have any strategies to follow people (back) on Twitter and send a friend request and/or accept people’s invitation on LinkedIn?

About the author
Catherine ChristakiCatherine Christaki has been a full-time English-Greek translator since 2001 and co-owner of Toronto-based Lingua Greca Translations since 2012. Her specializations include IT, Medical and Technical texts. In 2013, she translated the popular guide for translation buyers, Translation: Getting It Right, into Greek. She is active on social media, especially Twitter @LinguaGreca, which has been voted among the Top 25 Language Twitterers 4 years in a row (2011-2014). She writes the translation blog Adventures in Technical Translation and regularly talks about social media and blogging for translators in interviews and conferences.

How (not) to connect with people on LinkedIn


Ok, I’m being repetitive and insisting on a subject that has already been covered many times by other people (not only translators), including myself. However, I hope that, someday, somehow, people might start realizing they are doing it wrong. Yes, I know, I hope too much. Nevertheless, if every time I tackle the subject I am able to change one single person, I’ll be satisfied. So here we go again.

LinkedIn is the largest social network on the Internet exclusively aimed at professionals where you can show your resume, career and educational background, work portfolio, connect with other professionals, join professional groups, follow companies. The problem is people think it is just like any other social media platform and do not treat it with the ethics and professionalism it requires.

As its own slogan says, Relationships Matter, therefore, the aim of the connections you make on the platform is not only to add up to your network in number and show you are well-know and know plenty of people. Do you walk around the streets asking unknown people to be your friend? I hope not. Otherwise, you’ll look like a freak. At work, if you want to be someone’s friend, you introduce yourself to the person and tell them why you’re approaching, right? So why not behave the same way on LinkedIn? According to Milton Beck, Talent Solutions Sales Director at LinkedIn Latin America, no behavior you would not have in person is accepted on a LinkedIn contact.

Therefore, do not add any random person just because you thought they were good-looking or influential, or even only because they have the same job as you do. Please, don’t, seriously. If you really want to add someone to your network who might not know or recognize you, introduce yourself and explain why you would like to add them to your network before actually doing so. You also have the option of sending a message with the request, so the person can read your introduction before completely ignoring it for not knowing you (something most professional people on LinkedIn do, including me). Besides being polite, this attitude calls the attention of the person to you, who gets to know you a little better, instead of only accepting another random person that will get totally lost in the middle of hundreds or thousands of other connections.

It’s better to have a few quality connections than a lot of random connections. Do not look unprofessional, only add people you know and always send introductions with your friend requests! Afterall, it’s your professional image at stake, not your personal one. It could cost you job opportunities.