To make one thing clear way ahead, without a website you will not survive on this market. And while you are at it, make sure the website is user-friendly because you will need to make changes once in a while and if only to promote some new services. A website should list all the services you are about to offer as well as all your contact details. In the US pictures of yourself and your colleagues are seen as a sign of trustworthiness and reliability, in Europe this notion is not so widely spread, mainly because we are a little shy when it comes to posting pictures of ourselves on the net.
One important detail should never be omitted: your VAT number and the company’s General Standard Terms and Conditions. Even though it is a global world and all, make sure to indicate that if anybody likes to take you to court, it will have to be a relevant court in your country.
It is also quite useful, or so I have been told, to have a quotation form on your site so that the client can get a price quotation for the potential job real fast. I have posted one on my site but honestly I don’t really see any advantage in this. The clients have always contacted me via email or phone without using this form so the day is near when I will take this damned thing offline again.
Links and tools which can be useful for any translator or interpreter are always welcome. I see my site as a way to promote things I like seeing on the net, useful websites I have come across, useful shareware, interesting glossaries, dictionaries, events coming up, sites of friends and colleagues, practically anything that makes my daily routine easier and more fun. Again, it is up to you what to link to but it is advisable to check the links once in a while to see if they are still working - the internet is a fast-changing medium!
So now you have it all, a website with a clear message and some useful tools and links and on top of it a good provider to host it. Here I made the rather costly experience that it pays off to have a provider in your hemisphere, your country. My first provider was an enterprise in Arizona, US and one day got merged with the competition. I ended up paying more fees for less service and when I wanted to change providers they blocked my domain name and made things real complicated for a while.
Again, now you have it all, so how to promote this thing? You want people to find you not the other way around it, right? Well, if you have not forgotten to include some keywords so that search robots are going to find your site, go ahead and submit your site to the various search engines, i.e. Google, Alta Vista and all. There are services on the net which will post your website on any search engine available for free. Don’t fall for any of those companies claiming they will submit your website on various search engines in exchange for a hefty fee. You can save that money! Just google “submit url free search engines” and the results will point you to various providers you can use for this. Also make yourself known on the various translators portals, write up an article about your profession once in a while for the various associations, post messages on the mailing lists (make sure your website is mentioned in the footer of the message), post a newsletter on your site etc. The list is endless for promoting your services but keep in mind with fame comes notoriety. Keep in mind, the website is just meant to be your virtual business card, it is not meant for opening doors to your computer for anybody out there. If you’re on the Internet you need to have good anti-virus software and a firewall, period.
And you need to keep them updated. If you use Windows you need to use the Windows Update feature at least monthly to make sure that any discovered holes are patched. This goes triple if you use Internet software that integrates closely with Windows, like MS Outlook or Internet Explorer.
This will cover you for the vast majority of security problems out there. I also review CNET news and Yahoo’s most popular news items to see if there are any other security issues or rampant viruses I should be aware of.
This brings us to all the unsolicited mail you tend to get, once you are online with your website and email, the so-called SPAM. Some e-mail programs have built-in spam filters, while sometimes your ISP will offer a spam-filtering program. If you don’t have either of these options you may wish to consider a spam-filtering program to keep your e-mail more about job offers and less about any number of a dozen scams. Do a search for “spam filtering” or “anti-spam software”.
One word of advice: The Internet has over four billion pages. Everyone is going to approach it with different needs and interests. Not everybody will have your well-being in mind so please use your common sense and the resources available on the net to reduce any chances of getting burned.