It might sound silly, but instead of setting a whole bunch of goals for the year I prefer choosing a theme.
Last year was a year of productivity.
It was a year where I finally realized that I need to manage my time more effectively so I could focus on the things that matter the most: my family and my business.
I’ve started using Toggl to track my time and everything I do on a daily basis.
It helped me distinguish important work from distractions and get a much better idea where my time goes exactly as the days fly by.
This year will be a year of change for me.
The first biggest change is, of course, on the family front.
I’m really happy to share the biggest of news: as of January 14, 2018 we now have a new mini-translator on the block!
His name is Daniel and he’s probably the cutest baby in the galaxy (I haven’t traveled the whole galaxy yet, though, but it’s safe to say that in this part of the universe he is undoubtedly the cutest)!
As I was adjusting to my new role of father I also decided that it’s time for a change on my business front.
That change was actually long overdue and I’m extremely grateful that my newfound purpose in this life gave me a boost of motivation to re-brand my business and start afresh.
Reasons for Rebranding
There are many good reasons for rebranding.
Sometimes you want to shift your focus, so you could serve your customers better.
Sometimes you want to generate a new line of income or you embrace the rebranding due to growth and expansion.
And sometimes you manage to get your hands on a very nice domain name in your niche and that gives you an idea for a new brand or some ways to spice up your current service offering.
For me it was a combination of several factors.
1) Getting brand new domain name.
Right about Christmas time last year I decided to take a look back at the work I’ve done in the past few years.
It became instantly evident to me that 95% of all work I did was in one single niche: video game localization.
I also realized that my website didn’t really represent that very well.
Sure, I had some witty copy written on the home page about video games being the art of the 21st century, but for the most part my website was still very vague and generic.
I decided that’s time to fix it (I mean it’s been 5 years since I first launched it).
So I looked around for a new domain name that would really represent me and what I do.
When I realized that http://videogamestranslator.com wasn’t taken it was a no-brainer!
I mean, I am Video Game Translator after all! So it would make sense to have that domain name. 😎
2) Outdated design, outdated copy.
I absolutely love my website.
For me it’s not just a digital version of a resume or a business card.
No. It’s much more than that! It’s my digital fortress, my home, my office.
It’s a place where I meet my clients, where engage with other folks of my profession and where I do sales (of course).
It’s a fascinating tool and an extension of myself and my business.
The only problem: you need to maintain it to make sure it stays relevant and that it reflects accurately what is that you do.
It was no longer the case for me, so a redesign was in order.
I also had to rewrite the home page copy from ground up to fit into my newfound focus on video game localization.
It sounds like quite a lot of work and it was, but I’ll get back to it later.
3) Serving existing customers and leads better.
When I say that my website is my office I really mean that.
It’s tough when you’re competing in digital space without any representation in the physical world.
That’s why user experience has to be outstanding.
You need to understand what your site visitors are looking for and be able to predict their every move.
You need to cater to their needs, anticipate their questions and make sure that if they have a problem – you have a solution.
I’ve been gathering data about my leads and all the users that come to my website for the past 5 years.
I know what questions they ask, what pages they visit and how they engage with my website.
I realized that I need new design and new user experience to reflect that data so I could serve the people who come to my website better.
The Challenges of Rebranding and Redesign
Without a doubt rebranding and redesign is one of the hardest thing one can do for their digital business.
It seems simple and straightforward on paper, but when you get into it, you realize that there is actually quite a lot of work involved.
Here are some of the things you should pay special attention to:
1) Moving to a brand new domain name.
Quite often rebranding is accompanied by moving to a brand new domain name.
This alone is a very complicated process that requires some technical expertise because even the tiniest of mistakes can cost you site traffic.
I worked closely with my hosting provider to ensure a smooth transition and read a whole bunch of articles to make sure I’m doing this right.
Here are some key takeaways:
- It’s always better to hire a professional if you’re not sure about something (I’m lucky because I have Siteground’s team behind my back (my hosting provider) and they were very happy to help;
- If you’re more of DIY kind of gal/guy, this guide will be really helpful;
- Don’t forget about redirects! Your old website will be on Google for a while, so make sure it redirects properly to a new domain;
- Your images and in-post URLs will likely have problems. Be sure to check your every page and every blog post after migration to make sure that all links inside of posts and all images/gifs have correct URLs;
- Let the Google know that you moved! Nobody likes coming over to someone’s place only to realize they don’t live there anymore. Let Google know that you moved using this tool;
- Change your email too! Now that you have a new domain it’ll make sense to update your email address. Ask your email provider how to do that because it is different for everyone;
- Be patient! Technical things take some time. Remember: there’s no rush. Follow the instructions in the guide above to make sure the transition is smooth or hire a pro and relax;
2) New brand = new design.
Ok, all that highly technical stuff is behind us, so lets talk about something fun: the design.
Depending on the scale of your rebranding efforts you might need to redesign your logo, your business cards, your social media cover images, your blog cover images and, of course, your website.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of logos.
I mean, my business is just me most of the time, and I aim for more personal one-on-one approach as opposed to creating some sort of corporation with employees.
So I never really had a logo and I opted out from having a logo this time too.
But hey! Everyone’s approach to business is different so if you feel like your business needs a logo, that’s totally fine.
In my case I redesigned the following things:
- New home page. I had a very simple home page before. This time around I opted for a more traditional home page with several visually distinctive sections and clear single call-to-action that leads to my lead-generating bot;
- New overall site/blog design. I decided to change my WordPress theme and after some searching finally found the one I like. I hope you like it too ☺️;
- New pixel art on my home page. I hired a ridiculously talented pixel art artist to create 4 awesome pieces of pixel art that features me and my loyal sidekick/proofreader – my cat Mindy 😻. Check the home page and share your thoughts in the comments;
- New social media cover images. I used the pixel art to redesign my Twitter cover, my Facebook Business Page cover and my LinkedIn cover;
- New blog cover images. Again, they now feature my pixel art and the title of the article;
- New color palette/fonts. Although I pretty much decided to stick to the default fonts and colors of my theme, I did played around a bit with them for my home page;
It took me a while to finish the redesign of my website, but I’m extremely proud of the final result.
Of course, nailing the design of your website is tough when you’re not a designer by trade, and I’m sure that there might be some things can be improved.
But looking back on my previous 3-4 versions of my translation business website’s design over the past 5 years, I have to admit that this one is my best one yet.
Here are some of the things to keep in mind when you’re redesigning your website:
- It’s all about your customer and not you! Hey! I get that you want to put yourself out there, but many people come to our websites looking for solutions to their problems (hint: they need translators). Your design have to answer their questions and help them find what they’re looking for in a fast and efficient manner;
- Professionals are the best! I’ve been developing websites for 5 years now. I made a ton of mistakes but I learned a great deal. This experience helped me build my best website to date. If you don’t have that experience – it’s always better to hire a professional web-designer who would help you bring your ideas to life;
- User experience comes first! Yay to clear call-to-actions and chat windows that actually answer your clients’ questions. When testing your website, pretend like you’re a customer, looking for translators and try to anticipate their actions so you could reduce friction to a minimum;
- Less is more! Sometimes we want to cram as much information into a single pixel as humanly possible. In design it’s not the best idea. Try to use white space and bold contrasting elements instead to make your site more visually appealing;
- Call-to-actions are everything! Give your clients a SUPER EASY WAY to contact you instantly. That means: big bold buttons, big simple forms (if you love them, personally, I prefer buttons), a chat window so you could answer all of their questions (I even built a bot that answers the most common questions and generates leads 24/7);
- Don’t forget about credibility! If you already have happy clients, ask for testimonials and feature them on your home page for everyone to see. I took it one step further and asked some of my clients to tweet my testimonials at me and embedded those tweets into one of the sections on my home page.
- Design for mobile first! About 50% of people who visit my websites come from mobile devices. That’s a HUGE number. Be sure to have your iPhone and iPad nearby when designing to make sure your design is mobile-friendly;
- Never hurts to go bigger on fonts! I love my eyes so much! I use them everyday to look at things and stuff. If I see someone trying to put additional strain on my eyeballs by using ridiculously small font, I’ll leave their website immediately. I might even report them to the authorities. Seriously though, small fonts should be illegal!
- Be original and let your personality shine! That’s a tough one if you work in a very serious niche (like legal or medical translation). I’m lucky because I work in video game localization, so that fun pixel art of me and my cat fits right in.
3) New brand should redefine user experience for your existing and future customers.
New brand is your chance to start fresh and to impress your existing and future clients.
I can’t give you any advice on how to improve your UX because it’ll be different for each and every translation business owner.
But here are a few data points you can use to improve your current UX:
- Ask yourself who are your current customers are and how you can serve them better;
- Ask yourself who your ideal clients are and how they can benefit from your new design;
- Analyze your previous website’s historical data to identify weak points and ways to fix them;
I had several big problems with my previous website that was residing at https://bestrussiantranslator.com so I tried to use my UX knowledge (which I’ve acquired after building one of the largest online communities for freelance translators) to solve those problems.
Problem 1: No single lead generation funnel.
I’ve had people coming over to my website asking same questions over and over.
The home page offered way to many call-to-actions.
It was confusing for me because I was loosing time answering the same questions and half the time people were not even good leads.
So here’s what I came up with:
I’ve built a bot! 🤖
I know! I’m quite a geek!
But I just realized that all those leads that I’ve been getting through my website had lots of things in common and I could see clear patterns in types of leads and types of questions.
So, in order to save my time and nerves I’ve created a very complicated bot that does a bunch of things:
- Qualifies leads and divides them into several channels;
- Gives those interested in getting an estimate for their translation project a simple way to submit it (with file uploads and all);
- Automates a whole bunch of things, including automatic notification and automatic client profile creation in my invoicing tool when client submits their project;
- Serves as evergreen FAQ, answering the most common questions of my clients and my peers (aka fellow translators);
Here’s what my bot looks like in the backend:
Crazy, eh? 🙂
And, yes, it didn’t fit into the screenshot in its entirety. There are a few things at the bottom that didn’t fit in.
Sure, some folks might say that bots are stupid and they’re probably right.
But I fixed that in 2 simple ways:
I hand-crafted every message that bots sends to make it sound more human.
It has both my face and my personality!
I also added an option to start a live chat with a human being (myself):
So that way I covered all of my bases, giving my clients a sense of security. 🙂
Problem 2: Better payment/onboarding system.
They say the difference between a professional and an amateur is that professionals tend to have a process.
I used several years of data I’ve collected from my website to create a super simple yet very elegant onboarding process that creates instant trust and helps me stand out in the eyes of my potential clients.
Unlike many other freelance translators I run my business as, well, a business and not a hobby.
That’s why, in order to serve my clients better I’ve built a client portal and an invoicing system that allows me to collect payments on my website.
It’s powered by an amazing WordPress plugin called Sprout Invoices and it truly revolutionized the way I do business.
Whenever a client reaches out to me for a quote, I can send very professional-looking estimates and invoices.
The client receives nicely-designed email notifications and a private link to view and pay their invoices via PayPal or Stripe.
All without ever leaving my website!
Oh, and the best thing: now I don’t have to chase payments.
Sprout Invoices can send reminders or you can ask your clients to pay your invoice prior to starting a project (a common practice in many other industries).
My clients love the simplicity and I enjoy the power of advance payments.
It’s a win for all of us!
Problem 3: Existing clients need more help/more languages.
I think every freelance translator faces this problem at one point in their career:
Your clients love your work and trust you, but they need more languages. Since they don’t know anyone they reach out to you for recommendations.
In the past I would send them to a colleague I trust and call it a day.
I wouldn’t follow up to see if how my referral worked out for them.
So I decided to take a big step towards becoming a one-stop-shop for video game developers, publishers and game studios.
I’v been working in the field long enough so I have developed some really good relationships with other translators in my field.
I know a lot of them from Twitter, Facebook, The Open Mic, their blogs and some joined multilingual projects that we already did together.
Not gonna lie, building your own team is scary.
I hesitated a lot. Kinda like this pony here:
This pony working up the courage to jump this tiny step is everything. pic.twitter.com/cTS30cN99S
— Naomi Kyle (@NaomiKyle) January 24, 2018
But you know what?
I think we’ll be OK.
I’m sure that we will make our mark and this little team initiative will bring lots of opportunities for myself and my team members.
Check out our fun team collage that I did:
Aren’t we awesome? 😍
4) New brand/design should come with a brand new copy.
It goes without saying that you can’t just change your logo and call it a day.
If you’re working on a new website for your translation business you’ll need to rewrite your copy so it could reflect you better.
I tend to rewrite my copy from ground up every few years.
Well, because I grow and mature.
Because my business direction changes.
Because I want my website to be a reflection of who I am at this particular moment.
And, of course, I want my copy to serve my clients and help them.
I’m no copywriter but here are my 2 cents:
If you want your copy done right – hire a professional copywriter or work with an editor to make sure your copy shines.
5) Smaller things can be left behind. Don’t let that happen!
With all that design, domain transfer and copywriting work it’s easy to forget some smaller things.
Here’s a list of things to be mindful of:
- Business registration docs! If you’re changing your brand name chances are you need to register that name for your business. Check with your local business community to see what laws say about this;
- Invoice/estimate/RFQ templates! If you’ve been in business for a while you probably have a set of standard documents you use when conducting business. Make sure you update those templates to include your new logo/name/email/website;
- PayPal email address! Or any other payment system that you use. It’ll look weird if the clients make payment to your old address instead of new one. Check with your payment processor to see how you can update that email info;
- Let you bank know! In order to avoid any confusion with payments from future or existing clients that are made to your new business name it’s better to let your bank know about the name change. Nobody likes when bank freezes their accounts, so it’s better be safe than sorry;
- Email signatures! Update your email signature to include the most relevant information;
- Your business name/email in 3rd party services! If you use 3rd party services to run your business (email newsletter, automation tools, etc.) chances are you pay monthly bills for these services that you expense at the end the year. Make sure you change your email and business name so that it reflects your current business name and would raise any questions with the tax man;
- Speaking about the tax man… it wouldn’t hurt to let them know that you changed your business name so you wouldn’t have any problems during the tax season;
- Social media links and covers! If you change your site’s domain name and design new logo or come up with new business name or brand name it makes sense to update your social media profiles to ensure that all covers, bios, links and descriptions are consistent across all platforms;
- Update your site’s meta data! Don’t forget to update the meta titles and meta descriptions for every new and old page for your redesigned website. If you use to images and covers make sure to update the cache for your URLs on Twitter’s cards validator and Facebook’s debugging tool so that when someone shares your pages on those networks, they’d display the most recent and updated data;
The Cost of Rebranding
Now that I’ve described all the work that is involved into rebranding and redesigning of your translation business, I think it’s important to talk about the money a little bit.
Surely the exact amount spent will be different for each and every business owner.
Some might spend a few hundreds others might end up spending thousands of dollars.
Here are the things you might end up paying for:
- New domain name and hosting.
It won’t be expensive though! Maybe around 15 bucks more or less a year for a domain name depending where you buy it. And no more than 100$ for hosting of your website for a year. I believe if you register with my hosting provider you’ll probably get a domain name for free (yep, it’s a referral link but they’re really good).
- Web-design and graphic design.
If you’re not a professional designer you’ll probably have a very hard time building your website from scratch. Even with WordPress and site builders it’s still very time-consuming. Professional web-designer and graphic designer (if you need one) could cost you from 500 to couple thousand dollars (it all depends on the scale of your project.
You may think you’re good at writing your own copy until you work with a professional copywriter. This might cost your anything from several hundred dollars to several thousands.
- 3rd party services.
Do you plan to build a invoicing system for your clients like I did? Want to have an online chat or a bot like I do? Expect to pay monthly fees for those services. Normally starting plans could be around 15-20 bucks. Of course, for every paid solution there’s always a few free ones, so shop around to see what’ll work best for you and your translation business.
The most trickiest of them all! Bottom line: every hour you spend crafting your new brand or your new website = money taken out of your pocket. Why? Well, because you could’ve been working on your projects or doing sales and marketing. So make sure you keep track of time to not get carried away.
What about me you might wonder?
Well, I normally don’t like throwing money left and right and try to save as much as possible and only pay for services that I cannot do myself.
My domain name transfer was free for me (thanks again, Siteground!)
Since I have 5 years of web-design experience under my belt (powered by millions of mistakes that I’ve learnt the hard way), I decided that my skills are strong enough to do the design myself. 🐱💻
The copy you see on the home page and across the entire website was produced by myself as well. It’s not the best, I admit, but I think it’s good enough.
I paid for graphic design, thought.
That’s the skill I haven’t mastered. Not yet at least. 😀
I hired 2 awesome artist to do the pixel art for my home page and pixel portraits for selected members of my team (I then created a fun collage that you can see right here).
I paid around 259.35 CAD for that which I think is relatively cheap considering the highest quality and originality of the final result.
I also have a chat bot powered by Landbot.
I think it’s pretty awesome but it has some major limitations on a free plan so I’m thinking of upgrading to a paid plan (which would cost me around 20 USD a month.
And this is pretty much it as far as money goes.
The biggest investment however was my time because I’ve been developing new design and working on a copy all by myself.
It took me 32 hours 54 minutes and 11 seconds to move my website to a new domain, update design and do all those major and minor things that I described above.
That doesn’t take into account breaks between work, though.
So basically I devoted to entire week to this whole rebranding thingy.
Luckily January is usually slow for me, so I could relax and work on things without rushing.
I hope you like the final result!
I also hope that my journey (although a bit too long and complicated) will inspire you to do a makeover for your own brand and business.
Thank you so much for reading this lengthy post!
Make sure to share it if you enjoyed reading, and, of course, comments are welcome!