Freelance marketing and social media: finding the right balance

24 hours on Twitter, and I sense an existing dilemma is going to get worse.

Independent professionals don’t have gobs of free time. Many already struggle with work/life balance issues; one of my colleagues, a French to English medical translator, often Skypes me grumbling “Gawd, it’s WDWEWDWE again!” – meaning her husband is hovering over her desk asking when and what is for dinner while she’s on a deadline. Mine occasionally quips I’m married to my computer more than to him.

Many freelancers participate in forums and discussion lists, finding substitutes for the office environment we lack, asking for help and advice, staying abreast of what is going on in our chosen profession, and of course marketing. You get out what you put in, it is important to contribute regularly.

How and when you visit and respond is up to you. The time invested is manageable, and if you’re off-line a few days because you are up to your ears in work, it’s not a big deal. I contribute regularly to about 3 or 4 forums, and occasionally to a couple more. It takes me a few minutes to about an hour a day. That works, it fits in.

As a self-confessed technophile and information junkie, social media attract me as much as a box of chocolates from Christian Constant (if you don’t know this chocolatier, check him out).

For a long time, I stayed on the sidelines, with an inactive blog, a small presence on LinkedIn and an even smaller one on Viadeo. I read a lot, I remained largely silent. Shyness was, I must admit, the main reason. Many don’t comment on blogs they read for that very reason. Please don’t be shy, bloggers love for readers to comment!

This summer, after redesigning my website, I gave myself a swift kick in the okol’e (hawai’ian word for your behind) and prepared a modest professional social media plan: redesign and revive the blog, commit to posting at least twice a week, get my nerve up to comment on others’ blogs, and start to make better use of LinkedIn.

And I’ve been doing that, and enjoying it! It is a bigger time commitment than mere participation on forums, but I still have control over when these activities take place. They do not interrupt my work – translators and copywriters’ work needs concentration and quiet! – and the process of writing blog posts like this one, surprisingly, increases my concentration skills.

Admittedly, my nights have become significantly shorter…

I’d put off joining Twitter until the small lull that hits the mid-November legal holidays in France. I joined with two clear goals in mind: drive traffic to my blog and have links to interesting blog posts and articles delivered to me without spending time looking for them.

After 24 little hours since my first “tweet”, I can sense how the time-concentration issue may spin out. Real-time social media is meant to be used…in real time, if you want to be serious about it and get the benefits you seek from it. TweetDeck is chirping at me every few minutes and even if I limit my curiosity to a cursory look at the maximum 140 characters in the tweet, my concentration nosedives. And tweeting constructively means more than just posting about your new blog post (which I will do in a few minutes) or that the weather’s turned nasty (it hasn’t).

As Billing Time‘s chorus (in my book, the national anthem of all intellectual service providers) repeats, “my mind and my time are my merchandise.” I can see how Twitter can become habit-forming; I don’t know yet if it will be useful professionally. I am marginally comfortable with its inherent contradiction: increased connectivity to others, but in an increasingly deconnected way (language included). I do think I’ll have to schedule Tweet Time like dog walks and coffee breaks.

I’d like to hear from translators and freelancers who leverage all these various forms of on-line marketing and networking for business purposes. How and where do you ventilate your “2.0 time”? What tips can you share to preserve work-life balance? Are there social media you’ve tried and abandoned and why?

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  • Patricia

    I found that enlightening as to how you dealt with the whole time management/social media issue. It has inspired me to refocus my approach as well as to read the rest of your posts as I like your fresh and accessible writing style. Best of luck! William

     
     
     
    • Welcome to the Zone, William, and many thanks for the compliments!

      Since I wrote this post, 24 hours after signing up for Twitter, I went through a couple of noisy-chirpy weeks before finding equilibrium. Just as I tell my forever hungry cat “c’est pas l’heure” when he starts nagging me for dinner at 4PM, I don’t launch TweetDeck when I’m jammin’ and enjoy it when I’m not. It has brought new visitors to this blog and I met a couple of colleagues on Twitter just before meeting them in the flesh at workshop. A Web 2.0 commitment is manageable, I seem I do have to be careful about information overload though :).

       
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