3 Steps to Setting Up Auto Replies For Select Email Accounts in Gmail

By Marion Rhodes

With the holidays coming up, I was wondering how I could set up an automatic out-of-office reply for my business email account, which is linked to my Gmail account. The provider I use for my business email doesn’t offer an auto-response function, and although Gmail has an option to schedule a vacation responder, the auto reply will affect all accounts that are accessed via Gmail. I didn’t want personal emails to trigger an out-of-office reply, so I did some research on Google. Turns out, there is a simple, three-step procedure to set selective auto responses in Gmail.

Step 1.
In your Gmail settings, go to Labs and enable the “Canned Responses” feature.

Step 2.
Open a window to compose a new message and write your out-of-office reply. Then click on “More options” on the bottom right corner, select “Canned Responses” and save as “New Canned Response” (or overwrite an existing response if you wish). The response will be saved in your Drafts folder, where you can edit it any time.

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Step 3.
Now go to your Gmail filters in Settings and click on “Create a filter” on the bottom. In the “To” box, type your business email address, then select “Create a filter with this search.” The following box will pop up:

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Choose “Send canned response” and select the draft you saved, then click on “Create filter.” That’s it! From now on – and I mean it, as soon as you create this filter! – every email that comes into your designated account will receive an immediate reply with your canned response. All you need to do now is remember to turn off the response upon your return, because you can’t specify a time limit.

In this spirit: Happy Holidays, and enjoy your time off!

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Gaining Translation Clients Through Social Media Marketing

By Marion Rhodes

As 2013 is nearing its end, so is my transition year as a freelancer. The past 12 months have been filled with preparations to grow my business and move up into the ranks of high-end translators. I deliberately kept my work load light to have time to focus on setting up my German/English translation business, Integrated MarCom Translations, for the long run: I’ve updated my website, cleaned up my online profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., started tweeting and blogging, and taken numerous webinars and online classes to help me become a better translator and marketer. Now the time has come to hit the ground running and start aggressively promoting my translation services using the tools I’ve amassed and the skills I’ve honed.

To that end, I participated in a Proz.com webinar last week on how to use social media effectively in only 15 minutes a day to attract more clients. In this webinar, the “Connection Queen” Biba Pedron laid out seven simple strategies to connect with people on social media, a precursor to directing them to your website.

As social media director for the Colorado Translators Association, I was already familiar with many of the points Biba made, such as the importance of completing online profiles or regularly posting on social media sites. However, Biba’s presentation gave me a few ideas on how to take my social media marketing efforts a step further to help expand my reach.

Connect, connect, connect

The most important piece of advice I carried away from this webinar was to become more active in trying to make new online connections. Sure, I’ve gained new followers on Twitter and this blog over the past year, and I’ve added new contacts on LinkedIn and Facebook. Biba, however, recommends inviting 5 to 10 people from within your target market to connect with you every single day – a goal I am far from even approaching. Moreover, Biba underscored the importance of taking a new connection beyond the initial contact request (which should be personalized, not the generic default message).

Biba recommends thanking new contacts for accepting your invitation to connect, then calling them to action by inviting them to visit your website or follow your Facebook profile and asking how you can help them out. “Networking,” she said, “is not about selling. It is about getting exposure and helping people.” I admit, this is uncharted territory for me. Most of my contacts, esp. on LinkedIn, end up as untapped resources in an online friend list, neither of us really aware of where to take this new relationship. So for the coming months, I have set myself a goal of trying to gain 10 new, valuable networking contacts a week. I’m starting small because I really want to focus on the “value,” i.e. trying to make meaningful connections.

Interact, interact, interact

Another new goal of mine is to become more interactive in online forums, on blogs, in professional groups, etc. I am well aware that successful social media marketing depends on getting your name out there, but I simply haven’t taken the time to do this as much as I should. My new goal is to contribute to two professional discussions every day in some form or another. Comment on a blog, reply to a tweet, post in an online forum, whatever. Sounds easy enough. Writing for this blog only counts if I get comments I can address, so don’t be shy, please. ūüôā

OK, so these aren’t drastic measures, and all of them are things I have done before, some more than others. The point is that I haven’t done them consistently. Hopefully, I will integrate these networking/marketing tactics in my daily routine as easily as my regular tweets for @IMCTranslations and @CTA_Translators. Let’s see where this will take me in, say, six months. I’ll be sure to post an update.

Working Mom Problems: Snow Day!

One of the advantages for a translator working from home is that you’re not scrambling to find a babysitter whenever your kids have a snow day – or two snow days in a row, which happened to us here in Colorado last week. In case you are unfamiliar with snow days – maybe you are lucky enough to live in a place where it never gets cold, or unlucky enough to live somewhere where schools don’t care if your eye lashes freeze on the way to school (speaking from experience here) – a snow day is when the schools close because of snow, or, in our case, extremely cold temperatures. Last week, we had high temperatures of 12 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s -11 degrees Celsius), and morning temperatures were much colder. So the school districts sent out alerts in the morning announcing they’d be closed for the day.

In general, this kind of event doesn’t bother me too much, as I have a pretty flexible schedule. However, if I’m working on a deadline like I was last week, a snow day can really throw a wrench in my plans. In that event, it’s good to have a Plan B. Luckily, I have a few options at my disposal.

1. My fitness club

We have a family membership to a great sports club, which offers 2.5 hours of free child care each day. The club includes a cafe with free Wi-Fi, so I can set up my mobile office there if I need to and work while the kids get some quality play time. I just need to make sure I don’t spend all my earnings on lattes while I’m there.

2. Our local drop-in daycare

Our city has a wonderful drop-in daycare center. You just register your kids once a year and then take them there whenever you need, no reservation required. I can leave the kids there as long as needed (there’s a limit per week, but I’ve never even approached it), and just pay by the hour. It’s rather expensive and not my preferred method, but in a pinch, it’s a great solution and has come to my rescue on several occasions.

3. An indoor playground/cafe

There’s a genius establishment in our city called Little Monkey Bizness. It’s a large indoor playground with an attached cafe that offers Wi-Fi. For a one-time admission charge, the kids can play there for hours while I work on my laptop, always able to watch them but relatively undisturbed. Whoever came up with this idea deserves an award.

4. A fast food play area

I’m not a fan of fast food establishments, but beggars can’t be choosers. Sometimes, a McDonald’s playground and a Happy Meal will buy me enough time to finish an important translation without the constant interruptions of kids who are bored at home. At least in the USA, Wi-Fi is readily available at most of these restaurants, so they provide a useful backup plan when push comes to shove.

5. Resign

Not from your job, but to your fate, that is. Sometimes, there is no other option but to turn to the screen. Whether it’s a TV, an iPad or a smart phone, chances are, there’s something in your house that will keep the kids occupied for a while. And if they don’t normally get much screen time, you might actually be able to buy yourself a good stretch of work time this way. I am not a believer in using electronic devices as de-facto babysitters, but when the choice is between defaulting on a project or letting my kids watch back-to-back episodes of My Little Pony for one day, I’ll be handing over the remote without feeling guilty.

Taking Stock of Professional Memberships

Yesterday, I posted a blog on the website of the Colorado Translators Association where CTA treasurer Mery Molenaar explained how to renew your CTA membership for the coming year. It got me thinking about my own professional memberships, which will soon be up for renewal. The time has come to decide which memberships are worth keeping, and which, if any, I might want to drop in 2014.

I currently belong to the following associations and groups:

Colorado Translators Assocation (CTA)
American Translators Association (ATA)
Deutscher Verband der freien √úbersetzer und Dolmetscher (DV√úD) [German Association of Freelance Translators and Interpreters]
Proz.com

The basic question I have to ask myself in order to evaluate the overall benefits of a certain membership is this: Do I get as much out of it as I am putting in? In the case of the Colorado Translators Association, the answer is “Heck yeah!” The CTA email discussion list alone, which is open to members only, is a treasure trove of information for translators of all levels. The CTA Annual Conference is the most informative symposium for professional translators in this region. CTA’s networking opportunities, whether through member events such as our annual dinner, Happy Hour get-togethers, our annual ski trip, or our social media channels, esp. our internal Facebook group, provide a perfect balance to the lonely life of a freelancer. And of course, I am the social media director for the association, which makes my membership a no-brainer. All in all, the $40 annual membership fee (renewal rate) is an investment that’s more than paying off year after year.

My American Translators Association membership may not be quite as beneficial on a personal level, but as a translation professional, I consider belonging to my country’s largest professional group in my industry par for the course. At $190 per year for an associate member, the fee is on the hefty side, but I believe you get what you pay for. Any self-respecting American translator should be listed in the ATA directory, if only to provide peace of mind for potential clients. I can’t say that I have received many (honest) inquiries through my ATA listing, but I have referenced my listing when communicating with new clients. As a member of the ATA German Language Division, I have access to yet another very helpful email discussion list that is specific to my language combination and can be both a great networking tool and a resource for information. In addition, I frequently take advantage of ATA webinars, which are discounted for members, and I try to attend the Annual ATA Conference whenever I get the chance. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year, which caused me to miss out on another great benefit that comes with ATA membership: the option to become a certified translator. In the USA, where being a translator is an unregulated profession, having the extra qualification of being ATA certified can be an important differentiator, and I plan on adding this credential as soon as I get another opportunity. Lastly, let’s not forget the ATA Chronicle, one of the few magazines for translators and the translation industry, which is included in the ATA membership.

My other two memberships, I’m afraid, are less certain to end up in my renewal queue. Quite frankly, the only reason I renewed my Proz.com membership last time was that I had recently been admitted to the Proz Certified PRO Network, a distinction I wasn’t willing to give up again right away. But a year later, I can’t say that I have seen much benefit from either my Proz membership or being a “Certified Pro.” This is partly my own fault, of course. I don’t use many of the features that are available to Proz members, such as online invoicing, website hosting, accessing the Blue Board database (since I have a subscription for Payment Practices) or member-only job offers. The only thing I do take advantage of is the large offer of webinars through Proz.com – but at this point, I am not so sure that the member savings add up enough to justify the rather high price tag of $133 a year.

That leaves my membership with Deutscher Verband der freien √úbersetzer und Dolmetscher. It is the only association I belong to in Germany, a tie to my German colleagues. (And it comes with a fancy hard plastic membership card!) The DV√úD is a fairly new association, one I was excited about joining. The membership fee is pretty steep, at 104 Euros – considerably higher than my CTA membership. For that, I got the above-mentioned membership card (which entitles me to some discounts I never get a chance to use) and an entry in the DV√úD directory (which has yet to produce any leads for me). The DV√úD offers some interesting webinars, but the time difference between Colorado and Germany makes them challenging to attend for me. Within Germany, the DV√úD does great things, including organizing translator “Stammtische” (essentially Happy Hours) in various German cities and advocating for the translation profession. But as a US-based translator, I have not been able to get my money’s worth out of my DV√úD membership, and the only reason I might consider staying with them is the link to my native country.

There are a few other associations I’ve been thinking about joining, which might have a more direct benefit to me. One is the German American Chamber of Commerce in Denver, which holds the promise of networking with potential direct clients. As a marketing translator, I’ve also thought about joining the American Marketing Association for professional development purposes. In the new year, I may look into these options some more and decide whether their benefits would outweigh the cost of joining. In the end, it always comes down to how many offerings of an association you take advantage of. An association may have a long list of benefits for its members, but if you don’t use any of them, your membership fee will always be a waste of money.