American Translators Association (ATA): Networking Resources

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American Translators Association (ATA): Networking Resources

Networking Resources

Networking is an essential marketing tool for small business owners, but it requires some strategic planning to ensure a useful yield of referrals. Online tools are of increasing importance for networking efforts, and allow translators in remote locations to market their skills.

Dear Business Smarts:

I have a question about networking, which is frequently recommended for freelancers, but rarely explained in practical terms. I recently attended a networking session organized by my local chamber of commerce. Everyone in attendance seemed to own a real estate business or a car dealership, and I barely talked to anyone about translation. Since I live in a fairly small town and have young children, traveling to chapter events or conferences in big cities is not an option for me at this time. Do you have any ideas? — Stuck in a Small Town

Dear Stuck in a Small Town:

Unless you have lots of free time that you enjoy spending at business gatherings with a glass of wine in your hand, it is important to develop a strategy for your networking efforts. The entire purpose of networking is to get name recognition that is associated with an accurate perception of your skill or business activity. ("Oh, that’s Sue. She translates financial texts from French into English. I heard she is really good.")

In the Internet age, you do not have to be physically present in order to network effectively, since there are now many forums and listservs where translators discuss various aspects of the profession. For example, ATA member Corinne McKay writes a blog on translation issues that contains many helpful suggestions; see Thoughts on Translation.

You will find a wide choice of language-specific forums, tool discussions, and lists that focus on specific fields. For optimal name recognition, make sure your e-mail contributions have a proper signature and are written in a factual and professional tone. You can quickly establish a good reputation by providing thoughtful answers to your colleagues’ questions, especially when you stick to your field of expertise and back up your comments with specific sources. Keep in mind that there are many silent readers of lists, who may not participate in the discussion every day but are aware of your contributions, and are therefore part of your networking efforts. Visit ATA’s divisions page to find listservs and forums that may be of interest to you.

Websites dedicated to business networking are a fairly recent invention, but are rapidly increasing in popularity. Their purpose is to maintain and grow a list of business contacts, complete with your comments and recommendations. Social networking sites dedicated to business include Xing, LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder, while ProZ maintains forums that are dedicated to translators.

In the interest of good workflow management, it is probably best to limit your online networking efforts to certain times of the day. An occasional thoughtful posting will do more for your reputation than a large number of hasty comments, which may create the impression that you have too much time on your hands.


Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: November-December 2008, p 34