American Translators Association (ATA): Importance of Networking

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American Translators Association (ATA): Importance of Networking

Importance of Networking

Small business owners cannot regard their earnings as a guaranteed salary, but instead need to make specific investments to promote their services. Dollar for dollar, networking efforts provide a better return on investment than print advertising.

Dear Business Smarts:

I have been in business for two years and provide both translation and interpreting for Spanish. Because of the economic downturn, the past business year has not been particularly good. I keep reading in online forums how important it is to attend conferences for networking, but the events I read about are so expensive that I cannot even consider them at the moment. Why does ATA not offer more affordable networking options for its members? —Can’t afford it in Texas

Dear Texas,

We agree with your colleagues' assessment of the importance of networking. As surveys of our industry have repeatedly shown, recommendations and word of mouth play an important role in securing translation and interpreting work. While it is certainly useful to advertise your services online, it is in your best interest to get to know your colleagues in person. Conferences are an ideal venue for personal interaction, providing you with valuable contacts.

If attending a national conference or regional seminar is financially out of reach for you at the moment, do not forget to look into the activities of ATA chapters and affiliated groups in your area. To find out about chapter events near your location, visit Regular attendance at chapter or group meetings will enhance your name recognition and make your contacts that much more useful.

Also keep in mind that as the owner of a new business, you must put special effort into marketing and advertising your services. You have to spend money to make money, particularly when you are just getting established. It may help to start thinking of the money you earn with your business activities not as a salary that you can spend as you please, but as earnings that can be reinvested to make your business grow. Set aside a certain amount specifically for marketing, and think about where those dollars can be most wisely invested. Experience has shown, for example, that advertising in the Yellow Pages or in generic online business directories is not particularly helpful for linguists who work alone. By comparison, investments in networking offer a much better rate of return.

If you do decide to attend a regional or national event, there are many ways to cut down on expenses. You might consider attending only one day of a conference, staying with friends or relatives, or exploring public transport options for getting to the conference hotel. Bring plenty of business cards and plan to attend all the sessions—particularly the receptions and other get-togethers—relevant to your area of specialization and language combination. Get actively involved in discussions and introduce yourself to as many people as you can. Once you return home, make the most of your new connections by staying in regular contact with the colleagues you have met.


Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: June 2009, p 32