The next time you think about the need to network to grow your translation or interpreting business, shift your mindset to how you can actually build relationships and invest in others. The returns are bound to be much greater.
It’s probably safe to say that a majority of freelance translators work from home. Even if you’re a freelance interpreter, you may not have a traditional office, since you likely go from one assignment to another during the workday. So, how do you work out the timing and logistics of networking with potential and current clients? If you’re anything like me, you don’t always have the bandwidth for traditional networking (i.e., taking time out of your hectic week to drive to an event, spending time talking to people who are usually unqualified leads, and then following up with anyone who showed promise over email or by phone later that week). It can be exhausting to try to fit everything in. While there’s a lot to be said for meeting people in person, I believe we could be doing this more effectively, especially for those of us who aren’t the best at traditional networking or have limited time for scheduling extra events in the middle of the week.
Let’s be honest. The traditional methods of networking are not effective for everyone all the time. Sure, it’s great to grow your network, but how many times have you attended a networking event and felt like you didn’t take away a single warm lead? Or how many times have you walked away with a few leads you felt were solid, only to follow up and hear nothing but crickets?
Well, if I’ve learned anything over the years about networking effectively, it’s that you don’t have to know how to work a room to be good (or great!) at networking. You can still form and grow a solid network when working from home, and you don’t necessarily have to lose time commuting or organizing business cards so you can remember whom to contact after an event. The following are my top tips for effective networking when you work from home.
1. Make time for one-on-one meetings instead. You don’t have to attend every in-person event near you to reach those in your local area. Instead, choose to set up one-on-one meetings and nix those large mixer events from the schedule. After all, it can be very draining to attend large networking events. There are too many unknowns.
Let the person know you would like only an hour of their time, and make it clear what you plan to talk about so that you’ve also given that person the courtesy of feeling prepared. A huge perk of networking in one-on-one scenarios is that if the other person agrees to meet, no one’s time is wasted and you can make a more serious and effective connection. It will certainly be a more memorable one. You can also look up plenty of information about the other person and their business or organization in advance. This way you’re able to rule out some of those unknowns and show this person that you did your homework.
2. Send valuable information. Instead of trying to think of something intelligent to add to a conversation on the spot at a networking event, make better use of your time by researching leads/prospective clients and sending them something that’s worth their time. This should be something of interest to them that they wouldn’t normally expect from you. It could be an article you saw that might help them gain new perspective in their business, a blog post you wrote that applies to them and what they do, or even a handwritten note. (Major points here if you do this, as it’s not that common anymore to send handwritten notes. Trust me, people love them!)
Do you sell a service that might help someone in their day-to-day life? Offer to give them a sample of your work to use free of charge. I’m not saying you should give away your work or time, but think of something unique that will make them want to keep talking to you. Whatever you choose to send, it ought to be something more memorable than just your business card.
3. Network virtually. If you really want to do business with someone, one of the best steps you can take is to follow them on social media and interact with them. Is your lead someone who posts regularly on a topic about which you’re knowledgeable? Take time every day to work on your social media game. You could even include them in one of your posts and recommend them as a great business, resource, or role model (you name it). Whatever you do, give credit where credit is due and be as classy about it as possible. Also, check your “networking” posts and comments for punctuation errors, typos, etc., before you hit “publish.” Even if the interaction takes place only online, publicly misspelling the name or social media handle of someone you want to get to know better is not a good way to make a first impression. After all, we are word people. If nothing else, we should get this part right!
4. Send a congratulatory note. A very kind way of networking with someone is to congratulate them when you see that they’ve accomplished something, accepted a new position, or celebrated a milestone. This is not the time to sell your services. Just say “congratulations” and be personable. That’s all. They’ll remember you for it.
5. Meet online if you can’t meet in person. While in-person meetings are ideal, technology allows us to “meet” people we might not ordinarily have the chance to sit down with. For example, I often have virtual coffee meetings with people in another state or country. Take advantage of the amazing technology out there that allows us to bypass geographic boundaries. You’ll feel comfortable in your own space and there will be none of that first-time awkwardness that can sometimes come with meeting in person. You can still make a great connection and most likely have a more engaging conversation than you could at a large networking event.
6. Use your email list. Maybe you’ve heard this advice before, but use your email list. Seriously. Don’t depend on the power of social media to do mass networking for you. As people say—and it’s true—social media accounts are rented space. That’s made obvious every time Facebook and other platforms update algorithms. You have no idea if you’re even showing up in your followers’ feeds. But you know you’re going to show up in people’s inboxes. So, work on building your email list and use email to network with current clients, leads, and people who have similar interests. Set up an email capture of some sort on your website and start sending out email to your list on a consistent basis. Provide your contacts with valuable information that makes them excited to see your email. Just by showing up in their inboxes, you’ll stay top of mind with the people on your list. This can lead to new projects, referrals, and other opportunities.
7. Let your other social gatherings double as networking opportunities. Now, I’m not telling you to start handing out business cards at every social gathering you attend. But when the opportunity arises, be ready. For example, when I’m in public and get asked about what I do, I’ve already got a brief elevator speech ready for anyone who might be a prospective client. (For tips on preparing an effective elevator speech, see the sidebar on page 20.) And you better believe I have a business card or two in my bag should they ask me for more information.
Be ready to meet people in unexpected places: airplanes, your child’s soccer game, the public library, church events, or wherever you spend time outside the home or office. After all, isn’t that how things go? You never know whom you’ll meet or be standing next to when you’re waiting in line somewhere. Being prepared to connect is not strange. It’s smart. Just remember that when you do get into a conversation, don’t spend a lot of time talking about yourself, as this may come off as being too “salesy.” Just give the person your information and request theirs. You can follow up with them later in a more appropriate way.
Network Outside the Box
There are so many ways to network that don’t involve taking time away from your family in the evenings or losing large amounts of time from your workday. No more attending an event and leaving with a fistful of cards, knowing that only one or two of those people might be truly interested in your services.
Think of ways you can communicate effectively with your target audience that work for you and your lifestyle, schedule, etc. Be creative and think outside the box! People will remember you more for these things and your business cards won’t end up in their trash can.
Finally, don’t be afraid to set up a limited number of meetings per week or month. For example, I only meet with people on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the most part. Stick to what works for you and what allows you to be effective in your business and grow at your own pace.
Jackson Spalding, a marketing communications agency, has a very refreshing perspective on networking. Their take is that making meaningful connections is all about building relationships rather than relying only on traditional networking methods.
Networking is about meeting people. […] Networking is a task while relationship building is a commitment. It’s more long term than short term, more quality of relationships than quantity. Networking can be superficial, while relationship building is always about professional and personal sincerity.
So, the next time you think about the need to network to grow your translation or interpreting business, shift your mindset to how you can actually build relationships and invest in others. The returns are bound to be much greater.1
MAKE THAT CONNECTION WITH A MORE EFFECTIVE ELEVATOR SPEECH
David, Tim. “Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch,” Harvard Business Review (December 30, 2014), http://bit.ly/HBR-elevator-pitch.
Poole, Laura, “Honing Your Elevator Speech,” Copyediting (March 10, 2017), http://bit.ly/honing-speech.
Scalco, Dan. “5 Ways To Take Your Elevator Pitch To The Next Level,” Inc. (October 27, 2017), http://bit.ly/Inc-elevator.
- Achieving Preeminence: The Seven Pillars (Jackson Spalding), http://bit.ly/achieving-preeminence.
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, an ATA director, is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She joined ATA’s Public Relations Committee in 2012 before becoming its chair in 2014. She has also served as administrator for ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.