OK, so this post isn’t going to be very long. I don’t think that you need to know everything about networking for translators in order to start getting benefits from doing so.
You might not think that networking is important as a freelance translator.
I mean, freelance translators spend all day at home in their pajamas just translating, right?
Any successful freelance translator knows that one of the keys to success is doing the exact opposite; actually going out and at least advertising their services and getting in front of potential clients.
And at least part of doing that involves networking.
OK, so first, what is networking?
Definition of Networking for Translators
Everyone of course has their own definition of what networking is.
For me, I prefer the definition provided by the I.T. department at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB):
Connecting with people of like interests for the purpose of uncovering opportunities, identifying landmines, and learning of best practices.
This is exactly what networking is and following this definition will help you get more translation jobs.
Let’s break down the definition a little.
Connecting With People of Like Interests
So the first part of networking, at least according to this definition, is connecting with people that have similar interests to you.
Notice how the definition doesn’t say anything about having the exact same interests.
It talks about connecting with people that have “like interests” to your own.
That means that as a translator, you don’t have to only hang out and talk with other translators.
Think about what you are beyond a translator.
First of all, you’re a language professional.
You’re also a freelancer.
In addition, you’re an entrepreneur.
Finally, you’re a business owner.
You are all of those things and finding people that have any of those interests will be beneficial for your own learning.
A freelance photographer, for instance, might have a great idea for finding clients that could crossover to your own work as a freelance translator.
An entrepreneur that works outside of the language industry might have an interesting way to solve a specific issue that you’re having in your own business.
If you just stuck with hanging out with translators, you’d never get any of that cross-pollination of ideas that could really help you grow your business.
One thing I want to point out here is that the following steps — uncovering opportunities, identifying landmines, and learning best practices — aren’t about you.
They are about doing those things for both you and the people that you are networking with.
Here’s a secret.
If you go into “networking” with the idea that it’s all about what you’ll get out of it, you won’t be doing it right and you’ll end up:
- making everyone else realize you are in it all for yourself, and
- ostracizing yourself from the group.
Instead, you have to look at networking as a way to help other people first. You want other people to see you as being a positive addition to the group, someone that is always giving instead of just taking, taking, taking.
So, you want to help your group find opportunities that will help them grow and become successful.
And as you do that, you’ll both uncover opportunities for yourself as well as set yourself up for other people finding opportunities for you.
Next is all about identifying landmines.
When we talk about landmines, we’re talking about business pitfalls that we all experience at one point or another as we’re attempting to grow our businesses.
I’ve mentioned before how you shouldn’t follow my blueprint for success. One of the great things about networking with other people is that everyone has a different experience.
Everybody has reached the level they are at differently.
That means that everyone has something to offer other people. Not only the successes but also the failures.
There are things I did when starting out as a translator that I probably shouldn’t have done. Had I spent more time networking with other professionals that had gone through the experience of setting up a business, I might have been able to avoid some of those issues.
Learning Best Practices
One more benefit of networking with other people is that you are able to learn best practices.
This could be considered the opposite of the point above of avoiding landmines.
Learning is absolutely essential if you want to grow your translation business.
You have to be willing to learn and figure out what works.
But what some people forget about learning is that you don’t have to do it all yourself. In fact, when you learn from someone else that is right there teaching you, you are much more motivated to retain that information and use it to your advantage.
Also, when you learn from people that have already been where you want to go, you know that what you’re learning is legit. You’ll be more likely to take their advice.
Another thing to think about is that learning best practices isn’t just about understanding what methods are the best at accomplishing a particular goal, but can also be things like learning what tools work the best, what software to use, how to best do accounting, where you should host your website (I recommend Bluehost), etc.
Knowing that kind of stuff before you even begin will be a huge boost for you and your translation business. This is especially true as you’re just getting started.
How to Find Your Networking Group
Now that we’ve gone over a little about what networking actually is, it’s time to figure out how to find your networking group.
There are quite a few methods that you can use to find people that have similar interests.
Here’s the thing to remember, though.
It takes work.
And maybe even more scary for us introverted translators, it takes getting out of our comfort zone to a degree and talking to other people. This is true even when we’re put in uncomfortable or awkward situations.
Networking at Conferences
Business-type conferences can be a great place to meet people.
Whether you’re attending conferences about translation, freelancing, or entrepreneurship, you’ll find people that you click with and that are looking to do great things with you.
Even if you’re a bit introverted and have a hard time opening up to strangers, most conferences will have specific networking events geared towards getting people together.
They might come across as cheesy and forced at times but they will definitely help you find like-minded individuals. They’ll also help you practice talking to all sorts of different people (which is a skill that is being lost, by the way).
Even if they are cheesy, though, you should still take advantage.
Another way to find people that you can connect with is through social media.
Of all the social media apps out there, Twitter is probably the best one for finding people that are on your same wavelength.
I’m not going to talk here about growing your Twitter presence. There are plenty of people that can teach you how to do that.
What I will say is that just like networking offline, networking online takes work.
You can’t expect to do it for a day or two (or even a week or so) and get tons of followers.
Instead, you have to spend time providing excellent content that is useful to other people.
Once people understand that you’re trying to help them improve and become better, they will follow you. You’ll be able to connect with them.
The real power of social networking for translators, however, is to take those online connections offline. Strengthen those relationships even more in offline environments.
Network in Your Daily Life
In addition to networking at conferences or networking online, you should always be thinking of networking in real life.
This doesn’t mean that you go around telling everyone that you’re a freelance translator.
What it does mean, however, is that whenever an opportunity arises for you to tell someone what you do for work, you should take advantage and tell them.
Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are a freelance translator and that you own your own translation business.
Again, you’re not doing this to only help yourself.
You’re doing this with the mind that you want to help people, whether they’re in the translation business or not.
When people understand that you are there to help them, you’ll come across a whole bunch of new opportunities.
Form a Networking for Translators Group
Another great way to find more translation jobs from networking is to either form or join a networking for translators group. If you live in a relatively big city, there are usually such groups you can join.
However, if you can’t find one of these groups, think about forming one on your own. Contact any local translators you know and tell them you are forming a networking group for translators. If you don’t know anybody, tell everyone you know what you are doing. Mention that you are looking for people to join.
Eventually the word will get around. You’ll have a group that you can bounce ideas off of. You’ll have a social network that you can be a part of so you don’t feel so isolated.
These groups don’t have to be really formal or follow any outline. Instead, they can be something like getting together for lunch once a month with other translators. This can give you something to look for and people to share your frustrations with. They may even be a source of more translation jobs.
P.S. Networking for translators isn’t the only skill you need. Want more information on how to become a successful translator? Be sure to read my book.