Greater than 5 minutes, my friend!
If you understand yourself as a business person, progress is a mandatory keyword for you. As an entrepreneur working in the language industry, curiosity has been one of my strongest motivators from the get-go. Kindness, that has always been a given.
This article was sparked by cherished colleague Karen Rückert’s (find her blog here) article on marketing strategies in the ATA’s Chronicle, where she shared her idea of marketing with the result (€/$) in mind vs. marketing for curiosity’s sake. I want to take this a bit further …
Curiosity: a great motivator!
It’s what had me start my business blog; it made me set out to become a language coach for the community college and tackle the TELC examiner certification. Not least of all, curiosity had me change tracks in my professional life and go freelance. Needless to say, I love my solopreneur life in the language industry, working with wonderful colleagues, some of which turned into friends.
I’m corresponding with fellow translators and people I would never dare to approach in real life. Most of them are so sweet!
Helping hands and kind words have reached me from across the globe. As have criticism and harsh voices. Every input was helpful in its right.
I was curious about alternative ways to give free reign to my creative streak, to craft something out of nothing, the possibility to create something lasting and fun.
Speaking as someone who loves the creative part of our work, I want to mention that there are numerous paths to market and establish yourself as a company and brand. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that when it comes down to it, what we sell and therefore should market is very personal.
The point is: to develop your business and position yourself on your market, in your niche, it’s vital that you build and hone your reputation.
Getting passionate and getting yourself out there will make you visible to people that “tick” like you, clients and peers alike. It takes a brave soul to stick out of the herd, but the rewards are well worth it.
Whatever path you choose as your approach to this industry, nobody will be able to take away the experience you’ll gain wandering it, your newly acquired skills or the joy of doing something that genuinely makes you happy.
Choosing your niche, services or approach in line with your passions could mean that CPD is something you look forward to. It also means your dream clients will have an easier way finding you.
Let me paint a picture for you (this is where it gets good, art-class finally paying off):
A client is looking for a DeEn translator online and googled “German-English translator,” resulting in a seemingly endless list of potential service providers. Let’s say they narrow it down and add more words to the search, say marketing or even marketing and branding and PR. Still, a very long list.
So, with a sigh, the client starts to sift through all those web pages and profiles and whatever else Google might have coughed up.
Who will they pick? Certainly, someone they feel is competent in the skillset they’re looking for and therefore able to deliver good results.
But honestly, most of us are talented, or at least seem to be in the eyes of an end client who in all seriousness has no clue what makes a good, a great, a stellar translator.
To someone looking for a solution to their xl8 issues, we look like a herd of mules – sorry. A herd of beautiful purebred Thoroughbreds, all shiny and healthy and equally capable of getting their project to the finish line.
Who to pick?
So the client leans on the proverbial fence, trying to choose a suitable business companion, someone to take care of the project, foresee potential issues, make things easy for the client and get results that shine. He jingles the halter and tries to evaluate the best choice with a squinty eye.
Certainly not the grumpy one in the corner, ears flat against his skull and kicking out at every mate who dares to risk an approach. The client can just imagine what kind of ride he would take them on.
Probably not the one stressing out himself and his surroundings by running circles, nipping at his peer’s butts, scaring them away from the onlookers extracted fingers with a mean flick of the head and an intimidating snort. Clients are naturally scared by potential stress added to their existing issues. Best move on.
Maybe choose one from the main body of the herd, resting in the center of the corral, enjoying the sunshine, swishing at each other’s flies while waiting for work? For them the game is all about numbers, meaning it depends on dumb luck whether the guy with the halter approaches you or the fellow to your left.
My point: to own your niche, you must stand out from the herd. So, let’s see the story through.
The client’s eye keeps wandering and – hey, who is that shiny gray with the blaze and a kind of spring in her step?
She’s grooming a fellow TB with care (aka answering a colleague’s question on a board or forum), then prancing over to play a game of catch with a buddy (aka finding an accountability partner, joining a group of TWB volunteers or your favorite association’s initiative on marketing), followed by a good roll in the sand to scrub and massage her coat and a thorough shake-down to rid herself of dust (read: sharpening one’s skillset, polishing one’s profiles and web pages).
Finally, she enjoys long sips of water from the trough, after kindly waiting her turn behind an elder horse (read: do not harass your peers. Do not attempt to belittle others. Be KIND. If kindness and a live-and-let-live attitude don’t come easily to you, remember: the internet sees everything.).
Locking eyes with the client, their new favorite horse separates from the herd and approaches with a twinkle in her eye and pricked ears.
She seems friendly and respectful. Did you bring carrots? She appears to ask.
She hasn’t been waiting by the fence, getting all riled up wandering the fence line, desperate for the cloud of dust indicating a new client on the horizon.
She went about her life, taking care of herself and grooming her coat as well as those of her peers. And she seems well-inclined to continue doing just that, if the job doesn’t pan out (let’s talk rates!).
She played nice because that is her mindset and tried to stay away from old grumpy so as not to catch a scratch in her coat or a limp in her stride.
She has watched the weather and her surroundings and the clouds and the butterflies. She watched other horses get picked for work and come back to tell their tales.
She has spent her time living (yoga! sports! friends! nature!) and learning (building a mind like a toolbox, where all nooks and crannies are filled with useful stuff for future use. CPD; online and offline!), so when the client lays eyes on her, they notice her blaze and her air of confidence and her experience and how she is interested but not desperate.
Let me say that again: interested. Not desperate.
Which, btw, is how in a former life I always picked my horses and IMHO that seems to be the healthiest way to approach any healthy business relationship.
- Getting ever more desirable by polishing our skillset, mindset, our profiles and visibility to shine.
- Doing things we are curious and passionate about, all the while keeping one ear pricked so as to be aware of any potential client fitting our specialization and work ethic.
- When approached by a potential business partner, attempting communication at eye level: respectful, honest and sincere.
IT’S ALL HARD WORK! BUT NOBODY SAID IT CANNOT BE FUN AND FULFILLING.
What useful tasks do you tackle during your working hours that spark your curiosity, that you feel passionate about?
Accounting doesn’t count!