Greater than 6 minutes, my friend!
3 Reasons to step out of your comfort zone and attend ‘alien’-industry events
#1 Bye, bye Sea of Comfort: be a fish out of water!
Freelancers can work in their pajamas, eat while they are working at their computer (wouldn’t recommend it as a habit!), cope with a cluttered desk, bear an undone bed, put up with their own family’s questions and/or envious remarks about their workstyle, have Mozart crooning in the background instead of the most popular local FM (quite helpful when it comes to productivity) and even ignore the bell’s ring whenever their next-door neighbour decides it’s time to call on poor Mr./Miss/Mrs. Freelancer, who is ‘always at home’ and are probably ‘idle and expecting a visit any minute.’ True, freelancers can live by their own rules in many respects, but what they shouldn’t do is avoid marketing their services and learning to do so themselves, as well as by means of marketing specialists.
One of the things we freelance translators can and may want to do in order to open up a bunch of opportunities for our business to stay healthy and growing is get out of our comfort zone every once in a while and attend one or two (or maybe three!) industry events outside the translation industry. I mean those events where the rest of the attendees are unlikely to be linguists, i.e., fellow translators/reviewers/proofers, etc.
Do you translate business and sales materials? Then go and meet the audience you work for, the people who read those materials, at the next sales event. This doesn’t need to be an international summit—it could be a course in Marketing and Sales, a Business Know-How gathering or a casual celebration open for the public to attend as well.
Do you translate IT, work in software localisation, specialise in agricultural equipment and/or machinery? Browse the net for upcoming events in your area. See if there’s some sort of association that gathers professionals in the fields you translate and localise materials in. Think different, as Steve Jobs would put it. Think outside the box. Or just stop typing and think. Go to the next alien-industry event and feel like an exotic intruder! The experience can lead you to know yourself better as a(n) (potential) entrepreneur. In any case, it should make a difference.
#2 Hello, Murky Waters: don’t just be a fish out of water, swim on terra incognita!
Marketing and advertising are based on strategically communicating what you have to offer to the world, how you can add value (make a difference with your product or service) to potential consumers’ life, well-being or needs.
So if you are planning on doing some in-person marketing, don’t just network safe. That is, don’t just rub elbows with the people who may already know what you do and how you do it. Networking with colleagues is cool, enriching and it can also be lots of fun. But that may still leave you floating in the same waters, following the tide.
I say, network risky! Let your instinct be your guide. Go and attend an alien-industry event. Go and meet and greet the people you know not much about or have only seen in pictures. Be barefaced, be bold. Be different. Network differently. Market your language services differently. Don’t expect the world to be charmed at first sight. Aim low, never be disappointed. Your next client may be at that event you thought it would be useless to pay for or quit your swivel chair for. Your target audience will be there. Your competitors may be there. Your next mentor could be there. Inspiration and Motivation will certainly be there. So don’t let Chance walk past you. Jump to your feet and embrace your next opportunity to network differently!
#3 Welcome back, Nemo: share your findings!
So you’ve been there, you’ve done that. Perhaps you don’t see any practical benefits of attending the alien-industry event. Perhaps you’ve missed the Sea of Comfort so much that you’re glad to be back home, far from the murky waters with all those weird species you’ve just met. Now what?
If you’re back in the Sea of Comfort, something tells me you have done your part and survived out of water for as much as you could. That’s good news! You now know what it feels like to be fresh off the boat and can turn your endeavor experience into a story. Share your story! Tell other freelancers, budding entrepreneurs or even your clients what you’ve learnt during your time there at that alien-industry event. Try to figure out one or two ways in which that experience is going to shape your approach to upcoming translation projects in the field (supposing you’ve attended a high-tech event because you translate high-tech materials, for example). Take a few days or weeks to let the novelty of the experience sink in. Don’t force yourself into writing about it. Be spontaneous. Craft a story when the experience begins to shape into a professional anecdote. You may even want to rehearse talking about it with a colleague or friend.
Talking about the experience could lead you to view it from a different angle. On the one hand, if you were OK with it, you may find a few things to work on for your self-introduction opportunities next time. Perhaps your elevator speech didn’t sound as good as you hoped? Maybe you weren’t expecting to meet very important people but you did and you ran out of presentation cards? On the other hand, if you never stopped dreading drowning during your time there, you may want to go over what it is that felt wrong. Was it you, being surrounded by total strangers? Was it the strangers’ attitude toward you whenever you tried to start a conversation? Was it the catering service during the coffee break? Tell a story! Spread the word, inspire others to do or not do X or Y, make a difference for your business and stand out in your market.
In any case, thinking in retrospect will do you no harm. You’ve obviously not drowned, so… What do you think?