Monthly Archives: January 2017

Networking: top tips to improve your skills and learn to love it

Raise your hand if you hate networking!

Obviously I can’t see your hands, but I imagine there’s quite a few up in the air. Everybody hates networking, right?

I used to hate networking. I thought of it as a way to sell my services to people I didn’t know, with the embarrassment of having to walk up to them, present myself, duly recite my pitch and hope they would drop me an email with a translation or interpreting project.

Then, a year ago, I went to a networking workshop at London South Bank University, and it changed my world. The speaker said something that turned my idea of networking upside down. He said that the goal of networking is not selling your services, but building relationships.

Since then, I’ve been networking on a regular basis. And I LOVE IT. I’ve been attending events, workshops, conferences, lunches and drinks just for the sake of meeting people and building relationships. And it’s paying off: I found new clients, new collaborators, and new friends.

Here are my top tips to improve your networking skills and learn to enjoy it.

TOP TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR NETWORKING SKILLS AND LEARN TO LOVE IT
Pics by Patrick Ozorio, from the last two Flylancer events in London, UK

Analyse the room

Have a look at the room and the people around you. Find the person who is awkwardly standing in a corner, looking at their feet with a drink in their hand. They’re probably too shy to initiate a conversation, and they will be oh-so-grateful that you took the first step. If every participant is engaged in a conversation, try to join a group conversation. A group with an odd number of participants will be better than a group with an even number. Exchanges tend to be between two people at a time; in a group with an odd number of participants you’ll have a better chance to join the conversation without disrupting the group dynamics. Remember to read body language as well: a group forming a circle probably doesn’t want anyone coming in. A group with an open shape is communicating that they’re open to new participants joining.

Get to know your interlocutor

Networking shouldn’t be about selling your services to the person in front of you. At least, not at first. Start by building a relationship with your interlocutor: take an interest in who they are, what they do, what they love and what they need. Make the conversation revolve around them: they will feel valued, and they will instantly have a more positive attitude towards you. They will also be more likely to take an interest in you afterwards, ask about you and your business or job. Bonus tip: if one of their needs happens to be related to what you do, talk about what you do in terms of how you can meet their need.

Talk about things you are passionate about

Again, ditch that sales pitch (nice rhyme, huh?). The best way to be remembered and build a good relationship is to be someone people like to spend time with. Instead of being all work and no play, talk about a topic that you’re passionate about and that your interlocutor might enjoy. If you get to know the person in front of you first, this will be a piece of cake. I, for example, love food. Italian food, in particular. It’s the thing I miss the most of my home country (and the nice weather, but hey, that’s for boring conversations). And Italian food is something most people mention when I tell them I’m Italian. This gives me a great talking point: everyone knows something about food and pretty much every person with a brain enjoys it. I usually tell some funny or memorable stories related to food, and that makes me easier to remember. Plus, it gives me something to mention in my follow up email, which brings me to the next point.

Always follow up

This is absolutely essential. Only 2% of sales happen when you meet a potential client for the first time. Which means that if you meet someone, give them your business card and then wait for them to email you with a translation project, you have a 98% chance to never hear from them again. Now, as said above, networking is not about sales, it’s about relationships. But relationships (and trust) are built over time. Collect business cards or contact details from the people you meet when networking, and drop them a line the next day to follow up. It can be something as simple as “It was really nice to meet you yesterday” or “It was great to see there’s someone else who loves *insert delicious food here* as much as I do”, but it will let the person know that you listened to them, that your interest was genuine, and that you valued what they said. Make them feel special, that’s the trick.

Write on business cards

Ok, I have a confession to make: I’m terrible with names. I’m pretty good with faces, but names are my worst enemy. That’s why I always write on business cards. The morning after a networking event (or the same day if I’m being very diligent) I write down where I met that person and when, and I add a little detail that will make me associate the name with the person. This can be something like ‘loves *insert food from previous paragraph*’ or ‘grew up in Paris’: something that really sparked my interest. This makes it much much easier for me to follow up and make sure I’m addressing the right person with the right words.

Network with your peers

Meeting people in your industry is a great way to keep up to date with the newest trends and discuss common issues. It’s also a great way to find collaborators, such as translators who work in your opposite pair or with completely different languages. This way you’ll be able to refer your clients to someone you know (and trust) if they ask for a service you can’t provide. The client will be happy and will keep coming to you for their translation or interpreting project. The other translator will be happy because they got a new project, and they will be willing to return the favour when they have a chance. You will be happy because you kept your client happy and you might get some projects from your colleague in the future. It’s a win-win-win situation. To meet more translators and interpreters, conferences and language events are a great place to start.

Network with other freelancers

Translators are not the only freelancers facing daunting work-related issues on a daily basis. The struggle is real for all freelancers. From graphic designers to marketing consultants, we can all benefit from a cross-industry exchange of information, advice and knowledge. Finding some common ground with freelancers from other industries is easier than you think. Gaining insights from different perspectives can help you find new and unexpected answers and solutions. Plus, you could find creative ideas for new, shared projects, or exchange skills with other professionals. Or, again, have someone to refer to your clients when they ask for a service you don’t provide.

Network with people in your target market

Ok, this might sound more sales-y than the other types of networking, but there are major benefits to networking with your target clients. First, you’ll have a chance to learn what they really need and fine-tune your marketing and communication efforts accordingly. Second, you’ll be able to learn more about that particular industry. You’ll become more knowledgeable and your services will have more value. Third, if you played your cards right, they’ll remember you when they need a translator or an interpreter.

Seize every opportunity

There are tons of opportunities to network pretty much everywhere.

➥ Attending workshops and seminars on a topic of your interest is a great way to meet like-minded people. Have a look at what your local university is doing, or search on Eventbrite.

➥ Have a look at what your local library, business hub or cultural centre have to offer.

➥ Search for a MeetUp in your area.

➥ Join Flylancer, a community of location-independent freelancers with hubs all around the world. I started going to their events in December and they’re absolutely great! There’s usually a group discussion on a topic of common interest, and a fun game to make networking easier. Plus, there’s free beer 🙂

Do you have any tips to improve networking skills? What do you love the most about networking? What do you hate? Do you have any success stories of your own? Share them in a comment below!

New Year’s Resolutions: celebrate your success and plan for the future

The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time that brings out a lot of creativity. It’s the time we make lists and plans, set out goals and set our new year’s resolutions.

And it’s the time to reflect on what has happened the year before, pat ourselves on the shoulder for our achievements and figure out what we could have done to make things better.

Now, I’ve never been good at this. I’ve always written my resolutions on a piece of paper that usually ends up in a dark corner in my top drawer. And I’ve never been the one to brag about my successes: I’m extremely self-critical, and I tend to see the negative rather than the positive when it comes to what I do.

2016, however, has made me realise that I should take pride in my achievements. It made me understand that being too critical and belittling my successes, always saying “I could have done more”, only changes the perception that others have of me. Nothing more. It doesn’t really push me to do better. It just makes me feel less valuable and confident.

On the contrary, recognizing what I’ve achieved and celebrating it has proven to be a strong motivator to do even more. Better results, more champagne, right? 😉

So here’s my farewell to a great year, and my new year’s resolutions for an even better one.

new-years-resolutions_celebrate-success-andplan-for-the-future

In 2016:

I was nominated for two prestigious national student awards. I didn’t win, but I was among the 5 finalists for the former, and 3 finalists for the latter, and that was a BIG DEAL. Plus I was invited to the two gorgeous awards ceremonies, one of which was at the House of Lords!

I won the runner-up prize in the Make It Happen competition at London South Bank University in the Freelance category: it was the first time I won a prize for my business, and it meant the world to me.

I contributed to the launch of LSBU’s Business Solutions Centre, a student-led advice clinic for small businesses. It has been one of the greatest and most satisfying adventures of my life. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done in setting up the Centre with all its processes, and the work we’ve been doing every week since last April.

I had the chance to present at Language Show Live in London and in Scotland. I received very positive feedback, and it was truly fantastic. Also, I was invited to deliver a workshop for the Interpreting division of the Chartered Institute of Linguists in 2017 as a result of the presentation I gave in October.

I was chosen to work on a massive product marketing project for the Marketing department of my university, which is still ongoing.

I did lots of networking, and I had lots of fun doing it. I met very interesting people, other freelancers and new clients. And I got free drinks and food on the side, which was a big plus 😉

My social media profiles and blog exploded! +139% followers on Twitter, +73% likes on Facebook, and a stunning +289% subscribers on my blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I completed all the modules in my Master’s with excellent results.

Although I started two new jobs that kept me busy on a full-time basis for at least 4 months, and I studied for my Master’s, I still managed to record a +1,37% yearly growth for my translation business alone. This makes me very, very proud.

Finally, this was the year I truly developed my entrepreneurial spirit, and I now feel more confident, more focus and more driven.

The best of 2016

As I said, celebrating my successes gives me the confidence to set the bar higher. This year I won’t leave my resolutions in a dark corner: they will stay here, in this public space, a constant reminder of this new year enthusiasm.

My new year’s resolutions:

Complete and deliver my Master’s dissertation without procrastinating too much;

Speak at translation events, possibly one of them outside of the UK;

Further develop my skills as an advisor/consultant;

Take a copywriting course;

Take a coaching course;

Rewrite the copy on my website and finally translate it in Italian;

Meet in person some of the amazing colleagues I’ve met online in 2016;

Develop and launch project X (this is a secret :P)

Take my business back to the level it was before I started my Master’s and my other jobs, then take it from there;

Go out more and enjoy more of what London has to offer;

Dedicate more time to friends;

Dedicate more time to myself: maybe try a healthier diet, do some exercise, get massages…

Travel more! I want to go on at least 3 trips abroad this year;

Go to my parents’ 30th-anniversary celebration.

There are no hard business objectives in here as I feel they’re a different thing from new years’ resolutions. There’s another place for those, and that’s my business plan.

I hope this year will mark the beginning of a new era for me; an era where resolutions are destinations to reach, and not just empty words on a piece of paper.

What were your successes in 2016? What do you want to achieve in 2017? Share it with us and let’s celebrate together!