Perhaps you attended my presentation on networking at the Professional Development Day in September 2017, or at the SENSE Jubilee Conference in November 2015. Or perhaps you read my 2016 article in eSense 40. But even if you’ve never heard of me, you will likely know that freelance language professionals need to use their networks to bring in new clients and stay up to date with developments. (By the way, I hope those of you who attended the conference have, like me, gone on LinkedIn and connected with all those new people you met at the conference. That’s what those business cards are for – then you can throw them in the paper bin!)
Not taking my own advice
Despite all my well-meaning advice to other freelancers, I recently found myself telling myself off at a networking event. It’s so easy to forget those ground rules! The rule I broke? – remembering that not only are the people in your own network potential clients, but also the people in their networks.
I moved house several months ago to a massive new housing development that the Dutch call a Vinex-location (did you know that Vinex stands for Vierde Nota Ruimtelijke Ordening Extra?). It turns out that the Stadshagen development in Zwolle not only houses more than 20,000 people, it also has a local business network. The Stadshagen Ondernemers Platform meets regularly just two minutes’ walk from my house, so how could I not go?
Disability insurance made interesting
The theme of their June meeting was – most excitingly – insurance for business owners, which is actually a topic close to my heart as I am currently sorting out disability insurance and liability insurance for my business. (More about that in another post soon I hope – I’m still getting the paperwork sorted.)
A fellow freelancer from my Broodfonds in Zwolle first gave a presentation about the concept (see my previous article in eSense 44 for more info on this) and about her own experiences after having to report sick. This was followed by a presentation on insurance for business owners, disability insurance in particular, given by an insurance broker who has his own company – very down to earth and easy to follow I must say.
So what went wrong?
After questions and plenty of discussion about the various options for insuring yourself, but before the networking borrel – probably what many of us came for – it was time for a couple of agenda items from the organizing committee. One was a reminder to email them a business card to ask to be profiled on the SOP’s Facebook page to promote our businesses. After all, the page has 250 followers and the freelance florist who was on there recently got several hundred likes.
And here it comes: ‘So what?’, I thought. ‘There’s no point in me advertising my services to other business owners in the area as this is not where my clients are. My potential clients are at universities, hospitals and private companies, not here in the neighbourhood. That’s more for the freelance florists, coaches, event planners, financial advisers and online marketing consultants, not for me.’ WRONG! All those freelancers have their own networks. And the people in their networks may need scientific reports writing or manuscripts editing, or be looking for someone to teach a writing course at their company/lab/university/department.
Just tell people what you do
So as I wandered out to the terrace with a drink in my hand, doing my best to overcome that fear of not knowing anyone and wondering what to say, I ended up giving myself a good talking-to and made sure that I let people know what I did, that I enjoyed what I did and that I am good at it! And yes, I will be sending in my business card to profile my business on the Facebook page – you just never know.
Do you have a networking story to tell? One that led to work? Or even one that went badly? Add your story to the comments or write your own post for the blog. We’d love to hear from you.
Sally Hill is an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and newsletter and a British biologist-turned-linguist who runs a business called Scientific Texts.