Your Networking Mistakes are Turning People Off

This post originally appeared on SBO blog and it is republished with permission.

I’ve been networking regularly for about eight years now, gradually increasing the frequency from once a month to at least once a week, sometimes more. As I eased into the rhythm of networking and kept seeing familiar faces (Singapore is really darn small), things got a little boring. And then I started people watching.

It’s actually an interesting exercise to step out of being a participant and into an observer’s point of view. It dawned on me that I was once (and sometimes still am) that douchebag who unintentionally (and now sometimes intentionally, for good reasons, of course) behaved inappropriately.

It’s forgivable if you’re a newbie, but many people remain oblivious to despite going to countless networking events. Let’s count your sins.

Let’s count your sins.

Going without intention

It’s easy for people to tell when you’re networking without a purpose, and they’re likely to think that you’re a time-waster and probably unreliable.

Networking needs to be intentional, even if the intention is as mundane as going there to see who you can possibly connect with. Or maybe you’re looking for more business and want to qualify some prospects. Whatever it is, find a reason to be there. Your actions and chats will become purposeful. People can see that and might even mistake that as confidence.

But of course, this can swing the other way as well, that is approaching the session very intentionally with the goal of selling.

Going with every intention to sell

This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

A casual survey that I had conducted on a Facebook group revealed that most people hate hard-sellers.

If you’re pulling out your sales deck or portfolio the first time you meet someone, then you’re doing it wrong. Networkers, especially the seasoned ones, can detect desperation. This very aggressive approach to networking turns people off almost instantly.

Remember that networking requires some time investment. It’s all about sowing seeds. Even if the relationships that you’ve nurtured don’t result in a direct sale, they might end up passing referrals to you, simply because you’ve been a sincere friend.

Be a wallflower

… grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Networking means jumping into the pit with everyone. If you’re going to stay in one corner and just wait for people to approach, you’re better off saving your money and staying home. Furthermore, the impression you’d be leaving would be that creep who’s at a corner, and the longer you stay in that corner, the more people will never approach you.

If you’re afraid of crowds but still wish to push boundaries through networking, that’s great! Try approaching someone that’s away from the crowd (there’s always at least one other person) and strike a conversation. Another way is to grab an extroverted friend, explain your fear and willingness to face it, and get said friend to help you open up conversations.

Go talk to someone!

Be passive

Conversation is a two-way street. When you get into a conversation with someone, don’t just give a one-worded reply or wait for the other party to ask more questions. This comes across as insincere and disinterested.

Take a real interest in what people are doing. Reciprocate with genuine questions. Showing that you are curious will encourage people to share more.

Beating around the bush

If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

The most common trades that are present at any networking sessions are financial planners and property agents. The decent ones will not mince their words and just tell you straight up who they are, then tell you what’s different about them. This is great because it saves everyone time. The interested parties can stay, the rest can move on.

Then there are the annoying ones telling you some variation of their job, such as “finance industry professional”, “wealth manager” or “investment strategist”, and only upon probing further that people realise who they really are.

Now think about it. If you’re going to get someone as a client, they are going to find out who you really are sooner or later. Can they trust you to be honest and professional with their money when you’re not forthcoming?

Pushing name cards

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both.

To some people, networking is but a numbers game. The more people you come into contact, the better. These people seem to be always in a rush, shoving their name cards into people’s hands as if they are flyers. The more creative ones give out other forms of marketing collaterals, including gifts, in place of name cards, but that doesn’t make it less offensive.

People don’t like to be treated as a number, a game or both. They want to be treated as a valued individual. Even if you’re in a rush, linger for a while, ask a few questions and at least try to understand the other party at a superficial level. When you really need to go, apologise and offer to arrange a separate time to catch up.

If you’re still not convinced and insist on doing this, you’re better off standing at the MRT station giving out flyers. You’d capture a lot more people.

Pushing name cards pushes people away.

Dominating the conversation

While it’s true that networking is all about talking, it’s not all about you. People didn’t pony up and gather at a place at their free time to hear you ramble on and on about yourself. Don’t hog the individual. As interesting as that person may be, he or she would like to know more people too.

Be aware of the conversation. It’s obvious that you’re just talking to yourself when nobody’s asking you questions. But if you find someone who really does ask a lot about you, find an opportune time to turn the tables around and say, “I’ve been talking so much about myself, but I hardly know you!”, then follow up with a question.

Another good rule of thumb is to move on after some time. “Some time” is really subjective because it depends on how many people are there and how much time you have. In doubt, keep to 5-10 minutes and move on.

Asking to be added to someone’s personal social media

Unless you’re talking about LinkedIn or if you’re sure the other party feels as if you’re a long lost twin, do not ask to be added on Facebook, Instagram or the likes. It may come across as an invasion of privacy, particularly when you’ve just met. Think of how uncomfortable you’d be when a stranger comes so close to you that you can feel their breath. Yup, it’s that creepy.

Be a friend first before asking to be added to their personal social network. If you can’t wait, LinkedIn is the closest you should get.

Using your phone or talking to someone while someone else is talking

That’s simply rude. You’re sending the message that you’re either not interested or not paying attention.

If you’re keen on the conversation but really have to attend to your phone or someone else, apologise and tell that person that you’ll get back later once you’re done.

If you’re not keen, find an excuse and move along.

Pro tip: Unless you have an image to keep, using your phone is actually a good strategy to turn off those that you don’t want to talk to. I’ll share more in a future article.

Stop checking your mobile phone when someone’s talking to you!

Turn a coffee session into a sales meeting

If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

A coffee session with someone you’re keen to work with is a good idea as a follow-up to a networking session. But be very clear of what you asked for. If you asked for a coffee session, keep it as is. Don’t start whipping out your slide deck and present your product.

That session is good for you to understand the other party at a deeper level. Find out what they do and the challenges they face. With all that information, you’d be positioning yourself better to offer a solution and, eventually, close the deal. Even if you don’t, you’ve probably forged a stronger relationship with a potential source of referrals.

Even till today, I’m guilty of some of these mistakes (an introvert loves to be a wallflower). Just being a little more mindful helps you to become a better networker, leave good impressions and form stronger relationships.

Have you observed any other annoying behaviour? Comment below.

Author bio

Vinleon Ang is the chief editor of Singapore Business Owners, a small business magazine that talks about businesses in Singapore. He is passionate about content marketing and building magazine titles. He is also available for consulting and partnerships. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Five Things That Bother Me As A Translator

“Translations? Is that a thing?”

In 2016 I started a BA in Translations. It was a new, exciting experience for me, being able to study something that I had decided to do in high school, but had to put off for two years because, you know, life. However, with my decision to become a translator—and eventually working as one—came a lot of things that bothered me, and still do. Let us see, shall we?

  1. “Translations? Is that a thing?” When I told people that I was studying translations, about 60% replied with these questions. Yes, of course it is a thing. You read Harry Potter in Spanish, right? How do you think that happened? As awesome as it sounds, Hermione did not magically convert the books to other languages.
  2. “Does it really take four years to learn how to get one text from one language to the other? Don’t you just need to know the language and that is it?” No! There is a reason we study for four years. Do you know how many different translations the word “consideration” has? It is a nightmare. You are not translating 24/7 for four years; you have to learn punctuation, Spanish and English sentence analysis, and if you want to major in something, you have to study everything related to that major (like literature, medical English or private law.) So, no. Two years is not enough. Hell, four years is not enough.
  3. “Hey, you are a translator. What does *random Spanish word* mean?” Wow, I did not know I had suddenly morphed into a dictionary. Just because I work as someone who translates a text into another language does not mean I know the translation of every word. Again, do you know how many translations “consideration” has?
  4. “I heard you graduated! Can you give me an estimate of how much this translation will cost? Oh, I am going to go for someone cheaper.” I hate disloyal competition! I have been working freelance since before I graduated, and I would either do the projects for free or get paid in Starbucks. Now, I’ve found out that not only is competition tough, but other translators are willing to basically give their work away by how little they are charging their clients. I gave someone an estimate which was less than half of what I would normally charge, basically giving them my work for free, but they thought it was too expensive. I lost my first client as a graduate because of unfair competition, and I’m pretty bothered by that.
  5. “Hi! I am very interested in your CV and think you will make a great addition to our team. Do you have experience? *five days go by* Sorry, we have decided to move on with more experienced candidates.” How am I supposed to gain experience when no one will hire me because I have no experience? It is just like those job ads that say “Entry level” but require 3-5 years of experience. It makes no sense.

In 2020 I graduated as a translator. Some people have a knack for science, others for arts, and others, like me, for languages. No, it is not easy. But with hard work and lots of coffee, you get the job done. I may never be rid of the questions you see above, or the disloyal competition out there, but, at the end of the day, I love what I do; and even though all these things bothered me—and some still do—, getting the right translation of the word “consideration” is so rewarding. There is no better feeling.

Of course, this is just my experience. As a recent graduate I would love to know what other frustrations translators have (either graduates or translators who are well into the business). Also, veterans, if you have any tips based on your experience, please let me know. I really want a job.

About the author

Samantha Biscomb is an English-Spanish translator, graduated from the University of Montevideo, Uruguay. She has been working freelance since 2018 because no company will hire her given that she has no experience working in a company. It bothers her.

How to Create an Ideal T&I Client Profile to Market Your Services

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission.

It is incredibly important to know your ideal client if your marketing efforts are going to be effective. After all, we want to work with our ideal clients, and not just anyone who crosses our paths, right? I mentioned recently in a webinar that I created an ideal client profile and its usefulness in creating effective marketing content in my business.

One of the attendees asked me if I could show an example of an ideal client profile and how to create one, so I’m breaking it all down for you right here. I’ve even thrown in examples from my own translation client profile!

● Start with creating your ideal client avatar.

○ Find an image that depicts your ideal client. This way, whenever you create new marketing content, you have an image of this person in your head and you know that this is who you are talking to and targeting in your marketing campaigns.

○ Give your ideal client a name (also called a user persona).

○ Give them a position or title.

○ Include demographic information:

■ gender
■ age
■ education/background
■ marital status
■ salary
■ where he/she lives
■ number of children, etc.

○ Include information about his/her personality. What does he/she:

■ like to do outside of work?
■ like to watch on TV?
■ like to buy (what brands and where does he/she shop)?
■ drive?
■ wear?

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● Then, describe how you can be your ideal client’s best choice of translator or interpreter.

○ What are his/her goals at home and at work? What does he/she aspire to do in his/her career?

○ What are his/her pain points/challenges?

○ What outcomes does he/she want?

○ What services do you offer that can help relieve his/her pains/
challenges?

○ What services do you offer that help him/her reach goals?

○ What pains can you kill? What gains can you create?

○ How did he/she find you?

○ What makes him/her engage with you?

○ What makes him/her return to work with you?

○ What makes him/her recommend you to someone else?

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● Finally, create your marketing content based on what you know about your ideal client. Be creative!

○ How did he/she find you?

○ What makes him/her engage with you?

○ What makes him/her return as a customer?

○ What makes him/her recommend you?

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Once you can summarize this information related to your ideal client, you will have an ideal client profile that will inform all of your marketing decisions and efforts. All of your marketing efforts should be geared toward this type of client. You need to know this person before you can market to them. So, now that you do, create those marketing campaigns that you know will speak to them on a personal level. You can do this via social media posts, emails, blogs, etc., and always remember to keep them in mind every time you create a new piece of marketing content.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

More is Not Better When It Comes to Your T&I Client List

This post was originally published on Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo’s blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Everyone wants to grow their client list. After all, who wouldn’t, right? It’s part of being a business owner, no matter if you are a freelancer or if you manage several people who work for you. It’s good to always have more clients coming in the door… but quantity over quality is often not a good idea, and that includes in business. When you have high quality clients (i.e., ideal clients), then you don’t necessarily have to have an ever-growing client list. Once you have consistent work coming in from those ideal clients, you can shift your focus more to maintaining those client relationships by refining the client experience, and then a slower incoming trickle of new clients won’t seem so much of a make-or-break issue.

To read more about finding that sweet spot with quality clients, check out How to Determine and Attract Your Ideal Client.

Just like most things in life, when you focus on quantity (i.e. how many new clients you can gain or how many clients you currently have), losing sight of quality can easily create more issues for you. If you are constantly striving for more, you will find yourself always wishing you had more. And frankly, you cannot possibly focus on sustainable growth or nurture client relationships with your best clients if the focus is always on when that next project will be coming down the pipeline.

By choosing to focus on attracting and maintaining lasting relationships with quality clients, you will find that you have more time to work on the things you want to within your business. You can take a vacation (and leave that laptop at home!), and you can take more time for yourself and the things and people you love outside of your business. With some care and time, you can grow your business into something that sustains the lifestyle you want, rather than working to sustain your business and income until that next payment arrives.

Rather than trying to convert every lead that comes your way, or take on every project that is offered to you, be more selective. Make some non-negotiables when it comes to the work and clients you take on. Do you want to avoid working after a certain hour of the day and on weekends? Quality clients mean that you can achieve this. Do you want to drop projects that you find absolutely tedious and draining? Seeking clients (and maintaining an ongoing, positive relationship with them) whose work you value in terms of content will allow you to do this.

Don’t get stuck in the “But what if next month is slow?” cycle or way of thinking. Decide to make an effort to attract those clients that will make you feel satisfied with your work, because the quality of the client and the quality of the service(s) that you can provide to them match up. After all, if you’re always taking on quantity (volume), then the quality of what you produce will suffer as a result. It is impossible to keep up with quality if you are accepting every project that crosses your desk. It’s okay to say “No.”

When trying to determine whether a client is “high quality” or not, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you like to hear from them whenever they come knocking, or would their projects feel like tedious tasks that make you less than excited about sitting down at your computer to complete their projects?
  • Do you like to work with them because of the type of work you can do for them (subject matter, their mission lining up with your own values, etc.)? This may even be the case if the client doesn’t have the budget to pay your higher translation or interpreting rate. As long as you feel good about the working relationship and the value you provide (as well as the value the projects provide to you as a professional), you may very well think of them as a high quality client.
  • Does the work you receive from the client allow you to be open to new opportunities later? For example, is the subject matter is something that will help you to pick up new (and high quality!) clients because of the experience you’re gaining by working on their projects?

Be sure to reassess your client list from time to time. If there is a client you’d rather not work with in the long term, put your energy toward gaining more of those you do want to work with, and set a goal to let go of those that are less than ideal.

By focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to your client list, you will see that you are happier with the work you do and the value you provide. This satisfaction will carry over to other areas of your life. You will produce better content and output as a result. You will be able to spend more time on the things that you want to work on after you’ve met the deadlines set by these quality clients. And last, but definitely not least, you will simultaneously be refining your craft with the work you get from these clients. This alone is enough reason to take a hard look at how your clients shape up when it comes to quality vs. quantity.

Author bio

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions (ATS), a boutique translation company based in Southern California. She is also a Spanish and Portuguese to English translator, specializing in medicine and life sciences. Madalena’s interest in online marketing and copywriting has led her to write and teach about the benefits of using informational content online to attract and retain clients. After seeing the advantages of intentional and strategic marketing in her own business, Madalena now teaches those same skills to other freelance language professionals. She blogs and teaches courses on topics related to marketing your freelance translation business by deliberately building and shaping your online presence. For more information, visit www.madalenazampaulo.com.

Attending your clients’ conferences

Have you ever been told, “go where your clients go,” “meet your clients face-to-face,” or “attend an industry event”? Have you been interested, but not sure where to start?

Attending your potential clients’ conferences can be very rewarding: you learn new terminology, get familiar with the industry, meet potential clients, and promote your services. The list goes on! However, conferences can be overwhelming, and putting yourself out there can seem intimidating.

Have you considered attending with a colleague? Do you think attending alone would be a better fit?

Earlier this year, Veronika Dimichelis and Jessica Hartstein teamed up and attended an international conference together, and Veronika attended a local symposium alone just a few weeks later.

We hope this article gives you some food for thought on how you can make the most of attending large, non-translation industry conferences and find new ways of partnering up with colleagues.

Choose the right client conference

We chose to attend the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) together since we both worked in the oil and gas industry in the past. This is an international oil and gas conference and tradeshow with 2,470 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees from 100+ countries. We had both attended this event in the past through our former employers, so we knew what to expect and excitedly anticipated running into old co-workers.

Of note, many non-technical companies attend and exhibit at events like this; you can find people to talk to even if you’re not working with technical subjects. Think: communication experts, law firms, and even environmental and human trafficking NGOs.

A few weeks later, Veronika attended a local Human Resources symposium with 2,000 attendees and around 100 exhibitors. She is a trained HR professional; it’s one of her areas of specialization and she knows the subject matter. Given her experience in this field, she found it easy to connect with people and start conversations around common challenges and focus areas.

Fly solo or go with a colleague?

Jessica initiated the buddy approach with OTC. She approached Veronika because she felt like they had similar communication styles and knew she’d be comfortable talking to prospective clients with Veronika. Keep in mind that while you and your buddy may work for yourselves and offer separate services, you are likely to reflect on each other to prospective clients.

In our case, we have completely disparate language pairs, and this meant we would never feel in competition, but teaming up with someone in your same language pair or with your opposite language pair may be the right fit for you.

The pros of attending with someone else are that you may feel more comfortable striking up conversations, you have a chance to learn from the other’s experience, you can vouch for each other’s professionalism, and it may simply be the crutch that gets you to the event!

The cons, if not managed well, could be that you talk to fewer people, take backstage to your colleague, or are less efficient with your time. Toward the end of our visit, we had to split up because the tradeshow was so large, there was no way to get to every exhibit we wanted to otherwise.

Preparation

Rather than just punching the address into your GPS and winging it, it’s worth the effort to think about what your main objective is in attending the event. You are making a time and financial investment to attend the conference, so be strategic.

For example, is your biggest priority to find potential clients? To improve your understanding of the subject matter? To get inspired and find new ideas for services you can offer or markets you can target? Or is it to catch up with former colleagues or to position yourself as an expert in the field? Once you’ve determined your main goal, look at the events with that goal in mind.

In our case, OTC is a 4-day event, but we set aside enough time to be in the tradeshow for about 4 hours. Our hope was to connect with companies who work in Spanish-speaking countries (Jessica) and Russia (Veronika). We individually looked at the exhibitor’s list and took note of which companies we thought would be a good fit for ourselves, and then compared our lists beforehand. With over 2,000 exhibitors located in two different arenas, it’s important to have a game plan!

We also wanted to bump into former colleagues to let them know what we were doing and to get a chance to learn about what they were up to now. We reached out to the people we knew and stopped by their booths. It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect and introduce each other to people who know the value of professional translators.

As Veronika prepared for the HR Symposium, she looked at the exhibitors’ list, reviewed their promotional materials, and took note of companies that work in Russia or offer services that have to do with relocation or international assignments. She also made a list of presentations related to topics that she worked with as an HR manager in the past. The HR Symposium was a relatively small event, so she felt that she had to be comfortable asking questions and contributing to the discussion after the presentations.

The day of the event

Go prepared with an elevator pitch that specifically targets that industry or even the companies of greatest interest to you. Prepare a few good conversation-starters and avoid using T&I jargon. For example, clients are unlikely to be familiar with “source language” and “target language.” A simple “do you have English documents you need translated into Russian?” would probably get you the information you need or start a conversation where you can help them learn more about the industry.

Neither of us is pushy, and while many companies at OTC need or use translation services, we both knew that the exhibitors had their own priorities, and our services were not what they were targeting at this event. Thus, we were respectful of people’s time, engaged in conversations about their international presence, and provided information about T&I wherever we could. In fact, Veronika very politely pointed out to an exhibitor that was trying to present an international face with a multilingual display that they had made a significant error in Russian. We could see him immediately appreciate the need for professional translators, and we’re fairly certain he went back and told his team about that to improve the display for his next tradeshow.

At the HR Symposium, Veronika focused on participating in conversations with other participants, primarily about international assignments and intercultural challenges that arise when operating in different countries. She could relate to examples and challenges discussed and could share her own experience as an HR professional and a translator.

At a “niche” event like this, she really stood out as the only translator in the room, and most people were interested in learning how translation works and why translators want to stay abreast of trends and focus areas in the fields of their specialization.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to attend client conferences. The only thing for certain is that NOT attending is a missed opportunity. Of course, it’s important to set realistic expectations for what success will look like to you.

Is it fair to think you’ll have 10 new and fantastic clients sending you work immediately after one day at a conference? No! Both of us have the long-game in mind and feel that attending client conferences is one component of that.

At the very least, this is a chance to be better informed about your potential clients’ interests, challenge yourself to step out of the T&I bubble, and practice talking about what you do with confidence.

We will definitely be attending more client events in the future, both together and separately. We hope you will, too!

Image source: Unsplash

Authors’ bios:

Veronika Demichelis is an ATA-certified English>Russian translator based in Houston, TX. She holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication and an MBA in Human Resources Management, and specializes in corporate communication, HR, and social responsibility.

She serves on the ATA Membership Committee and is the co-host for the Smart Habits for Translators podcast and Director for Professional Development for Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.