Shouting about networking
Find out how Sarah Cutts took the plunge and adopted a more proactive approach to networking within the business community.
When I first started working freelance, my initial attempts at networking were very tentative. I went to the odd event locally but felt daunted by the prospect of walking into a room full of people I didn’t know and striking up a conversation, especially if it was a large group. As a translator working from home, it’s easy to become isolated. I knew I had to get out there but didn’t know how to promote myself or my business and was uncomfortable doing it. Part of me also felt a bit out of place at these events and I dreaded going to them.
After the pandemic, I decided to get a grip on the situation and make a proper effort to meet people and overcome my fears, so last October I joined Shout Network, a North West networking organisation with several groups throughout the region. I had heard about it through people I had met at previous events, and after talking to one of the organisers, I went to a local meeting as a guest to try it out.
The format of the meeting was informal, with members sharing good news about themselves or their business, followed by a 60 second introduction from everyone and a presentation by one of the members. It was a small, friendly group and I instantly felt at ease, so I decided to join. I enrolled as a member of the Preston group, but as the only translator in the entire network, I can attend any of the other groups, increasing the scope and opportunities available to me (and with breakfast or lunch included!)
We are also encouraged to arrange individual one-to-one sessions with members who may be of particular interest to us. It enables me to get out of the office every week to attend group meetings and meet other local and regional business owners, and I have also had mentoring sessions to help me get the most out of my membership, along with tips on networking and presentation skills, which have proved invaluable.
Since then, I have visited many other groups in the region, including Chorley, Leyland, Southport, Blackpool, Blackburn, and Burnley, with Liverpool and Manchester yet to be added to the list! I have visited some great venues, including football stadiums, golf clubs and hotels, and met professionals in lots of different industries and made useful contacts, such as solicitors, accountants, travel agents, and IT specialists, whom I have got to know and see regularly. I have given presentations on my own business, which has enabled me to educate others on my work as a translator and have attended local exhibitions and business events hosted by the network.
As a result, my confidence has now grown, and not only do I feel more comfortable and less daunted going to these events, but I have also perfected my elevator pitch, having even delivered it in Spanish and French! I have been able to promote my business locally, at these and other events, help others requiring assistance with translation work (and recommending colleagues if I personally wasn’t able to help), and spend some quality time away from my desk, interacting with the outside world!
Although I haven’t had a huge amount of new business as a result of my networking efforts yet, I realise that the nature of my work is specialised and means that my target clients (for example solicitors) may only require translation services sporadically when the need arises, and when the need does arise, I will be there and happy to help!
Some of the other members have also helped me with various aspects of my business, in areas such as accounting, website hosting and the production of marketing materials. I now feel like I am part of a community, which is helping me and my business to grow.
If you are thinking of trying networking, I would encourage you to give it a go! There are lots of different types of events and groups. Some are more structured, while others are small and informal. Try them out and see which ones work for you and which ones you feel most comfortable with.
If you are new to networking, it can help to go with a friend or colleague, so that you have someone to talk to and feel less intimidated. Some groups will also allow you to go along to a session as a guest or visitor, usually free of charge. Just remember that everyone is there for the same reason, to meet others and make connections. Once you start talking to people and get to know them and what they do, you become more relaxed.
Lots of networking groups are still operating online, so if you prefer, you can even do it from the comfort of your own home. Just take a deep breath, smile, be yourself and see what happens. A whole new network of opportunities could be waiting for you!
If you would like to chat to Sarah about her experiences of networking, you can email her on [email protected]