Guest Post by Jesse Tomlinson: Who's Watching?

Who’s Watching?

You never know, do you? Even if you’re excellent at visualizing, it’s often impossible to guess who might be watching you when you put yourself out there.

What’s your ideal professional image? What are you transmitting? Is it consistent? Does it accurately reflect your business focus?

What’s in a client? They say it takes seven points of contact to get someone to like, know and trust you, which is what building client confidence is all about. When was the last time you worked with someone you didn’t particularly like? Chances are it was someone who gave you specialized service, someone so knowledgeable that even not liking them, you still wanted to work with them.

Direct Clients

Working with direct clients takes years of investing in professional relationships. Typical recent advice directs us to go to expos, become more knowledgeable in our fields, go to client events and be well versed in their companies, and current events generally – all activities that take years to cultivate.

But as you go about your day-to-day life, professionally and personally, it can be hard to separate your private and professional lives, because you never know in whose company you might find yourself, and whether those people might be potential clients, people who have heard of you, or even someone who is already your client but whom you had yet to meet in person!

Professionally you might have the idea that people are getting to know you, reading things you write, and perhaps even following your work on Twitter. I see myself as a go-after-clients kind of freelancer, but have you ever considered that clients are out there hunting you, too? Waiting to see how well you do with current projects so they can consider using your services in the future? Maybe mystery client 992 has a big initiative coming up in two years and is thinking carefully about who the lucky translator will be to do it.

Proz invited lucky li’l old me to participate on The Pros and Cons of Working with Direct Clients, a panel discussion with Patrick Weill and moderated by Paul Urwin, Sept 26 2017, in honor of International Translation Day. This was a big moment for me and a great experience. But I never imagined that a former major US network news anchor (someone I had known for two years) would be watching and noting what I was saying about translation! I was taken aback. And that’s when I realized that most of us can’t imagine who is watching or listening in on our professional careers.

Paying attention to who could be watching us professionally is a no-brainer, right? But what about when we are wandering the world at large, casually and “off-duty”? Is there ever “off-duty” for a freelancer?

Clients, Clients Everywhere

You may have heard that airplanes are great places to meet clients, and interesting people in general. But have you ever thought that every single person you sit next to on an airplane is a potential client or source of referrals? Thinking this way is a good start to meeting more potential direct clients.

Everything you do matters. Every interaction counts. And it all adds up to the reputation you want to cultivate as a business person.

I was recently a dinner for fifteen, at a private residence where I had already met six of those present. It was a lively night with much heated controversial conversation and opinions flying high. About four hours in, a woman there told me she knew exactly who I was. She was one of my clients whom I had never met, and since we had only exchanged first names when casually introduced earlier in the evening I hadn’t made the link to my professional connection with her. It was a great reminder that you never know who you’ll run into, even when you’re in casual mode with friends.

Who’s watching you?

Jesse Tomlinson is an interpreter, translator, and voice talent. Originally from Canada, she now lives in Mexico and translates from Spanish into English and interprets in both languages. 

She is currently translating Latin American authors born in the 1980s into English for Proyecto Arraigo. See her essay on uprooting (“La vida sin limones”) at Contact:

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