Finding translation customers at trade fair?
January 23, 2015 4:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I network/find new customers at a consumer trade fair, and is it a good idea at all?

I am a (technical) translator getting back into freelancing. This weekend is the tail end of a huge trade fair in my city for an industry I want to work / find direct customers in - (organic) agriculture and food production/marketing. (I am also studying for a qualification in organic agriculture). I have nice new business cards. I also have fairly severe social anxiety and striking up conversations with total strangers is my worst thing.

1. Can it be worthwhile for freelance service providers to troll for custom at a big, busy consumer-oriented fair?
2. How do people who work on trade fair stands feel about people coming and asking them if they need xyz services?
3. If this is a good thing to do, HOW do I do it? Do I need to have a long conversation each time being interested in their product and only then "reveal my true identity" or can I breeze by and basically do "hi if you need things translated here's my card"?
4. I have been collecting bumf from stands and mean to check out various companies later and send an email if they don't have an EN online presence, any advice here?
posted by runincircles to Work & Money (2 answers total)
Best answer: I've been both a vendor at trade fairs (such as McCormick Place in Chicago, working for my employer at the time) and an attendee at various fairs.

I would say there is no harm in attending. Do glance at the map and see if there are any companies you are really interested in, as they can get overwhelming very quickly.

Then go to those booths and that general area, and express an interest in the product. Be aware that they will be tired and at the end of the show, so just be honest.

"I love this thing! I am studying for my qualification in organic agriculture, and I am a freelance translator."

If their eyes glaze over, move on. If they engage you in conversation, then you can say, "wow, that's great! If you ever need any translation services, give me a call!" and present your card.

You really will have to get over the hump of anxiety, but I've often found that common interests help alleviate that.

Then try to get their card and your task will be to follow up with everyone via email or phone call.

"Hi, I'm runincircles and I met you at the trade fair. Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed talking with you about (foo) and let me know if I can ever be of service to you."

Because when I was working, I collected literally hundreds of business cards and entered them into a database for my sales reps to call and follow up with (I had to qualify them first, of course). I actually had a fishbowl and gave away little stuffed animals as prizes to get people to leave their business cards.

They will be tired the first week, so I would wait until the 2nd or 3rd week to follow up. Give them time to get back to their routine.

And give yourself a time limit, 1-2 hours, 2-3, whatever you can stand with your anxiety, and a reward afterward for doing so well.

Caveat: if there are any cultural things I am missing by being American, I apologize. Your mileage may vary. Good luck!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:07 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks MMD, really useful!
posted by runincircles at 6:54 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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