The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Friday, April 27, 2007

Furious networking

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a freelancer is having to ‘tout’ for work. Thankfully, dictionaries tend to be fairly long projects, so often keep you occupied for months at a time. There are inevitably times though when you know that a project is coming to an end and ‘unemployment’ is looming. Touch wood, in my time as a freelancer so far, I haven’t had too many really lean patches and something always seems to crop up just in the nick of time. There’s always the pressure though to keep yourself in the frame and to make new contacts, especially if you want to branch out into new areas.

One opportunity each year to ‘show your face’ is the annual IATEFL Conference - the main event for EFL teachers and, by association, publishers. This year’s conference was held last week in Aberdeen. It’s always a good chance to catch up with existing contacts - to chat to people you’ve worked with in the past and to remind them of your existence, and more importantly, your availability to work! More difficult is the task of introducing yourself to new contacts. I don’t think lexicographers are the pushiest of people by nature …

This year I’d really ummed and erred about whether to go as Aberdeen is quite a trek and fairly expensive both in time and travel expenses. So when I decided to splash out, I wanted to make it worthwhile. I went for a more targeted approach than usual, picking out particular publishers and even projects that I’d like to work on in advance, then making a list of who I wanted to speak to, even setting up a couple of meetings beforehand. Once I got there, I seemed to slip surprisingly easily into my new approach (armed with a smart, swishy blue coat to make me feel the part!). I went straight for the key people and set my cards on the table.
The funky blue coat!

It’s difficult to judge the line between being professional and enthusiastic, and just pushy, but it felt like it went well and I came away after 3 days feeling like I’d got some real possibilities lined up. The proof of the pudding will, of course, be in what happens over the coming weeks, but for the moment at least, I’m feeling quite optimistic and that my train fare was money well spent!


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