The more colleagues you know, the larger your pool of potential clients and collaborators – and the better you know your colleagues, the better you know who you would like to work with.

A colleague network tends to take root as you’re studying to become a translator, and it grows little by little throughout your career. It’s easy to join translation-related groups and network among colleagues through social media, and you’re sure to meet fellow translators and interpreters at seminars, conferences and training events held both at home and abroad. In addition, mentoring and alumni programs offer an excellent chance to network. It pays to familiarize yourself with your local union or professional association, as well as the unions representing translators and interpreters elsewhere. In any case, keep your ear to the ground – networking can happen just about anywhere, not just in academic or professional settings. You may run into colleagues and potential clients in the most unexpected circumstances, so be prepared to take advantage of that.

Keep in mind that whether it’s face-to-face or online, you are always your own spokesperson. The first impression you make on a prospective client or collaborator might be due to a comment you posted on Facebook, so remember: be appropriate, be polite, and be professional. This cannot be stressed enough.

Networking is also useful if, for some reason, you cannot take on a commission yourself. Then it’s time to think of alternative arrangements. Do you feel comfortable referring a colleague to your client? Or would it be better to simply let the client know that, unfortunately, you are unavailable? If you recommend a colleague to your client, the client will assume that said colleague’s work will measure up to your own, so choose carefully. It is only polite to inform a colleague, for example through email, that you have recommended them to your client. You can also provide your colleague with salient background information, general business practices, pricing and payment arrangements, and other necessary details concerning the client. If a colleague recommends you, make sure to live up to that trust, and ask the colleague that recommended you about compensation and other terms related to the client in question. You should agree on terms and conditions well in advance before starting a collaborative project with your colleague, as you should do with all types of work.

Aside from referrals and the like, colleagues also provide you with invaluable aid and support. As long as you act in a professional and friendly manner and answer your colleagues’ inquiries, you can be assured that they will respond in kind. Keep in mind, however, that everyone is busy with their own work, so you shouldn’t needlessly add to that workload. Be sure to provide proper context along with your questions, so people don’t have to waste time deciphering your inquiry, and don’t demand an immediate answer. You can ask urgent questions, of course, but you shouldn’t presume too much. When you get your answers, remember to express gratitude and, ideally, share your eventual solutions, so that others can benefit as well. Colleague networks work on the same principals of reciprocity as all other relationships. In other words, someone who’s always asking for help but never offering it will quickly become a burden. Confidentiality must also be considered when asking or aiding: never reveal identifying information about your clients, their corporations or products. Sometimes it’s better, from an ethical standpoint, to keep your questions to yourself rather than reveal too much.