Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tech Startup School 2012: What motivates you?

"Your product may be great, but if no one buys it, you will sink.
Sales and marketing is the no. 1 thing.
If you don’t know how to market your product, or feel awkward about it, you’ll sink.
It’s as simple as that."

This was one of the main messages driven home by Alastair Watson, director of BEN, at the first Tech Startup School 2012 event on Monday evening, 14 May 2012. The event, which was about starting up a new business, took place at the Bristol & Bath Science Park. It was quite a male-dominated event as only 3 female participants had registered for it. (All 3 of them, by the way, happened to be German!)

The event was aimed primarily at tech people, but I instantly realised a lot of what was discussed equally applies to freelance translators. All the tech people in attendance seemed to have a real prospect of commercially coming out with something potentially really big. Freelance translators may be very small-scale businesses, and although we tend to think more in terms of salary than dividends, we have to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs too – whether we like it or not.

If you don’t know how to market your product, or feel awkward about it, you’ll sink!

In this post I’m going to focus on the motivational aspect of entrepreneurship, as there was a lot of food for thought contained in Alastair Watson’s introductory talk. I’m also going to sprinkle in some of my own thoughts.

It is very, very important to understand what motivates you. Alastair made us aware there are entrepreneurs around us everywhere. But why do enterpreneurs do what they do?

It’s important to know what drives you. Is it the money? Or is it exactly the opposite: is money not your no. 1 priority? Or is it because you want to show others that you’re capable of running your own business, that you can stand on your own two feet, and stand on them comfortably? Some of us have become entrepreneurs due to a lack of other options. Others relish the feeling of self-mastery. For some entrepreneurs the reason is merely an idealistic one: they have invented a product that is potentially going to change the world. Others simply want to do something that they know they’re good at for the rest of their lives, without having to answer to some jumped-up manager. And some entrepreneurs set out to create a legacy: they want to give something to the world which will be there forever. It gives them pleasure to see something they’ve created.

Entrepreneurship in its intial stages can cause fear and be offputting. Remember, there will be no cushion to rest on, no perks, no paid holiday. There will be knockbacks. You face the prospect of working long hours, sometimes without knowing if your efforts will lead to anything. Feeling isolated will become inevitable at some stage. And you don’t even get to go to a company Christmas party like your employed friends. Is that what you really want? Translation, in particular, is not an easy industry to work in because it is, and maybe always will be, a misunderstood profession.