Success story mini-series: Great oaks from little acorns grow

Alanah Reynor is a creative translator and writer, who specialises in creating English content for Belgian businesses and leaders. In the final instalment of our success story mini-series, she explains how one carefully crafted LinkedIn message led her to develop a whole new service for her business.

If I try to look back at where it all started, I guess I could track it all back to one LinkedIn message in November 2020. In March earlier that year, for a reason we all know well, my freelance business plummeted from my highest-income month to date to no work whatsoever. After a few months to get to grips with what was happening, both on a personal and a professional level, I decided it was time to take control of my business in a new way. That’s when I started using LinkedIn.

So in November 2020, after watching a fascinating keynote at an online translation conference, I sent a message to the speaker on LinkedIn to congratulate him on such a wonderful presentation. It took me hours to craft that 300-character message, making sure I got the Dutch wording exactly right. (Even though I knew he spoke good English, I wanted to speak to him in his mother tongue.) Much to my surprise, he responded and we exchanged a few friendly messages. A couple of weeks later, he told me he was writing a book he wanted to have translated into English, so I suggested we set up a call to get to know each other and discuss. All was going well, until on the call he told me the book wasn’t written yet. The pandemic had robbed him of his favourite writing zones (airports and hotel lobbies) and he was struggling to get the words on the page. Could I help?

Over the course of the next seven months, with weekly Teams calls and plenty of messages, we wrote his book together. It was the start of what was to become a new service offering for me – ghost writing for Belgian businesses and keynote speakers.

That project was a catalyst for me. It showed me that I could offer a new kind of service, that I could find clients on LinkedIn and that what I valued most was the relationship I have with my clients. Thanks to our relationship, he put me in contact with friends, colleagues and his publisher. He also invited me to his book launch where I was able to meet him, my new contacts, and others, in person.

This might sound terrifying. To me, it certainly was. But I booked a hotel room and hopped on the train to Ghent. The venue was packed with people I didn’t know and the only person I knew well – my client – was the star of the show and had very little time to chat. Even so, that evening, although I didn’t know it yet, I met two new clients.

However, no book is created overnight. Those new projects took a while to come into fruition. In the meantime, I used LinkedIn to stay top of mind for when, or if, they needed someone like me. I added them, sent them a message telling them how nice it was to meet them, commented on their posts and posted my own thoughts. One of them sent me an email just after I posted; I’d reminded him he wanted to contact me. The other told me, when we met to discuss her project, that she enjoyed reading my posts and comments because it felt like we got to know each other a bit better before we even started working together.

As I write this article, I’ve just sent off the manuscript for the most special project I’ve ever worked on. And while I can track this whole journey back to that first LinkedIn message in 2020, it’s not being present on LinkedIn alone that has brought me this new line of work. In my experience, it’s the sum of everything that’s important: connecting with people, having conversations, commenting and posting, being yourself, attending events and having video calls. How you present yourself matters. It’s not the platform that will get you results; you will.