Networking: a simple word, which, weirdly enough, stresses out a lot of freelancers. Freelance networking can be frustrating but it’s also extremely important. Having the right contacts can open doors that otherwise remain closed, especially to a freelancer.
Connecting with potential clients and anybody who might be interested in your work can help you call upon those connections when the need arises. The lone wolf aspect of freelancing can make it tough to form those relationships, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds.
- Start small
- Don’t leave out fellow freelancers
- Contribute to freelancer content
- Professional online networks
- Go to local events
- Always keep a business card in hand
- Be genuine
- Follow up
1) Start small
Approaching strangers can be a daunting aspect so it’s best to start with the people that you know. Begin slowly with your friends and relatives and then when you’re a little more comfortable with the idea of networking, move on to your alumni network.
The people you already know will know other people who’ll know other people and so on. Stick around with the people you know and ask them for an introduction to the people you are looking to meet.
2) Don’t leave out fellow freelancers
A general tip that applies to both online and offline networking is not leaving other freelancers out. As you’re building your network, help out fellow freelancers if you can. Sure, connections with companies and potential big clients might seem more productive and lucrative, but hanging out with the freelancer crowd can prove to be just as effective.
Think of it as having good, reliable colleagues. If the workload is too much, the project too big or just too difficult, freelancers need others that they can count on. Make yourself to be that other person. By lending a hand, you can then count on them for help later down the line.
3) Contribute to freelancer content
Contributing to online forums, commenting on articles and writing blog pieces can help boost your freelancing career immensely. All you have to do is discuss the very thing your career is built around.
If people stumble upon your content, they may see you as an expert in your field and may even hire you or recommend you to others. Contributing to articles can also get you in touch with other members in your industry and can increase your visibility as a freelancer.
4) Professional online networks
People often think that professional networks like LinkedIn or Xing are often only used when one is looking for a job. This is an oversimplification. Professional networks like these are one of the best resources available to freelancers for online networking. Keep your profile up to date and include projects you’re working on, but also actively look for people who work on similar things.
You might also want to consider connecting with people or organizations on Twitter. Engage with the posts they share and when you’re ready, reach out to them directly.
Professional networks are also a great way to connect with contacts that you’ve lost touch with. Remember, you are a freelancer and that means that you are almost always, either actively or passively, looking for new opportunities. Don’t let them slip by.
5) Go to local events
Support your online networking by an offline networking strategy. With the pandemic still in play, going to local in-person events may be difficult but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of local virtual ones. If there happen to be in-person events in your area, it might be a good idea to attend a few.
Your city’s chamber of commerce might host events for people in your industry. Trade shows, social events, masterclasses, career fairs, these are all options you might want to consider.
You can reach an incredible amount of people over the internet, but meeting them in real life is a whole other world that you can be a part of. From small talk to heated discussions – every small conversation can lead to something big.
6) Always keep a business card in hand
You may think that business cards are a thing of the past, but that’s not necessarily true. Sure, many of your cards will probably end up lying in a bin or stuck in a wallet never to be looked at again, but it’s a small investment that plays off of people’s forgetfulness.
A name can be difficult to remember, even if a person makes a stellar impression. A business card with your name, website and field of work will make sure that your first impression not only gets remembered, but is also linked to the information needed for following up with you.
7) Be genuine
Networking isn’t asking people you know for a job. Don’t focus solely on what kind of job your networking efforts are going to land you. Focus instead on presenting yourself in a genuine manner and listening to what others have to say. This leads to much better results.
And remember, never be too pushy with selling yourself. Have a normal conversation with your connections like you would with people you meet at a bar, but instead, let it be about your work. Genuine passion about your work is the most important aspect that potential clients are going to remember when considering you for a job in the future.
8) Follow up
Last but not least, remember to follow up on your connections. Freelance networking is about building relationships so make sure you maintain your network. Always find a reason to keep the relationship going with your connections.
Sharing articles, sending emails about things relevant to your industry, asking questions on a regular basis or even inviting them to (virtual) events are all great, non-intimidating ways for you to maintain your freelance network. Aim to get in touch a few times a year.
How do you network? Share your ideas and tips in the comments below!