Are you a freelancer or looking to set up your own freelance venture? Great. Do it. You’ll love it and you’ll be awesome. But first, take ten minutes to grab your 10th cuppa of the day and absorb all of our hints and tips on networking as a freelancer. Networking events can be a drag, we get it, but they really are a great way to build contacts, meet the right people and make the most lucrative connections.
Working freelance and being your own boss can leave you feeling a little out the loop when it comes to networking. You spend morning, noon and night cooped up in your home office, with only the sound of the kettle boiling for company as you graft away, way past the 9-5 barrier. As well as losing all sense of real time, you also don’t have an area manger to answer to constantly breathing down your neck about the next business meet up or industry conference. Freelancing can be a lonely business where you aren’t often privy to the best kept networking secrets, which is exactly why we’re here to egg you on and show you the ropes.
As many will be sure to tell you, you’re only as good as your last customer which is why word of mouth is such a powerful and effective form of promotion. Popping along to even just one hour-long networking event every month can have a dramatic impact on your client reach and customer engagement. You might be perspiring slightly and having flashbacks to eating your jam sandwiches alone in a toilet cubicle at the mere thought of entering the lion’s den but there’s no better person to sell yourself than you. By following our top tips, you’ll be running with the pack in no time.
Dress to impress – as a freelancer, you’re pretty much dancing to the beat of your own drum and anything goes but it’s time to scrub up because after all, first impressions count. Be yourself but be the version of yourself that your mum would well up at and your partner’s grandma would approve of. That doesn’t necessarily mean full bib and tucker but an ironed shirt and polished shoes would be dandy.
Stock up on business cards – we’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: you can never carry too many business cards with you. You never know who you might meet but at a networking event, it’s almost certain that you’re going to meet somebody that you want to exchange details with. Check out our tips on designing the most effective business card here.
Be prepared – Have an informative but concise explanation of who you are and what you do prepared beforehand so you are ready to reel it off as many times as is necessary. Although these events façade as a light-hearted, social get together, everybody is there for the same reason (no, not the free refreshments). To sell. Confidence is key so having something prepared before you go will mean you won’t forget to relay any important information to a potential client.
Be open-minded – It is a professional affair so we’re not suggesting that you might have to throw your keys in the bowl at some point before the end of the event but still, go with an open mind. Thinking outside the box does you the world of good and so will communicating outside of your usual comfort zone. Striking up an unlikely conversation will not only expand your horizons, it could also give you the inspiration you need to take your work as a freelancer in an extremely competitive market to the next level.
Don’t be a wallflower – Speak up and be confident in yourself and what you do. Even if you don’t feel it, there will usually be some complimentary tipple to give you the Dutch courage you might need to build up the confidence to approach people. (Disclaimer: we do not encourage drinking and networking. Network responsibly).
Be selective – Do a little research beforehand and generate a hit list of attendees you want to target. Running around like a headless chicken trying to shake hands with everybody that walks through the doorway is not an effective approach. Think of it this way – networking events aren’t just about another notch on your (theoretical) bedpost. It’s about finding long-term, committed and sustainable relationships that flourish overtime to better both parties, in sickness and in health. One night of meaningless fun over one too many glasses of mediocre Shiraz is never going to enable you the satisfaction and fulfilment you’re looking for here.
Listen up – When it comes to networking and relationship building, listening is as (if not more) important as talking. Genuinely listen, be interested and ask questions. When you strike up conversation with someone, only offer information about yourself when invited or wait until the appropriate moment to slip it in naturally. Bombarding somebody with “me, me, me” will only have them moving onto the next person faster than you can say “arrogant and overbearing”. Let them say their spiel. Massage their ego. Give them their time to shine. It’ll benefit you in the long run.
Don’t burn any bridges –Even if you don’t take an immediate shine to somebody, show interest and be polite. You never quite know when you might bump into someone next or when you might want to call upon their expertise.
Do the chasing – If you do take an instant liking to somebody and want to take things further and arrange a follow up meeting for example, embrace the chase. It can go against human nature to chase somebody through fear of rejection but this isn’t a high school crush, this could be a life changing link for you and your freelance career. Tweet them, email them, call them, even like their Facebook page but don’t come across as desperate or you might scare them away.
Patience is a virtue – It’s important to remember that networking events aren’t about instant sales. You’re there to grow your network and spread the word about what you do but take a subtle approach. Leave the hard sell at home this time and let relationships take their own course and develop naturally as you get to converse.
We are here to help you out and point you in the right direction but we can’t hold your hand unfortunately, so shake off of those pyjamas and look lively because it’s time to start networking. We’ll even compile a list below of the best places to find out about the best upcoming events in your area. Sites like these are good for establishing your hit list before you even get there so you know exactly who it is you want to make a (friendly but purposeful) beeline to. You’ll thank us for it later, promise.
Oh and don’t forget good old Facebook where there are plenty of great freelancer pages which post regular event updates. If you’re already a freelance networking veteran and have some of your own tips to add then leave a comment below. Happy networking!
While we’ve got you, check out our advice on avoiding the negative consequences of the freelance lifestyle. We know it’s easy for the hours to fly by without you even realising it has gone dark outside but sitting at a computer all day can have serious effects on your physical health and eyesight.
Also, don’t forget we have a freelancer accounting package just for you, check it out!
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