Networking is the basis of most of the work you will get as a freelancer. Cold leads and emails will only get you so far and you are your best sales tool, so how do you get yourself out there?
Anyone that has been freelancing or running a business for a while will tell you that the 80% (and upwards) of their work is through their personal networks. It’s really valuable and rewarding to spend time and effort on building those networks. This guide covers things that you can do to create that network.
Step One: Work out what you love talking about, but let it emerge.
You are at your best when you are talking about what you love. If you are making the move to freelance start by talking to friends about what you want to do, don’t worry too much at this point if you don’t know how to describe what you do. Talking to friends and friendly contacts will help you learn how to explain your uniqueness as well as get feedback on it.
Step Two: Meet lots of people, face to face.
The internet and social networks provide us with tons of professional networking opportunities. Look at websites like Meetup, Eventbrite and lanyrd to find chances to go to events and meet like minded people near you. You will meet even more people if you speak at events (as well as bag yourself free tickets for paid events), it’s not necessary, but worth considering.
Step Three: Meet your heros and ask for their advice.
If you think someone is really interesting and you’d like to meet them, then ask them if you can go for a coffee. People love to be told that someone thinks they are cool. If you’d love to find out more about someone’s career or how they think, just ask. If you feel awkward just going for a coffee, make it into a blog post. The worst they can do is say no.
Step Four: Don’t turn down meetings.
Well, not all of them. If a meeting looks worth a punt, go along. It might not lead to anything right away, but it may do later on. If you are early on in your freelance journey, these meetings will help you work out what you want and don’t want.
Step Five: Be ok when things don’t work out.
Many networking and potential business meetings won’t lead to anything and that’s ok. There are so many reasons why they don’t that have nothing to do with you. Be ok with that and carry on.
Step Six: Learn to give first and receive later.
Networking goes two ways. Your network will be a source of opportunity, support work and education for you, but you will develop real connections if you are giving opportunity, support, work and educations to others. Don’t think of every networking opportunity as something that only you will get something from, treat it as a connection and listen to what others are saying.
Get out there, meet loads of people and talk about about what you love, the work will find you and you’ll make some great connections along the way.
Emily Webber is a freelance agile consultant, trainer and public speaker. 100% of her clients (so far) have come from her network.