As a freelancer, very few paychecks are guaranteed and you are constantly on the lookout for work. While no one likes networking, you need a broad network to find these new projects. Given that, we have compiled the basics of networking to make it as painless for you as possible.
Networking Basics Part 1: Be Prepared
You never know when you are going to run into someone who needs freelancing work! There is a small upfront cost to being prepared, but it’s well worth it and you will thank yourself when you’re in a pinch.
1. Come up with an elevator pitch
The expression elevator pitch originates from the notion that a company employee would have one minute to make an impression on a senior executive in an elevator. While that may not be the case in the freelancing world, having a short and succinct pitch for yourself is still critical. Some good rules of thumb are to be specific, optimistic, and clear that you are always looking for more work.
2. Make business cards
They do seem pretty old school, but when you meet someone you think could be a strong connection, you want to be able to hand him or her a business card. Not only is handing out a card much smoother than asking for someone's number, but the card will also reappear when that person goes home and takes it out of his or her pocket … who knows, it may even lie around on their kitchen counter for anyone to find!
3. Have a web presence
In today’s world people will Google you – after a meeting, an interview, or even just a dinner party. Having a robust web presence ensures that when people search your name, they find your work.
Additionally, a web presence is critical for what people call “inbound marketing.” As HubSpot explains on their website, “inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention.” If you publicize your work online, people who are actively searching for your service could come across it and reach out to you about a project – no need to network at all! Teaching online is a particularly great way to demonstrate your skills on the web and earn passive income while you do it! Jake Bartlett gets tons of his clients from teaching online.
It is a lot of work to build a web presence, so make sure to prioritize. Everyone should have their own website, and Squarespace is a great resource for a personal site. Beyond that, find out where other freelancers in your community are online – Twitter, Facebook, and Medium are all popular but there are also great sites for specific fields, like Skillshare for design and crafts..
4. Solidify your current network
Your family and friends may not feel like much of a network, but they have family and friends, and they have family and friends and so on. While it might seem weird at first, the best thing you can do is to make sure the people in your life know what you are working on and where you are going.
5. Pay it forward
Help others in your field! Remember when your sister’s friend asked you to chat about her career path? The bottom line is that people remember when others are kind to them and you never know how the future will play out. You should treat everyone well, be willing to share your insights and what you’ve learned, and trust that your reputation will precede you.
Networking Basics Part 2: Be Active
Now for the hard part. You’re all set up to network, but you do have to make some ongoing effort.
1. Attend events
Today, so many of our interactions take place online, but you cannot undervalue a face-to-face meeting and connection. There are tons of companies specially geared towards bringing creatives and freelancers together. Check out MeetUp, CreativeMornings, and Freelancer’s Hives. Make friends with other freelancers in your field; collaboration is a wonderful way to learn, find work, and expand your network.
2. Teach online
Not only is teaching online a great way to earn some passive income, but it’s also a great way to network. By teaching online you will continually acquire students who could be potential clients and meet others in your field. Its also a great way to continue adding to your portfolio and web-presence.
3. Talk to people on social media
Twitter is a uniquely horizontal social network – tweet at people you admire in your field or people you think would make good clients. You would be surprised who might respond. Additionally, use Instagram to chat with people who like your photos. Consider each of your social followers a lead and be sure to engage them to foster the connection.
4. Re-engage your current network regularly
In order for your network to remain lively and expanding, you need to continually re-engage people you already know. The good news is, this doesn’t mean you need to be on the coffee circuit for the rest of your life. Build an email newsletter and send out updates on your business all at once. You should still reach out to your most important clients individually, but connecting with people through email is a great way to maintain your relationships at scale.
Okay! You now have all of the basics of networking. It’s a lot of work, but you can do it. And when you have that project lined up for next year, you’ll thank yourself.