Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about the importance of developing a strong freelance network. However, as many freelancers work from home, it’s easy to forget how to talk to people face to face. Especially when most of your client interactions are done via email, phone, or Skype. So today, I’ll let you in on some networking tips for freelancers that I’ve seen first-hand through my freelance network.
#1 Don’t see it as networking
If you tell yourself that you “have to network”, it can create pressure and make the experience feel forced. Instead, tell yourself that you’re going to an event to get out of the house and possibly make some interesting connections or gain support off other freelancers.
#2 Choose the right event for you
Not every networking event will be your cup of tea, so choose the events that fit you best. This might be formal, professional networking, a relaxed get-together over a pint, or a coworking session. I find that most freelancers prefer relaxed networking, so the freelance meetup group I run is very informal and chatty. The important thing is finding something that’s right for you.
#3 Take someone with you
If you don’t feel comfortable turning up at a networking event on your own, ask a friend or fellow freelancer to go with you. This can really take the pressure off, as you’re not stepping into a room alone and being faced with a wall of strangers. You could even look through the list of attendees beforehand and invite one of them for a coffee first—that way you can go to the larger event together.
#4 Have networking goals
It sounds strange to set goals for networking, but it really can help to have specific aims in mind, whether it’s finding a support network, looking for a mentor, or finding out about a different area of freelance work. This can also help you find shared topics of conversation or prepare questions to ask.
#5 Get out of your comfort zone
Networking can be scary, but remember that it’s a good thing to step outside your comfort zone, because doing so helps you grow as a person. If you really don’t feel comfortable networking, set yourself a networking challenge and reward yourself when you attend events or meet a fellow freelancer for a catch-up.
#6 Connect online
If you can’t find any local networking events, try online networking through social media or LinkedIn. Try getting in touch with people who seem like they might be interesting. Lots of the people in my freelance network are former clients, so don’t rule out meeting useful connections in unexpected places.
#7 Stay in touch
To make the most out of networking, stay in touch with the people you meet and get along with. Exchange details, whether it’s a business card, a number, or LinkedIn. Get in touch with them after the event and invite them for a cuppa to talk more about what they do—or build rapport via an email conversation with them until the next event.
#8 Keep at it
It takes a while to build a freelance network, so don’t give up if you’ve attended a few events and haven’t made any useful connections yet. Try different events if the ones you’ve been to haven’t seemed relevant. The important thing is to keep networking, because the more you do it, the more value you get, and the more comfortable it gets.
Do you have any useful networking tips for freelancers? If so, comment below!
Stay tuned for more freelance tips every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on A Freelance Life.