Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer
Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...
5 tips to successful freelance networking
I’m not going to kid you that it isn’t, unless you’re an ubër-confident individual not easily fazed when found in a room full of strangers. What I will say, is that these 5 tips may take the sting out of the situation…
1. Networking is just another skill.
Just as learning to keep on top of your invoicing, how to email clients, prioritising work and juggling a schedule may all be tasks alien to you before you started working for yourself, networking can be a whole new experience.
Although it’s possible that you can conduct most of your business online, there’s no doubt that enforcing your offline presence and gaining contacts within your local area is beneficial to helping you win more freelance jobs.
You can never have too many clients or leads, and therefore, those in your locality should be amongst the first that know who you are and what you do – and this message is even more impactful if done in person.
It may be hard to resist hiding in the toilets or shrinking into the background, but if you’ve made the effort to go there, aim to speak to at least one person before you leg it.
Each time you do this it will get easier, and you’ll find practice makes perfect.
2. There will be people just like you.
There’s bound to be a vast pool of personalities at any networking meeting – from those that seem to only like the sound of their own voices, to those that barely speak. The latter group may struggle to make the first contact, so if you’re a bit of a wallflower too, it makes sense to approach these – they’ll be praying for you to do so.
Talk about the weather, if only to break the ice, and make it your aim to find out more about them. You’ll be nattering away like fishwives within minutes.
3. People love to talk about themselves.
It’s true. And any good networker lets them.
Ask open questions about their business and glean as much information as you can. Don’t concern yourself with selling to them at this stage. Most people will return the spotlight and ask you about your skills, though you may find many that won’t – but don’t be troubled.
Keep mental notes about their business, and family even; being able to quote their husband’s/wife’s/kids’/dog’s name when you follow up with them after the event will flatter and impress them – and make them more open to your proposal/contact.
4. It’s not about the person in front of you.
Good networkers will tell you that you’re not just networking with the person in front of you, but with their entire pool of contacts.
If the person facing you likes you, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to those that they know. Sort of a ‘buy-one, get 60’ deal…
5. Use networking as research.
Getting out and about amongst local business people can throw up nuggets of information, such as new technologies and products, people’s changing tastes, what current market prices are for your type of service, etc. Lots of things you learn at networking meetings can prove invaluable to your business, or even spark inspiration for a new product/service within your own company.
There’s never a networking event/interaction that’s a waste of time, neither is it restricted to scheduled meetings. You could network with the person at the bus stop, a mum in the school yard or the person fixing your boiler.
Practice your ‘elevator pitch’ – a succinct sentence or two that best describes what you offer – but know that we were all given two ears and one mouth, which should be used in that order!