Tim Aldred - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelance commercial writer, successfully navigating self-employment one unexpected obstacle at a time. Contact me at twitter.com/tim_aldred

7 face-to-face freelancer networking tips

7 face-to-face networking tips

Spring has sprung, the sun is shining and professionals everywhere are itching to get out of their homes and offices.

A good excuse to do this, which will also provide a number of benefits to your freelance business, is to head out networking.

If you hate the very thought, you’re not alone. I know many people who count standing in a room full of strangers and selling there wares as one of their worst nightmares.

But the reality is that’s how many people do business – there are many companies who would rather give contracts to people they meet in person rather than responding to adverts and postings – and, most importantly, networking events are really nothing to be afraid of.

Here’s seven tips that will make networking easier and yield you results.

1: Do your homework

Not all networking events are the same. Some are informal, some put pressure on the attendees to give referrals, some include free food (my favourite type), some ask you to meet in the early hours of the morning and some are combined with other events where you will get to view useful presentations.

Nothing will make you despise networking more than turning up to the wrong event. Most importantly of all, make sure the right type of people are going. It’s perfectly ok to call or email and ask for a guest list, either for the coming event or the one just gone.

Read through the website and its write-ups and reviews of past events. Make sure it’s the kind of event you want to be attending, and make sure the type of people you’re interested in are going.

2: Look the part

Sometimes the best thing about working from home is turning up in your shorts and t-shirt, but when you’re mixing with others, appearance is important, so put a bit of effort in.

If you’re too scruffy, people won’t take you seriously. If you look smart, not only will others know you mean business but you’ll feel more confident and you’ll be ready to get stuck in.

3: Everyone’s just like you

Most people that are afraid of networking think that events are full of mysteriously important business figures talking a strange language and looking down on others.

This simply isn’t true. Networkers are people like you and me. They’re there to make some new contacts, sure, but they also go home at night and play PlayStation or watch Downton Abbey at the end of the day.

Go with the mentality that you’ll fit right in, you’ll soon see it’s true and everything will suddenly become easier.

4: Don’t oversell

With the previous point in mind, don’t go in with a fully-formed three minute pitch you can recite word-for-word. Rehearse an overview of your business and services, sure, but make it brief. If you give the other person chance to ask questions, you’ll be able to engage in conversation. If you haven’t got a rigid script, you’ll be able to tailor what you say to the person you’re talking to.

Every networking event has the high-pressure sales guy. Don’t be that person. Be the person people like talking to – they get far more phone calls after the event.

5: Listen

Maybe this point should be 4b, because it’s closely related, but make sure you listen to others.

Firstly, it’s good etiquette. You can’t talk about your services then disappear. It’s polite to ask about the other person and their business too.

Secondly, you’ll learn a bunch of useful information. Maybe they’re about to embark on a new project and you can help. Maybe they know somebody who would be useful to you. Networking events can be a goldmine of information, so don’t forget to take some away with you.

6: Don’t be afraid to ask

If you’ve got a list of attendees and you spot the name of someone you’d like a chat with, but you have no idea what they look like, ask the organiser for an introduction.

<p>7 face-to-face networking tips</p>

If you overhear a nearby conversation about a business that’s looking for your skill or product, don’t be afraid to go over and introduce yourself.

Don’t rue missed opportunities in the car on the way home. When you’re networking, everyone expects a little cheekiness and certainly nobody will take offence at an innocent question or request for help.

7: Take business cards

Congratulations, you’re chatting to someone and you think there’s potential to do a bit of business. The easiest way of making sure you keep in touch afterwards is to swap business cards.

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it needs to look professional. Some companies do them for free, or very cheap, if you’re strapped for cash. Anything with your name, company name, phone number and email will do the job.

There’s nothing worse than making a connection and giving the other person no way of getting in touch. And if you receive someone’s card, make sure to follow up with a polite phone call or email within the next few days to keep the momentum going.

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Written by Tim Aldred on March 26, 2012 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, Freelance Jobs, Freelancers, Opinion ,

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