A freelancer who doesn’t network is a freelancer who won’t be in business very long. Networking brings in customers/clients, who, in turn, bring in the money. Even if an event where you network doesn’t bring immediate clients, chances are it will produce results eventually through word-of-mouth or an unforeseen need.
Networking doesn’t come easily to many freelancers. It’s easier to do your work and mind your business than to go out and network. However, it is important to view networking as part of minding your business. Here are seven opportunities for networking for freelancers.
This is the easy one. Any time you go to a conference, have business cards with you. Between sessions and during group events, such as banquets, mingle and hand out your cards. Freelancers have different specialties, so even if you go to a conference for web designers, for example, others may have skills you need and vice versa. This also has the benefit that another freelancer may refer work your way when they are overbooked.
2. School events.
If you have school-age children, take advantage of events you go to at school. This may not be a freelance networking event, but you can turn it into one. You don’t stay in your own little bubble when you go out. Conversations can provide leads for future work for you. Carrying business cards in your wallet or purse ensures you’re never caught unprepared.
3. Professional organizations.
What professional organization(s) do you belong to? Membership dues may pay for more than just a subscription to the newsletter. If the organization has networking events, take advantage of those.
4. Civic group meetings.
Many freelancers belong to such organizations as the Optimists, Rotary, Lions Club, etc. You may have used these as networking opportunities when you first joined but have let that slide as you became more established in the group. As new members come in, renew your networking efforts.
5. Company parties/picnics.
As a freelancer, you likely don’t have company events to attend. Your spouse, however, might. Instead of going to an event as just Mike-the-accountant’s-wife, go as Mary, freelancer and Mike-the-accountant’s wife.
6. Social networking websites.
Twitter has received a lot of mainstream media attention lately and has experienced a rapid growth as a result. There are numerous networking opportunities on such sites, though, including freelance-centered chats. Don’t neglect other sites like LinkedIn and such, but don’t get so involved that it takes precedence over your work. The idea is to get your name out there, not to let it take over your life.
7. Everywhere you go.
You honestly don’t know where life will take you. The person in line in front of you at the bank might need a freelance graphics artist. The man beside you at the Little League game might be looking for a freelance writer. Get involved in conversations and be ready and willing to present your information/offer your services when the opportunity presents.
Networking opportunities for freelancers are almost literally around every corner. Have business cards printed, include your freelance information in your e-mail signature, and be ready to promote yourself when the chance presents itself. Your business will thank you.