Running a freelance service is fun. It has so many perks attached to it; freedom, flexible working hours, and ability to earn extra money if you’re combining it with another job. As attractive as it may seem, freelancing can also be really frustrating especially if you are not getting any projects. This is the dilemma of most freelancers starting newly.
Okay, you’ve bought the necessary tools for running your freelance service, you’ve created a working space and told everyone about your service. You even hosted a mini party to announce your new establishment, but after some time, you’ve still not gotten any projects. This can be really frustrating if it continues for a while and many new freelancers quit due to this reason. One of the skills that can make you get ahead of this challenge is networking.
Networking? Yes, exactly networking. I mean every single alphabet of that word. Most freelancers believe networking is for big office men in suits, seated in offices located in skyscrapers, giving “power handshakes”, and laughing loudly at every boring joke a boss or potential client tells. Most freelancers are wrong. Networking skills are needed by a freelancer just as much as any other professional.
Now, I know a lot of freelancers especially new ones are clueless on what a network is and how to build one, but not to worry. This article would explain what a network is, and how to build one. It would also be helpful to experienced freelancers who want to expand their businesses.
A network in the simplest of terms is a group of interconnected people. A network may consist of people you know such as family and friends or may consist of complete strangers.
Every freelancer already has a network consisting of friends and families. This is true especially if you are not a hermit… literally. But then, you wouldn’t be able to read this if you were right?
Networking is important to a freelancer because it is a way of meeting new clients, and clients are the backbone of any freelance service. Simply put, networking builds relationships, and relationships build connections, and connections build sales. Here are some key tips on how to grow your network and increase sales through networking.
1. Physical networking
A couple of years ago, before the influx of social media and social networking, the most reliable way of networking was physical networking. Today social media and messaging have changed communication, but this conventional method is still very much reliable. Physical networking involves the direct contact with people or face to face interaction. Many businessmen, professionals and freelancers like face to face interaction because of its ability to create a personal touch. Physical networking can be done at events, programmes, meet-ups or casual hangouts. Check for events relating to your freelance service or field and attend them. It’s a win-win; you get to meet potential clients and fellow freelancers, plus you’ll end up learning a thing or two. Before you begin your networking spree, however, here are a couple of points you should take note of.
- Networking is all about personal touch. Do not go about boring people with information about your service, they are rarely concerned. Get to know them, ask what they do, encourage conversation. The key is to create interest in them and then introduce your services.
- Prepare and rehearse a short talk or elevator pitch. Before going for an event, prepare a short pitch explaining your service that can easily be fixed into a conversation. Your pitch should concentrate on how your service would add value to the potential client. Focus on convincing the person of your expertise in the field and sound confident while doing so.
- Dress appropriately for the event. First impressions they say always last. Appear neat and adequately dress or you risk a chance of getting an audience. Dressing adequately means wearing a clothing that suits the type of event you are attending, if you are not sure of what type of event it is, call the organisers to make enquiries. But remember, its always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Come prepared. Have ready an up to date business card or some other hard-copy marketing material that you can exchange at the event. However if it is expensive or impossible for you to produce one, make sure you exchange contact details with people you talk to.
- Always follow up on every contact you meet during an event. A friendly email after the event would do just fine. Make sure you recall some personal detail the person can identify you with, in the mail.
2) Online networking
One of the best tools of business in recent times is social media. Although a lot of people use it as a source of entertainment, a freelancer should see it as much more. Social media is today one of the best means of networking, with it comes the ability to communicate easily with people from the comfort of the home, reach new markets easily and also advertise your brand freely. Today most people spend a lot of time on social media and this is the reason why a freelancer must invest his time in developing a strong social media presence. There are various social media platforms, each with its own structure and goal, however even with these differences, a solid network can be formed from virtually all platforms, the question is how? Here are tips that would help you bring clients to your business from social media
- Create an account. Some platforms are much more important to businesses than others. For example, Linkedin is a platform created mainly for professionals and it is a platform every freelancer definitely needs to be on. Other platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have also proven to be sale/business boosters. So if you don’t already have an account on these platforms, what are you waiting for?
- Build your brand. Once you have an account created, it is very important that such account is fine-tuned to promote your freelance service. State what you do, present your business in an attractive manner. If possible, your account should contain samples of what you do and people you have worked with. The good part of this is that its advertisement, sorry, free advertisement
- Get involved. This is where the major work comes in. Social platforms are not very helpful to your business if you cannot reach people or clients through it. Although It takes strategy and time to build followers on social platforms, the important thing is to know your market thoroughly, identify the people in it and then connect with them. For example, if you are a freelance photographer for fashion magazines, your followers should include fashion magazine pages, fashion bloggers, celebrities and fashion designers. Another strategy that helps is to follow other freelancers and join professional groups. Most of these people or pages share important information about new jobs or clients, some might even introduce you to other people who might come in handy, plus you’ll also learn a thing or two from them.
Networking is time-consuming and can sometimes be stressful. However, whether you are a full time or part time freelancer, good networking skills would definitely boost your business and increase sales for you.
Which of these tips have you tried before and how did it turn out? What advice do you think would help?