From the Editor
How to Grow Your Network to Grow Your Business
A subscriber recently asked me to provide tips on networking to get freelancing opportunities.
I am happy to oblige her request for one very good reason: Most of the clients I have come as a result of building a personal and/or professional network. I've gained a few by applying to job listings, but the overwhelming majority came based on network connections.
So, how do you build a network that leads to freelance opportunities? Try these four tips. (Further down, I include links to curated articles I felt were worth sharing.)
Come Dressed for the Occasion
In most cases, you would never attend a “real world” networking event dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, but rather, in a business suit or business casual. The same is true in online networking. In this case, your profile and photo (also known as an “avatar”) serve that purpose.
Work the Room
An effective networker in face-to-face events learns to “work the room” by shaking hands, introducing themselves, listening and participating in conversations, and handing out business cards. You know the drill. You've done it a hundred times.
Things are not so different in the online world. Participation is the price of entry and is expected. As the mantra of marketing cult classic, The Cluetrain Manifesto, says, “markets are conversations” and “participation is marketing.”
Like, share, and comment on blog and social media posts. Reference others you wish to connect with in posts of your own. Leverage the reciprocity principle espoused by Dr. Robert Cialdini.
The one thing you don't want to do is “pitch,” at least not until people have gotten an opportunity to know you. Help, not hype, is the order of the day.
In fact, pitching may be unnecessary. Your profile serves as your pitch and business card. If people are interested in learning more about you and what you do, that's where they will look.
Ask for a Business Card
Speaking of business cards, just as it is conventional wisdom to exchange them at traditional networking events, in the online world, the act of friending someone serves the same purpose. Normally, the other person will return the courtesy and the “courtship” can begin.
Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie's timeless classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is a book about building winning relationships, both business and personal. Here are some of what I call Carnegie's "be-attitudes":
- Be genuinely interested in other people.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
- Be friendly. Smile. Have a sense of humor.
- Be mindful. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be humble. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
Here are a few other networking be-attitudes of my own:
- Be yourself. Be real, honest, authentic, and genuine.
- Be relevant. Network with those in your niche. Better to go deep than wide... unless you're trying to venture into new industry verticals.
- Be accessible. Your community (colleagues, clients, prospects) wants to know they can have a conversation with you and that you will talk back and answer questions.
- Be generous. Generate conversations that others can join and invite others to participate.
- Be helpful. Help other people solve their problems and answer their questions. Most customer problems/challenges are industry problems/challenges.
This attitude of beneficence should be a networking standard to which we all adhere. The trouble is many of us (me included) tend to focus largely on ourselves and our own interests rather than others. That is a strategy for networking failure if ever there was one.
Freelance Networking Tips
Google keywords like "freelance networking tips" reveals dozens of returns... and I reviewed a bunch of them. Here is the pick of the litter.
- The Importance of Business Networking - This article from Indeed explains the importance of business networking and offers several tips for how to do it right.
- How to Make the Most of Networking Events - Now that we can go out in public again, it's smart to attend networking events. Here's how to get the greatest benefit. (Here, too.)
- 12 Freelancer Networking Tips - Flexjobs lists 12 of the best ways to build your freelance network.
- How to Network Like a Pro - Who better than Fiverr to tell you the best ways to achieve networking mastery.
- And two more... The ultimate guide and simple guide to freelance networking.
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See you in two weeks!