You may be the most talented freelancer in the world, but if you sit at home and don’t let anyone know that you exist or how great you are, you won’t get work.
The really successful freelancers aren’t necessarily the ones with the most talent – they’re the people who are out telling the world about what they can do, and winning new clients.
So, if you want to embrace a career as a freelancer, you need to learn how to network. And our eight tips are a great way to start.
1) Attend industry events
The best way to meet people who appreciate the value of your skills and may possibly need them is at industry events such as conferences, workshops and social events. Not only will you build on your knowledge and contacts, but it’s a great opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Don’t just restrict yourself to events in your industry – find out what kind of events potential clients may go to and make an effort to attend. The more you know about their business, the better you can talk their language and meet their needs. You can also make valuable connections without needing to compete with other businesses offering the same services.
2) Prepare your spiel
There may come a time when you get a golden opportunity you don’t want to miss – 30 seconds with someone who could potentially make your career. It may be a high flying industry leader you want to impress, or someone that commissions projects you’d give your eye teeth to work on.
The last thing you want to happen at that moment is for your mind to go blank and for them to walk away none-the-wiser about your brilliance. To ensure this never happens, practise your spiel – a short summary of what you do and why you’re so great. By planning in advance you can work out the most important things to say and rehearse them again and again until your spiel is firmly fixed in your mind – and make sure that if you ever get the chance to impress, you will.
3) Always carry a business card
In our technology-driven times it’s easy to be dismissive of the value of a business card. But when you’re out and about meeting people it’s vital to carry one on you at all times. You never know when you’re going to be introduced to a potentially lucrative client who has only seconds to acknowledge you. Handing them a card makes you appear professional and ensures they have all your important contact information and details. You can even leave some cards on a table for people to pick up if appropriate.
4) Sponsor an event or charity fundraiser
Paying a small amount to co-sponsor their company event or fundraiser could earn you big brownie points from a client, make you look successful and established, and ensure that other potential customers find out about you.
If you’re sponsoring an event, you may have the opportunity to include a logo and advert or small write up about your services in a programme, on their website or other marketing materials.
5) Do free work for charities
If you have the time, offer your services to a charity that needs them. At worst you’ll have a great-looking case study to add to your credentials, and at best you may secure paid work from them or another client off the back of it.
6) Join an industry body or organisation
Are there any official or unofficial bodies associated with your industry? And if so, what benefits do they offer? Some organisations make registers of members available to potential clients. If they’re a respected, well-known body, membership can also be a badge of quality, helping customers to trust you and feel more comfortable approaching you for work.
7) Give speeches and run workshops
Demonstrate your authority and expertise by giving speeches and running workshops on topics you know well. You can build a positive reputation as an expert in your field and increase your reach to a new pool of clients.
8) Contribute to online forums
Another good way to demonstrate your knowledge and broaden your reputation is to contribute to online forums and sites like Quora, and comment on blogs. Look for opportunities to answer questions to help others, or take part in an intelligent, measured discussion – and establish yourself as someone who is professional, experienced and trustworthy.
Make sure that you include any important information in your signature such as what you do and your website or link to an online profile. That way people can contact you if they wish without you needing to put these details into a message and devaluing your contributions by making them appear like a sales pitch.Hannah Martin