By Greg Kratz, Contributing Writer
If you’re a freelancer, networking is one of the best practices you can undertake to help your career thrive. To keep your job prospects—and your income—steady as a freelancer, you’ll gain all sorts of benefits by building and maintaining a strong network. How to do that? One great way is to stay in the loop by following a few networking tips for freelancers.
The Different Types of Professional Networks
Though there are many nuances to networking, at its core, networking is building a web of connections with people who can help you further your career. There are three basic types of professional networks:
- Operational networks. The contacts in your operational network may be present or former colleagues, fellow members of trade groups or other professional organizations, or people you meet with direct knowledge about your career field.
- Strategic networks. This category may include people who aren’t necessarily in your career field or industry, but who may be thought leaders or visionaries whose advice can be not only pragmatic (like how to make meaningful career connections), but visionary too.
- Personal networks. Friends and family may fall into this network, along with school alumni, social media connections, and professional-focused meet-up organizations.
Networking Tips for Freelancers
As a freelancer, you’ll need to grow and maintain each of these networks. But what does networking for freelancers look like? Here are 12 tips to help you build and grow your freelance network like a pro.
Successful networking starts with getting yourself in the right mindset. You know you have to do it, so decide now that you will devote a certain segment of every day to building connections, either online or face-to-face. Then hold yourself to that schedule, keeping track of what works and what doesn’t.
2. Start Close to Home
There’s no need, at first, to jump way outside your comfort zone as you build your networking skills. Focus first on making sure your friends and family members know exactly what you do and what kinds of jobs you can handle. Encourage them to spread the word among their networks. You’ll be surprised how much business can come your way through this simple step.
3. Contact Past Clients
If you completed several jobs for a particular group or company and had a positive working relationship, they obviously liked what you were doing. Why not reach out to them and see if they have recommendations for other potential clients? Or, you could ask if they have any additional projects that could use your help in the near future.
4. Lend a Helping Hand
One of the common misconceptions about professional networking is that it’s all about what your connections can do for you. And though that is, in many regards, the purpose of a professional network, it’s not the only purpose.
As you’re building and maintaining your network, help out your connections, even if they can’t do anything for you right now. By lending your assistance and support now, you’re creating a community of people who will want to help you down the road.
5. Use Social Media
Long before the pandemic, virtual networking was always a great way to connect with others. And the advice remains the same: don’t neglect virtual networking opportunities. You can find groups of other freelancers online with whom you have much in common. Be active in your virtual conversations, learning from others’ experiences and offering your own bits of wisdom when possible.
In particular, LinkedIn is a great networking resource if you apply solid strategies like finding and using LinkedIn Groups in your area of interest and keeping your completed LinkedIn profile up to date. Be sure to check other sites like reddit and see if there are forums for professionals in your career field.
6. Attend Local Events
Before the pandemic, you could not depend entirely on the internet for networking and freelance success.
Obviously, things are a little different right now, so attending in-person events is probably out of the question. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go local with virtual events.
Check out the information pages for local business hubs (like the Chamber of Commerce for your town) and see if they’re hosting any virtual get togethers. Do the same for any trade organization that’s relevant to your field.
For example, if you freelance in web design or blogging and use WordPress, they often host local get togethers and advertise this in the admin dashboard. Keep track of these local events to network and connect with others in your field.
7. Go to Trade Shows
Sometimes, a change of scenery will boost your networking opportunities, so consider attending trade shows (in-person and online).
Targeting a specific industry can help you connect with the important people in that niche who may be able to connect you to clients. Even if you don’t end up with a long list of new business, you’ll get a deeper sense of that industry and can enhance your knowledge.
8. Join Social Events
Almost any social gathering can offer opportunities to network. Parties, happy hours, sporting events, gatherings of family and friends—in other words, just about any event that brings people together in significant numbers is an opportunity for freelancers to make connections. This will also provide you with good balance in your life since many freelancers frequently work alone.
9. Find Coworking Spaces
Though mostly out of the question right now, eventually the pandemic will end. And when that happens, consider joining a coworking space to support your freelance networking efforts.
Coworking spaces bring together disparate working people who are often looking for the congeniality and connection of others. What better place to meet other freelance professionals?
Finding people who share your professional or even personal passions is a fantastic way to network. Becoming a volunteer in your community, or even online, can be a great way to gain professional experience, especially if you’re just starting out in your career or looking to switch to a new field.
11. Connect With Other Freelancers
It’s always good to have an understanding of how other freelancers are running their business. You can compare rates, strategies, and even share stories about jobs.
12. Follow Up
Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste! Make sure you’re following up with your network in a timely manner.
Connect With Intent
Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone, but it’s necessary for career growth and success—especially if you’re a freelancer.
This article was originally posted in Flexjobs.