The very thought of networking can have some people running for the hills, whereas others are more comfortable with the prospect of spending time in a room with a bunch of people they’ve never met.
Whatever your take on it, networking can be a great way of meeting potential clients and growing your business.
You don’t have to like it, but the more you put yourself out there, the easier it gets!
It can be difficult to know where to start, especially if you’re just starting out as a freelance professional, but once you know where to look, there are plenty of opportunities to start making contacts and impressing new customers.
Finding networking events
There are loads of different networking events taking place every week, either online or face-to-face.
You can find things like industry conferences, trade shows, and start-up networking get-togethers.
Social media groups dedicated to your profession, industry newsletters, and even your local chamber of commerce are all good places to look for upcoming get-togethers you can go along to.
Follow people on LinkedIn who are in the same business as you and keep an eye on what they’re up to and where they’re going. They could mention an event they’re attending that could be ideal for you as well.
Networking tips and tricks
If you’re new to networking, it can be a pretty daunting experience, but you can make it easier with a few simple techniques.
Be prepared – many events publish the guest list beforehand - have a look through it and pick out some people you want to meet. Read up on industry trends and the latest news so you’ve got something to talk about if you’re stuck for how to start a conversation. Know your business, your skills and what you can offer a potential client inside out, so if someone asks you a question about yourself, you can answer confidently and with authority.
Be honest – tell people why you’re there. If you’re there to find new clients, to get yourself a mentor, or just to meet people in the same industry as you, there’s no harm in telling people that, and you’ll probably find that they’ll be willing to help you.
Be vocal – tell people on your social media channels where you’re going ahead of time. If other attendees know you’re going to be there, they might approach you, making your job easier! It’s also a good conversation starter if you recognise each other from social media and you’ve already got something in common.
Be yourself – the most important one. Relax and try and be natural. If you really can’t face going to an event on your own, take a friend along with you for moral support. Being with someone familiar can help ease your nerves and make sure you come across as you.
What to do afterwards
You’ve been to the networking event. It was nowhere near as bad as you thought it would be. You met loads of people, and you can’t wait for the next one.
How do you make the most out of all your hard work and the great contacts you made?
Follow up – get in touch with the people you met and thank them for taking the time to chat to you. Take them up on any offers they made and promise to keep in touch.
Shout about it – write something about your experience on social media. It could win you some new followers and potential clients. It could also help show people who are nervous about networking that it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
What next? – Build on your success and look for the next event. Use the confidence you gained to get even more out of your next networking opportunity. The more you do it, the better you’ll get!