Starting out as a freelancer can be incredibly daunting. You’re giving up your regular paycheck to go it alone and unless you can find a steady stream of clients, you are likely to run into financial problems pretty soon. Once you have a few jobs under your belt, word of mouth will help to get things going and recommendations from previous clients should give you a fairly steady stream of jobs. However, if you want to get the ball rolling and grow your freelancing business, you need to learn how to network.
Networking is a key aspect of being a freelancer but many people don’t know how to do it successfully, and that’s why they struggle. But if you can learn how to connect with the right people and leave a lasting impression, you will have plenty of work coming in and your new freelancing business will be a success in no time. These are some of the best networking tips for new freelancers.
Start With Family and Friends
The biggest mistake that people make when trying to network is ignoring their family and friends. You might be looking for business events and groups you can join, which is great (we’ll come to that later) but you should always start with your immediate circle. Make sure that family and friends know exactly what it is that you do and what kind of jobs you can take on. They will have their own network and they can spread the word for you. Naturally, they’ll give you a glowing recommendation to anybody that they speak to and you’ll be surprised how many new clients you will get right away. A lot of people skip this step because they feel awkward asking family and friends for help and they don’t want to put them in a tough position. However, in most cases, people will be happy to help so don’t be afraid to reach out to your immediate network.
Contact Past Clients
Before you started freelancing, it’s likely that you did similar work for somebody else. For example, most freelance digital marketers will have worked for an agency before they started up on their own. If this is the case, you should think about any past clients that you had a good relationship with and get in touch with them. Sending a simple networking email letting them know that you are now working freelance and you are available for any jobs that they might have can net some great results. They already know your work so they will be inclined to use you again, and even if they don’t have any jobs available, you can ask them if they know anybody that is in need of your services. You should also get in touch with your old colleagues and see if they know of any potential leads. Offering a small finder’s fee is a great way to encourage them to use their network to help you find new clients.
Attend Business Events
Business events are a brilliant place to meet a lot of potential clients in a very short space of time. If you look online, you will be able to find industry events that are filled with business owners that might be in need of your services. All you need to do is go along and meet as many people as possible, and make sure that you impress them. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done because there will be a lot of other freelancers there that are trying to do exactly the same thing. It’s important that you take the right approach to these business events and do something to make yourself stand out.
Many freelancers go along and try to meet as many business owners as possible but they don’t set up their own stand. However, you can attract more people if you pay for a spot and set up a good presentation that outlines your services. Throw in a few good quality promotional products and suddenly, you are the most memorable freelancer at the event. Having your own stand makes you appear a lot more professional and maximizes the amount of people that you are able to meet.
After the event, it’s vital that you follow up on all of the connections that you have made. Business owners will meet a lot of people and they will forget most of them in a couple of days, so make sure that you get their contact details, take a note of the things that you discussed, and then send a follow up email a day or two after the event. If you send them a rough quote and invite them to get in touch to discuss further, you should get a lot of good responses.
Look For Online Groups
Social media provides a lot of great opportunities for businesses and freelancers alike. It’s a great place to market yourself using paid ads and content marketing, but have you considered the networking benefits? If you do a quick search, you will easily be able to find groups with other freelancers where you can share tips and potentially find out about new clients. You should also look for business pages where you will find a large concentration of businesses that may potentially need your services. Making posts on these pages advertising yourself and giving a brief rundown of the services that you offer and the pricing is a very cost-effective way to get your name out there and find some new leads.
When you are using online groups to network, you should always look for role models. There will be other freelancers that are more established than you and have reached a position that you hope to be in a few years down the line. Connect with these people and follow them closely because you can get a lot of good advice that will help you to reach their level. Role models are very important in business, so make use of the guidance that they can offer you.
As well as looking for groups, you can use social media to contact businesses directly. LinkedIn is a particularly good platform for this but most businesses also have a strong presence of Facebook and Twitter. Making general posts on these platforms is beneficial but you should also try to connect with people directly by sending them private messages. Even if they don’t have any work available right now, they will remember you in the future when they do and you should get some new clients out of it.
Helping people out is a good way to demonstrate your value and hopefully gain more clients in the future. When messaging business owners online, you should offer them something of value upfront, depending on the nature of your freelance business. For example, if you are a copywriter, offer to write them a short sample article with no obligation. If you are a digital marketer, offer to give a quick review of their website and social media pages and suggest areas for improvement. This gives you an opportunity to show off your skills and benefit their business in some way. If they like what you have done, they will start offering you paid work in the future. However, if you simply message somebody with a list of services and prices, they will probably ignore you most of the time.
You can also use your website and social media pages to create helpful content. Writing posts that business owners can use to improve their marketing or create better content of their own helps you to build that relationship and position yourself as an expert in your field. But these posts will only get them so far and if they want to benefit further, they will have to get in touch and pay for your services. Writing your own ebooks and offering them for free on your website is a brilliant way to do this.
You should also make an effort to be helpful to other freelancers as well. You should already have a good network of freelancers if you have joined groups online so if a client asks you to take a job that isn’t really suited to you or you don’t have time for at the minute, recommend somebody else. By helping out another freelancer in this way, you make it far more likely for them to return the favor in the future and pass work on to you.
It’s best to broaden your network of freelancers as much as possible and extend it beyond your specific field because there will be a lot of crossover between services. For example, if you are a digital marketer, it pays to know some web designers as well. That way, if a business owner comes to you asking for help with their digital marketing, you can tell them that you also know a great web designer if they want to give their website an overhaul at the same time. You both get more clients and you’re not in direct competition with one another, so everybody wins, including the business owner. In the future, your freelancer contacts can do the same for you.
If you are a new freelancer, it’s vital that you follow these networking tips if you want to build a client base and create a stable business.