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The Art of Networking | Freelance Sprout | Find, Start, and Grow Your Dream Freelance Business
Read the six part series on creating a freelance business plan
 

The Art of Networking

Date February 25, 2009


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While you may work each day as a freelancer from the comforts of your home office or kitchen table, there is still monumental importance in networking with other people. Working as a freelancer, depending on the industry you are in, can oftentimes be a somewhat lonely existence. Working for yourself and with yourself day in a day out is not something every individual can hack for the long term.

Regardless of how social you are in your freelancing business, there is not excuse for not properly networking. As a freelancer, it is essential to your business that you keep the profits coming in and one of the key ways to do that is by referrals from other people. Meeting those other people is called networking. When you have a network of other freelancers who specialize in areas outside of your own specialty but which are still related to your craft, you can virtually become a one-stop shop for your clients and customers. Let’s say you are working with Customer A, designing a one-of-a-kind necklace. Customer A is looking to market said necklace to consumers but doesn’t know how to go about marketing a product, a venture that could potentially bring your business a lot more work as the designer. Customer A already trusts your opinion. You refer Customer A to a marketing specialist in your network circle. Your friend benefits from the business and, in turn, will likely refer you for future work – and so the circle begins. Referral work can be highly profitable for any freelance business and also helps cut down on the costs of additional advertising you might need to do to keep work in the pipeline. Networking is also a great resource for your own business needs, especially if you can find someone willing to work with you on the barter system, trading comparable services for no additional fees.

If you are working as a freelancer and need some help refining your networking skills, here are a few tips and tricks for getting your business and yourself out into a network of others:

Be Professional

While you are likely already able to project a professional appearance to clients and customers, it is just as important to be polished when approaching other professionals. If these people are going to be referring you to their own clients, you need to convince them you are capable of handling the business at hand.

Be Confident

Whether you are approaching a potential networking resource in person or online, be confident in your ideas. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Being a wallflower at public events or emailing weak introductions will likely not make others feel confident in your abilities.

Join Up

Whatever industry you work in, chances are good that a local association will provide you with resources for networking with the right people. If there are no industry-specific organizations, join the local Chamber of Commerce and take full advantage of the networking and other events planned for members. Show up to the events and make the most of the networking opportunities you have by striking up conversations and getting your name (and business card) out there.

Market Yourself

No one can toot the horn of your business like you can. If you are working online or in the public, take every chance you can to introduce your business to complimentary businesses. Stop by local businesses that interest you and make an appointment to meet with the owner. If you come across a website of a complimentary business, send out an email to introduce yourself and your company. Be ready to propose your ideas on how your businesses could profit from working together and see what comes of your progressive marketing efforts. Chances are good that other freelancers and small businesses will be glad to find additional resources and be very open minded about meeting with you to talk.

Networking is an essential part of a freelancer’s business. It can be a great way to stay in touch with the outside world and even find a few like-minded friends to bounce off idea. No one can operate a profitable business completely alone. Your networking resources can provide you with invaluable information and insight you will find no where else.

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