One of the top challenges for freelancers – or nearly any small business owner – is finding new clients and assignments.
Networking appears on many lists of the best ways to find more work and has many other advantages. All of us at Talimer have experienced the benefits of networking and it’s our vision to facilitate these opportunities as well as help freelancers connect to jobs, community, and mentors through the platform.
Before Covid-19 it was relatively easy to meet a contact for coffee or attend a local meeting but what can you do now that in-person meetings have all but stopped? Virtual networking may not be as easy as face-to-face meeting but you can still stay in touch with your contacts, meet new people, and develop relationships. Now is not the time to disconnect.
What is Networking?
Let’s start by considering: what is networking? According to Merriam Webster, networking is:
The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions, specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
When you think about it this way it’s easy to get out of the mindset that exchanges have to happen in person and to think more broadly about ways to share and connect. Here are some ideas:
Increase your social media presence.
Now is a great time to make sure that your LinkedIn, Twitter, and other profiles are updated with current photos and messaging. Social media enables you to follow and connect with people you don’t know yet but want to. Make sure to keep your personal brand in mind as you engage on social media and look for opportunities to showcase your strengths and interests.
Be deliberate & thoughtful with existing contacts.
Like everything in business – and life – not much happens unless you actually make a plan and schedule time. Take time to review your current network and to think about who you haven’t talked with in a while like former bosses, peers, customers, service providers, and vendors. Also consider what might be the best way to reach out. You can certainly do Zoom or other video calls but what will the person you’re trying to reach prefer? Be open to using email, phone calls, and even handwritten notes. Then put some time for renewing these connections into your schedule every day.
Look for new contacts.
Have fun expanding your network and think about how you can be helpful. Great places to find people who share common interests are professional, college, or other groups. As you interact, focus on how you can be helpful, positive, and reliable. People buy from those they like and trust, and exchanges happen naturally. Find your best way to connect, and then be consistent.
Just as you’re looking for new opportunities and new ways to connect during this time, so are others. As you talk with individuals in your network, ask about the types of connections that would be useful to them and make meaningful introductions.
Learn something new or add a new skill.
Taking a class, getting a certification in a new area, or brushing up your existing skills will help you offer more value to clients and you may meet prospects in the process. Remember to update your LinkedIn and other professional profiles. Even actively pursuing your personal interests can be valuable as you work to expand your network. You’ll be connecting with new people who like the same things you do and that can lead to great business relationships too.
Participate in virtual networking events.
There are many opportunities for virtual networking and while it isn’t the same as in-person meetings, attend, and more importantly, participate. Prepare and practice your introduction, ask questions or submit a comment in the chat, identify other participants you’d like to meet and follow-up with connection requests on LinkedIn. If it was a particularly good event send a thank you to the organizer and host. Finally, use what you’ve learned or share a few interesting points in your social media and other networking activities.
The most important thing to remember whether you’re networking virtually or in-person, networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships where both parties walk away feeling like they’ve gained something. It takes time and while you may not see an immediate impact the long-term value is worth it.