You know that networking is important, but are you doing it right? Showing up to events is just one piece of the puzzle, and it won’t get you far if you haven’t mastered the others: presenting yourself professionally, making strong connections, and maintaining new relationships.
In Sara Horowitz’s new book, The Freelancer’s Bible, she outlines strategies that will strengthen your networking skills. Try out these four tips the next time you put yourself out there:
Practice varying your pitch. Have a technical one for professionals; a super-short, laid-back one for the backyard barbecue; and a medium-size, understandable-to-the-masses one. When the “What do you do?” question comes, relax and answer naturally.
Let them get to know you. Have ways people can learn about you. It starts with the info on your card. It might continue with your “Thanks for our talk” email: “I’ve attached the video clip I mentioned. If you’d like to receive my newsletter, just click on the link below.” And then there’s your website, portfolio, press packet, bio, or anything else that helps people know what you do.
Don’t buy into status marketing. You’d be surprised what you can do with just a handful of business cards or a basic website. Maybe others have achieved self-marketing world domination (website-blog-newsletter; social media moguldom; professional memberships out the wazoo). All that can come later, if you want. Don’t let anything stop you from getting out there right now.
Take steps toward financial stability. Being more financially secure will help you network with confidence and not give off that frantic vibe that puts people off and alerts prospects that they can have their way with you at the negotiating table. For some quick financial relief, look for ways to pare your expenses in the short term. Chip away at longer-range stuff: pay down debt, save small amounts regularly, and even look at where and how you live. You can’t change everything at once, but making your life fit better with freelancing is a huge pressure-reliever.
Networking is essential to having a successful freelance career. The more authentic your approach is, the easier it will be to make long-lasting professional connections. Take these four keys seriously and watch your network – and your business – grow.