Client recommendations and word-of-mouth are powerful lead generators. Whether you’re new to freelancing or have been freelancing for years, the importance of networking is undeniable. For some, networking comes easy; for others, it’s the one thing you wish you could avoid at all costs. Regardless of your networking experience, keep these three tactics in mind as you expand your network.
Find the right people
If you can, place yourself in environments where it’s likely that you’ll meet someone you can relate with. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your job, either. Interest-based meetups, alumni networks, and professional associations are all helpful resources.
Regardless, whether you’re at a conference or a coffee shop, you never know who you might bump into. Always be ready to strike a conversation with a stranger, and don’t be picky about who you do or don’t engage with.
If in-person interactions are more difficult to come by, use LinkedIn and social media to discover new connections. Don’t be afraid to cold-message people! While not every single person may respond, at least someone will.
Know what to ask
Regardless of the context of your meeting, be as prepared as you can. Treat each encounter like an informational interview. If you’ve reached out to a specific person, do your research. See how their experiences relate to yours, and ask them about it.
If you’re ever at a loss for what to say, or you’re not a big conversationalist, ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, and the longer you get them talking, the more likely you’ll be able to pick up on something you can relate to.
Maintain the relationship
Networking doesn’t end with the first encounter; you’ll need to sustain that relationship over the long-haul. Send a “thank you” message to anyone you spoke with. Mention something unique about your conversation if possible (it’s ok to take notes if you need to during or immediately after your chat!).
For those you felt more of a connection with, follow up every few months or so. Suggest in-person coffee meetings if you have only talked virtually, and reach out for their recommendations if you’re looking for new clients. You never know who they might be able to introduce you to!