The short answer is: absolutely. In fact, freelancer networking is more important than ever, though the methods and platforms have changed. Networking is perhaps the most useful and focused type of marketing available to you, and usually free of charge
There is a good chance many of my readers are introverts. Isn’t that one of the big reasons many of us become freelancers—to free ourselves from the shackles of smalltalk. All jokes aside, it can be a real challenge for freelancers and solopreneurs to expand their business networks.
It turns out that as a freelancer you still need to network with other people. And brace yourself: AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. At least at first. Eventually when you get yourself a bevy of paying clients you can pull back, but at the beginning of a newly founded business, you need to tell EVERYONE, via every channel you can.
Now, this might be a little much, but that’s kind of the gist of it. Spread the word. I’m not saying you need to beat anyone over the head with your new business or spam all of your social media followers fifteen times a day, but you need to get the word out there. You can’t hire what you don’t know exists.
Okay, but how?
The first thing you need to do is know thyself. You need to encapsulate what you do in a concise and coherent way. Develop what is called an “elevator pitch” to describe your business. You know—you’re in an elevator with an investor that could give you your big break, and you have 8 floors to do it…
Write it down. Practice it in the mirror. Seriously. It will help when the time comes if it’s not the first time you’ve spoken the words out loud. It doesn’t need to be word for word and shouldn’t sound like you’re reciting a script but you should have the important parts nailed down in your mind so you can speak easily and knowledgeably about them.
You don’t want to bore someone to death by droning on and on about all of the details and minutiae of your business, but it’s important that you let them know…in a nutshell. Depending on whom you talk to, you may get the chance to expand and get into more detail, but honestly, it’s often enough just to plant the seed.
While the thought of posting anything business related on social media to your friends and family may make you cringe, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know what you’re up to.
Separate the two though, and make sure your business has its own page. Nothing makes me mute or unfollow someone faster than them trying to sell me face creams and timeshares via their personal profile. Yet I have no qualms clicking over to follow their business page if they ask.
Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that people need your services. Or they know someone who needs your services. Or they know someone who knows someone who needs your services…you get the idea. This is the whole point of networking. Casting a wide net in the attempt to connect supply with demand.
Okay, but why?
Because if someone already knows you and can vouch for you, they will send business (or acquaintances’ business) your way. How many times have you agonized over reviews before pulling the trigger on a purchase or subscription? Most people will go to trusted friends and family for input before making those decisions, and all it takes is one person to say “oh hey–I know someone…” for you to potentially pick up a client.
Beyond the obvious, there are other reasons why networking is a magical thing. You might meet someone who has been there before and can share their valuable experience and knowledge as a mentor. You might find someone who owns a business that happens to dovetail perfectly with yours, opening the door for potential collaboration and mutual growth. You’ll almost certainly find others out there just like you—fresh entrepreneurs who could all use some support and encouragement and just someone to talk to about their experience who gets it.
Freelance networking more than just matters—it is essential to your success. If clients don’t know about you, they can’t hire you. Networking is the oldest marketing in the world, and despite all of the changes to business around the world, remains a tried and true method of gaining clients.
Matthew Ogden is a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content writer and editor. He’s written for national retailers and lobster roll companies alike. When not writing he can be found nose deep in a book, writing and performing music, or nerding out about guitar tone.