How to expand your freelance network without jeopardizing yourself
Establishing a freelance business is one thing, but networking and expanding is a completely different story. As your career progresses, there will inevitably be changes, much like a child growing into a young adult. This can often times be uncomfortable, but are usually indicative of a great deal of growth taking place. You might be getting too many project requests that you have absolutely no time for, or you might feel a sense of complacency, requiring you to learn a new skill set. Well, how is a freelancer to navigate these positive, yet challenging signs of expansion? We have a few tips to make the journey a bit easier:
Meeting other freelancers
Another aspect of freelancing that may come at any point in your entrepreneurial journey is loneliness. If you are not surrounded by individuals who, too, are working for themselves, it can be challenging to create common ground with others when it comes to your professional life. That’s why meeting and staying in touch with other freelancers is a great way not only to make other entrepreneur friends, but to also help each other out in terms of networking and expanding.
While there are many conferences available, as well as groups on social media, etc. that can help with meeting other freelancers, you’re probably wondering how to approach them. The simplest solution: Be authentic. Introduce yourself in a friendly way, similar to how you’d introduce yourself to the friend of a friend, or someone who you barely know (because let’s be honest, that’s exactly what the dynamic is). In fact, don’t even pitch your business ideas with them in the beginning, as this to come off as too aggressive. Instead, just mention over Linkedin or email that you noticed that they work in XXXX industry, and that a piece of their work stood out to you, and how to relate to it. Build rapport with a fellow entrepreneur, and if he or she is willing, then meeting and speaking further could be a great way to expand your network, as once you know one person, access to their own personal network will be in reach more than ever.
Be a helper
Once you’ve created a network of like-minded entrepreneurs, one of the best ways to utilize them and vice versa, is by helping each other out. Instead of turning down clients, you can always connect them to your connections, who would probably be grateful for any referred clients. Also, chances are you’re not superman, and time is money, even if you’re good at many things. That’s why it’s always beneficial to have another professional handy in an area of your business that you don’t have time to address.
For example, let’s say you’re a copywriter, but your website needs some tweaking, and you happen to have a buddy in your network who’s a great developer. So, you can reach out to him and ask for some help in exchange for one of your services (bartering), or see if he can give you a better price than just someone you don’t know personally, and randomly reach out to.
Selectivity is key
While forming any kind of relationship, even in business, requires trust and a degree of vulnerability, there’s a limit. When networking as an entrepreneur, you still want be wary of people who are sketchy in any way you can imagine (I don’t think this requires an example), people who are inconsistent in their interactions vs. how they appear on social media, implying that they are toxic and potentially inauthentic, and especially inauthentic individuals in general. It’s important to steer clear of them for obvious reasons, but it’s crucial to still keep in mind that it is a waste of energy to admire or try to be in the company of an entrepreneur who isn’t genuine about what services they offer. Think of networking as a hiring process. You wouldn’t want to end up working with someone who is too inexperienced, unreliable, or difficult to reach. If you’re ever in doubt, it never hurts to get a good look at their work and testimonials from those they have worked with in the past.