Feeling the need to recite that elevator pitch? Networking is the best way to expand your freelance client base, meet other entrepreneurs, find staff members, learn from others, share resources and be inspired by the different businesses going on around you. If you don’t have a huge list of contacts that are useful to your business, then you may need to get out there and engage in some chit-chat time. Here are 5 effective ways to grow your network:
Email just about everyone
Over the years, you will have accumulated a large list of contacts in your phone, on your email, on Facebook, on Twitter, heck why not go back to Bebo and see who’s on there that may be of use to you? No matter where your contacts are, they’re still people that may or may not be relevant to your business in some way, so take a look across all platforms and curate a contact list of all the people who might be interested in what you’re doing now. If your previous employer could use your services, get in touch. If your old friend from uni has recently started a business, contact her. You never know what can happen if you make your services known to the world.
Always contact the speakers
If you attend conferences and speaking events, you should always try to network in some way with any speakers who talk about something relevant to you at the event. Whether you talk to them in person, or you add them on LinkedIn afterwards, send them a quick message to introduce yourself and let them know how much you enjoyed their talk. You never know what could happen later on down the line, you may be just the person they need for a big opportunity.
Set goals at networking events
Networking events are, in a word, awkward. Most of us just aren’t comfortable walking up to a stranger and introducing ourselves, so these events are pretty much a nightmare if you’re not into making small talk. However, they are necessary if you want to grow your contact list. The best advice for tackling networking events is: go in with the goal of not simply bombarding people with what you’re doing, and waiting for opportunities to talk about yourself – this won’t build genuine connections. Ask more questions than you answer. Also, set a goal to speak to at least 3 people at each event, and leave with their email address or business card. That way you have a purpose for being there and don’t just feel like you need to awkwardly check your phone every 5 minutes.
Build online relationships
While it’s always best to meet people in person and have real life conversations, don’t be put off meeting people online. There are a lot of great connections to be made on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook groups, so go explore the places where your peers hang out online, and start to have conversations that relate to your topic of interest. Pretty soon you’ll be chatting regularly with these online acquaintances, and that’s when you can suggest a Skype meeting to further get to know your new friend.
Approach people you admire
People like nothing more than to be told that they are admired. Some would deny this, but it’s just a fact. If you tell people how much you like what they do, or how interested you are in their story, they’ll find it hard not to want to engage with you further. Reach out to any people or businesses you admire with the aim of them mentoring you (or if you’re not comfortable with this word, then simply ask them for a coffee to discuss their work) and start to form a connection with them. If you admire someone, it really doesn’t hurt to tell them and let them share some wisdom with you.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova via Unsplash Daria Shevtsova