As freelancers, we often hear the recommendations to "network." Social media, conferences, an extremely crowded cyberspace can make this feel almost impossible to do with any sort of strategy. How do we authentically connect with others in our field, as well as potential clients, without burning out and wasting time?
There are a few simple techniques that you can use that are time-efficient and zero-cost, and you can put them into practice right away!
Have a Small Goal for Daily Social Media Engagement
Every day, you should like and/or share others' posts in your industry. These posts can be written by industry leaders or simply by skilled and successful colleagues, but it's important that you demonstrate your appreciation for the work of others. Consistently making yourself part of your own online community will expand your network and make you a familiar online "face" to others.
Once a Week, E-Mail a Different Industry Leader with a Compliment and a Relevant Question
This is hard to do without sounding spammy, but the goal should be to offer a genuine compliment about his or her work, and to ask a short, meaningful question. You can learn a great deal from even one e-mail exchange with a well-known and successful contact, but it may also lead to an ongoing relationship and eventual collaboration.
Cross-Pollinate with Diverse Networks
Instead of endlessly attending "networking events" for your specific field, try to mix up your network by spending time with people from related but different industries than the one you work in. Sometimes, networking within your own field can turn into competition or hero worship. However, spreading your time out over diverse fields that could connect you to new leads is worth the investment.
Talk to Everyone You Know About What You Do
Without talking exclusively about your work (which is tiring for others), be sure to organically discuss your work and the state of your business on a regular basis. Communicate your excitement about your work and your passion for your current projects. People love to connect and to act as professional "matchmaker," and friends or family may refer you to your next big client.
Use Your Personal Social Media for Professional Content on a Regular Basis
Even though your freelance field may seem obvious to you on your own social media page, keep in mind that most of your social media contacts don't really look at your profile page, on any website. They look at your posts. So even if your description says that you're a graphic designer but you post nothing but pictures of your dog, consider posting recent projects with proud taglines about how excited you were to deliver the content. Old contacts often become new clients.
While paid networking events can be a good investment, you could be surprised by how these free techniques will yield new connections right away!