Ten Reasons You Absolutely Must Network If You Are A Freelancer

networking, meeting, business

Network.

You must network.

 

Whether you’re a writer, an editor, a designer, a llama wrangler or any other type of freelancer you MUST network.

 

This is non-negotiable if you want to survive your freelancing years.

alpaca who isnt networking

ok, it’s an alpaca, not a llama, but it’s not networking and it looks sad.

I know, it’s a pain. You’d rather walk over hot coals than go to that networking event or join an online forum. Heaven forbid if you have to actually talk to anyone. I know, I sympathise, it can be the most awful thing in the world. But it must be done.

You know what? For years I didn’t network. Honestly, I sat in isolation not being able to get out to networking events in person and not taking advantage of online networking (ok, at the time there were few online networking places, but still I could have tried harder). I attended a few professional meetings, but stayed in the background. Do you know where my freelancing career went?

Nowhere. It went nowhere.

People, you NEED to network.

empty stadium, lonely freelancer

Here’s why:

  1. It builds relationships with your peers.

    Getting to know other freelancers in your business is good for everyone. Don’t see them as rivals, see them as friends. Soon you will have a network of likeminded souls who you can rely on to be there when you need them, and you can be there for them too. Share your failures and your successes, learn from those more experienced than yourself and help those with less experience. It’s all good.

  2. It builds relationships with potential customers.

    Get to know them and help them where you can. Go to networking events geared towards your ideal customer. Answer their questions, help them out and they’ll remember you for all the right reasons. Word of mouth is still king

  3. It builds business confidence.

    You can see where you are going right and you can get help if you’re going wrong. Use your local Business Gateway or regional business advisers, they often have talks and networking opportunities. Use your local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses if you think they will be of use. It’s a great way to let yourself see just how good you actually are at your job. Freelancers don’t get the feedback that the employed do, networking can help fill that gap.

  4. It facilitates learning.

    Networking allows you to identify gaps in your professional knowledge and allows you to address them. Through networking you can spot the perfect development opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the lone freelancer.

  5. It opens doors.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s a cliché for a reason, and it’s as true today as it’s always been. Networking gets your name out there. You will get to know people who you feel confident passing work on to when you can’t fit it into your schedule, and know who to recommend for certain jobs out of your remit. In turn, others will get to know you and pass work to you, or recommend you to clients.

    wall of doors, choices

  6. It allows you to understand your business environment.

    With all the will in the world, it’s much, much harder to understand your working environment if you’re only used to the theory. You can train til you are blue in the face, but it’s only by actually ‘doing’ that you will become knowledgeable in your chosen field. Networking allows you gain understanding through talking to those more experienced than yourself. You can see how others tackle business, see what works and what doesn’t and put this into practice with more confidence.

  7. It allows you to spot opportunities.

    The smart freelancer can spot gaps in the market, see what’s needed or even find a whole new direction to go in. Effective networking can lead you down avenues you would never consider in isolated working.

  8. It builds your communication skills.

    Very few people start off as confident communicators, it’s something that’s learnt. The more you network the easier it gets. Pretty quickly you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t – and soon your communication skills will improve.

  9. It can help you break away from the monotony of your own four walls.

    There’s no getting away from it, networking in person can give you break. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of going somewhere new, to meet new people and learn new things. Networking can make you a more adaptable human being. So what if it takes you out of your comfort zone?

  10. It brings you new friends.

    This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of networking. Freelancing can be a lonely business, and you can be amazingly good at your job, but if you have no one to talk to about it, to chat with over coffee or meet up virtually with over forums and social media, you will feel isolated and deflated. Networking on an informal level can help form strong bonds and friendships that can last a lifetime.

power rangers, super group

Why be alone when you can be a freelancer with a network?

See? It may feel daunting. You may feel like a gatecrasher or an imposter to begin with. But you MUST network. It’s good for your business and it’s good for your soul.

 

 

 

No Bullshit Please

cow, bull, bullshit

Last week I wrote about having a bad year.

It wasn’t a massively thought out post, it was just a ‘no bullshit’ scribbling when, being perfectly honest, I could think of nothing else to write about. But it turned into one of the most popular posts I’ve written in a while. Just like a lot of my other, similar, posts it resulted in feedback both on my website and through personal communication. It led me to the conclusion that people prefer a no bullshit approach to business and writing these days.

Colleagues and clients like honesty and authenticity.

But why be honest and open in my blog posts (attached to my business website) when it would be so much easier just to keep quiet? Isn’t it career suicide? I’d say no to that.

Reasons to be open and honest professionally:

bull head

It shows people you are real.

We are all human (mostly) so we like to do business with other humans. How many of you honestly like those auto DMs on Twitter? I’ll bet even if you use them (please don’t) you don’t like getting them. No one likes speaking to a robot unless they are in the cybernetics business (or sci-fi nerd like me). By keeping my blog real and by ‘talking’ to you I’m letting you into my world a little and we can hopefully build up a rapport.

bull head

It shows that life isn’t always rosy.

Unless we are supremely blessed in life things don’t always go the way we want. By writing an honest, no bullshit blog, I am happy to spread the love but also show things the way they are. Are people too frightened to say it like it is? Is it from fear of being seen as weak, as unprofessional or being afraid to show failure? Or is it the great British reserve? After 16 years as a freelance I know there are ups and downs and I’m not afraid to document it. Last year was bad, this year will be better.

bull head

It builds trust.

I much prefer to do business with people I know and trust, as I expect you do too. By writing honestly on my blog I can share tips and tricks with clients, help and inform fellow freelances (and learn from them too!) and show that I care about my work, my colleagues and my clients. I offer a bespoke service, and with this comes a level of professionalism that includes trust between myself and the client. So what if the client can see if I’m having a bad week (or a good one)?, they can also see that I never disclose confidential information and that I value my client list. As a genealogist I am privy to a LOT of potentially personal information, and as an editor I am allowed into my clients’ heads. If I thought for one second that my clients, or my colleagues, felt they couldn’t trust me I’d close my laptop on my work and walk away from it for good.

bull head

It helps others to feel they can share.

There is nothing worse than being a freelance, locked away from the world, with no one to talk to. Freelancing is isolating, it’s lonely as hell and it can lead to all sorts of problems – less of the ‘hey, I’ll ditch my job and live the high life’ please (yes, I’m looking at you, online journalists). I’m lucky that I found the SfEP, but before I was an editor my life as a genealogist, isolated at the top of Scotland, was a lonely one. I had no-one to talk to (this was before such things as online forums, although there were snarky email lists) and I may have been going slightly mad. Especially when armchair genealogists, spurred on by Who Do You Think You Are and the rise of internet resources, decided to stop paying for research and did it themselves because it was all ‘so easy’ (to get it wrong). If, by being honest and open, I can make just one person feel less alone then that is worth it in itself. And if I can let some fledgling editor realise that there is the SfEP, EFA (for those in the US) and others (here’s a handy links for those of you outside of the UK) who are there to offer friendship and advice, then that’s good too.

bull head

It’s just a no bullshit policy.

I’ve got a bullshit detector. I can smell it a mile off, just like I can usually tell if someone is on the level. And I know I’m not the only one. Why pretend? I really can’t stand websites that write about someone in the third person (when you just KNOW they’ve written it about themselves), or ones that say ‘aren’t I fabulous, hire me, I’m perfect’. Get over yourselves, no one is perfect. No one. Not even that gorgeous guy you idolised as a teenager who was perfect in your eyes. Perfection is a myth. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I’m too nice for that, but I just say it as I see it. Hell, I’m in my late 40s, life’s too short kids!

blank face

Show them your face, not a professional mask

So there you go. Those are my reasons to be authentic, open and honest in business. If people judge you for being honest, that’s their problem not yours.

If you think you will lose business by being honest, ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you could work with that client anyway.

You don’t need to be brutal, and you don’t need a ‘tell all’ policy. We need to remain at least a little mysterious, and over-sharing is not cool (I really don’t need to tell everyone that I love all things paranormal and that I binge watch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix).

If you are honest with yourself and with your clients, whether that’s on a blog or in your business communication, everyone can concentrate on just being themselves and you can concentrate on offering great service.

The Value of Networking

 

woman, networking, social media, network

I’ve had a busy few days. Not all of it gainful employment. There’s been work, sample edits, coursework and piddling about reading work blogs when I should have been working. You get the drift.

I like being busy (to be honest I’ve forgotten how to relax), and of course, like all independent professionals, I have times when work is slow. But I always have something to do – coursework, CPD, reading work blogs, avoiding housework – and there’s always networking.

While I may not always have the chance for face-to-face networking, I do try to get myself out there, and there are always online opportunities. If you live in an area where there is a decent-sized population, or if you can easily get to one, you really have no excuses … network!

I used to think that networking was not for me, all schmoooooze, handshakes and dodgy suits. But once I realised that if I dress how I like, I feel more comfortable and behave more like myself (perhaps with a bit more nervous verbal diarrhoea than usual), then networking isn’t so bad. And if you network online you don’t even have that problem … pull on a jumper over your jimjams and Bob’s your Uncle.

Now, if I have a networking opportunity I try my very best to attend. You never know when a fleeting contact will turn into a friend for life, or a valuable business contact.

This week, past networking has paid off in the following ways:

  1. I quoted for a few jobs that came through from someone seeing my profile online
  2. I am working on a few projects for a regular client I was introduced to long time ago via an old mentor (he marked one of my professional examinable projects)
  3. I chatted with a colleague on a matter that may have saved us both a lot of time
  4. I managed to, hopefully, pass over some work I didn’t have time for to another editor in my network.
  5. I managed to help a friend I met via a business networking event
  6. I carried out some work for someone I met at the same networking event a few years ago.

And that’s just in one week.

Businessman Giving out Card --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The value of networking is immense. While it may not always give immediate results, that business card you handed out, that chat to a suit in a crowded room or that nervous talk to a room full of strangers can, in time, work wonders. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day (and neither were corny clichés).

Physical networking is valuable because:

  1. It gets you away from your desk
  2. It puts faces to a names – online is great but it’s nice to meet people in person
  3. It pushes you out of your comfort zone (we can get too complacent and forget what the real world is like)
  4. It gives you the chance to give away your carefully crafted business cards, and marvel at the cards of other professionals
  5. It gives you the opportunity to get known, get your name out there and be remembered.

Online networking is valuable because:

  1. Not everyone can physically get to networking events
  2. You can network with people in different geographical areas, different time zones and it’s easy to dip your toes into different types of networking
  3. You can network when it is convenient to you, in your comfy clothes and with a nice mug of tea to keep you calm
  4. It’s an easy way to network if you are painfully shy or socially awkward
  5. It gives you the opportunity to get known, get your name out there and be remembered.

There are very few drawbacks to networking too, although it can be costly if you have to go away to meetings or join a Chamber of Commerce or the like. But you have to see these as costs towards business opportunities in the future.  Just choose your physical networking types according to what will work best for you. Budget for networking then if you see an opportunity you can jump at it.

happy editor, world, social media, networking

Most of all remember – what goes around comes around. Get working, help those in your network and stay visible. You never know when it might pay off.