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Career Monday: A Freelancer’s Guide to Networking

Freelancers need to network just as much as any company employee. Maximizing your contacts positions you to grow professionally and enjoy greater success.

Even if you spend much of your day working alone, there are many effective ways to make professional connections who can provide insights and advice to help you advance your career.

Try these ideas for building your network online and off.

Networking Basics for Freelancers:

1. Focus on giving. The fundamentals of networking remain the same regardless of your line of work. Colleagues will be more eager to help you if you start out by helping them. Look for ways you can add value to any conversation by sharing your time and talents.

2. Remain alert. You may be surprised by some of the opportunities you discover. A stranger you meet at a party or on a plane could provide a lead to a new client or project. Be prepared with a compelling elevator pitch and remember to follow up.

3. Set goals. Create a strategy for your networking. Establish priorities and have targets you can measure. Maybe you want to spend 1 hour a day on social media or schedule at least 2 coffee dates a month.

Additional Online Networking Tips for Freelancers:

1. Update your profile. How engaging is your LinkedIn profile? Browse around to see what your peers are doing and learn from their example. Investigate other platforms where you want your business to have a presence, such as Facebook and Instagram.

2. Expand your portfolio. Showcase your work. Use your website and other channels to offer interesting and useful articles and videos.

3. Research opportunities. Identify individuals and organizations that could be useful to your work. Look to see if you have any current contacts in common who would be willing to provide a referral for you.

4. Reach out. Be mindful of how you approach others online to avoid sounding too salesy. Personalize your communications by mentioning a mutual friend who referred you or comment on an article they published recently. Try to focus on their needs and concerns.

5. Be professional. Online communications tend to be informal, but you still want to sound courteous and respectful. Proofread and edit your work so you come across as polished and articulate.

Additional Offline Networking Tips for Freelancers:

1. Attend events. Events can be an efficient way to meet a wide circle of like-minded professionals. Check out community calendars for local gatherings or start your own Meet up group. For conferences that require more expenses and travel, figure out which events may have the most impact on your business.

2. Volunteer your services. Joining planning committees or signing up to help at the registration desk is another way to receive discounts and meet more participants at big events. You can also make connections while volunteering at neighborhood nonprofits.

3. Speak up. Public speaking engagements can open doors and raise your visibility. Contact local universities, community groups, and other organizations that might be interested in your presentation.

4. Dine out. If much of your work is solitary, you still have mealtimes and coffee breaks where you can hang out with others. Set up lunch dates and happy hours.

5. Leave home. Shared work spaces encourage socializing. Consider spending at least part of each week doing your tasks at a local coffee shop or food court. See if there are any co working locations in your community that you would want to join.

Put at least one networking task on your to do list each day that will help you to make meaningful connections and expand your professional circle. Cultivating strong business relationships pays off by giving you opportunities to develop your expertise, find clients, and increase your income.

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