How to increase your freelance network in 2021

Tips to make you better at the art of freelance networking
Networking has changed dramatically during the last year. While many aspects of meeting people in a professional context are completely new, others remain the same. Let's have a look at some tested advice for networking without the awkwardness.

Simply put, networking becomes more natural and fun if you see people as a stepping stone to get to where you want to go. Simple ways you can help others:

  • Introduce a person to another who could be useful in their life and business

  • Give a recommendation: recommend relevant information e.g book, a blog, an event, a product/service or method, or another person

  • Give your time and attention: listen to people's worries and give your feedback and advice

Find out what people are focusing on right now or are challenged by and try to help them. Or ask them for advice about something you are challenged with. Most of the time people love to give advice.


Networking at online and live events


Adam Fillary gave some excellent networking advice during the Freelance Business Month 2020. He gave five pieces of advice for effective networking online:

1. Make sure your name is clear
It's easy to have your name on your Zoom window, but it is just as easy to forget about it and either have a wrong name or an automatically generated one, especially if you're moving between platforms a lot. Always make sure your name is correct.

2. Research the group and the intended outcomes
Most often you will have a good idea of what an event is for and what types of people will be attending. Familiarise yourself with the attendees, look at their LinkedIn profiles if they are provided in advance, and try to spot any commonalities or topics you can share with them. This will show you if it's worth networking with the group of attendees.

3. Find out how others are feeling
You can use polls, the chat window, or even direct messages to connect with people and ask how they're feeling. Showing kindness and interest in others in a winning strategy, both face to face, and in digital events.

4. Consider standing up
We have less room to impress, due to being restricted by the Zoom window we now occupy. To combat this, he suggests you use your hands and body language when communicating, as it has a better chance to leave an impression on others.

5. Share your details
It sounds obvious, but simply sharing some links with your LinkedIn/website/email in the chat will make it much easier for people to find you after the event and get in touch. A great tip is to also add a custom background with your logo and branding, which will make you stand out.

Above all, Adam Fillary recommends being calm and not to rush – there will be plenty of opportunities to network in the future.

See Adam's great presentation on the Art of Networking at the Freelance Business Month below.

You can also read more in the upcoming Freelance Business Book.

    Networking advice for freelance introverts

    For the introvert networker who finds it difficult to talk about themselves, a great tip is to bring a friend or colleague and talk to others about them. Promoting each other can be easier for introverts than talking about themselves. Other things both introverts and extroverts can try:

    • Make it easy for people to approach you by giving them something to start talking about. It can be something you bring (an object, a book) or something you wear, like a badge with your logo.

    • Prepare by reading up on people if you know they will attend and want to talk to them.

    • If you did not get to talk to them, connect afterwards and ask to catch up later.

    • Remember Peter Hinssen's advice "The Network Always Wins" and start connecting!

    See this short video on why networking is even more important for introverts and how they can learn from each other.

    How can networking improve your freelance business?

    Having a large network gives you access to the right people and the right information at the right time - it can help you find jobs and assignments, sell your services, get valuable information and establish yourself as an expert in your field.


    Freelancers tips on networking

    We asked some freelancers in our FreelanceGuru campaign to share how they benefit from networking:
    Based on experience, the network and the 'bouche à oreille' recommendation is the most efficient way to keep yourself busy. It means also to remain accessible and to keep a open-mind as each assignment is different and can generate from any encounter and discussion.
    Delphine Bosse
    Freelance event professional
    Clients. Telling people of a new project you want to try out or simply what you're working on, often leads to the answer: I'm interested in that service or I know somebody who might be interested in that service. Always tell people what it is that you do.
    Sara Reyniers
    Founder of Word Atlas bv and Translation Business Academy
    I will keep saying this: connecting to other freelancers is the easiest and cheapest way to find work. Ask them for a coffee, develop a friendly relationship and over time they will start sending contacts, work etc. your way. Pinky swear!
    Linda A. Thompson
    Co-founder of The Friendly Freelancer
    Build up A network online and offline. Most of my clients come through Instagram, but mouth to mouth advertisement is also a really good source
    Kristel Posen
    Freelance graphic design
    Your network is the most valuable asset in generating leads. Make sure that you cultivate your connections and invest in developing trust in your relationships. If people like you, they will work with you...
    Leticia Corbisier
    Productivity Hacker, Leadership and Communications Consultant
    It might seem like we're thrown in a completely new field after 2020, but we all need to adapt to the new reality of networking and social interaction. As most of our contacts will be in the digital world, it's more useful than ever to create a repository for new connections made - making an excel spreadsheet or using CRM software will make remembering all your new contacts a breeze. If you're looking for the right software, see our article on tools for freelancing.

    Remember that the environment and the tools may have changed, but the people remain the same – be friendly, be positive, show interest - the rest will happen easily.

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