If you want freelancing success, you need to learn how to effectively network. The connections you make matter a lot when you're looking for work.
It's been years since I've actually needed to check the freelance job boards. Sometimes I hit the job boards when I'm looking for a breath of fresh air, or if I think that I can find something with much higher pay. (The reality, though, is that the best-paying jobs aren't often freely available on the job boards.)
But I haven't been in desperate enough circumstances to be driven to taking whatever is available on the boards. The reason for this is simple: I have a great network.
Networking = Freelancing Success
It's a very simple formula: If you build a solid network, freelancing success is likely to come.
Networking has been a huge part of my freelancing success. Most of the clients I have right now are the results of networking, whether it's networking online or in person.
In fact, now that I think about it, all of my clients are either:
- Someone I connected with directly in some way, either networking online via social media, or meeting in person at a conference like NMX or FinCon.
- Someone who was referred to me by someone in my network.
It's also worth noting that many of my highest-paying gigs are due to my network. Recently, I signed a contract with a new client. The editor who brought me on is someone I worked with at another gig, and someone I met because another member of my network brought me in on the former gig. The longer you are involved with freelancing, the larger your network — and the greater the chance that people you have worked with in the past will come looking for you again.
Build your network, and you will be more likely to find freelancing success.
How to Network Effectively as a Freelancer
Effective networking is an important part of freelancing success, and that means that you need to get out there. For some people, networking is easier than it is for others. Networking online is easier for me than networking in person, but it's really not something that I excel at. But just because it's something I struggle with is no reason to avoid doing it.
The good news is that you can do a few things to boost your ability to network:
- Do good work: The first step to effective networking is to do good work. Even though “good” is subjective, it's possible to boost your reputation. Decent content, delivered on time, can build your reputation and lay the foundation for your ability to network.
- Get involved: Involve yourself in a community. This can be especially profitable if you decide to focus on a niche. But even if you are into general topics, you can get involved. Find a community and start getting involved. Promote others' stuff, participate in discussions. Take a little time to be a useful participant in an online or offline community.
- Give and build relationships: One of the best ways to network is to give of yourself and build relationships. Too many people try to network by figuring out what they can get, and by making superficial connections. Effective networking is about building relationships. All of my best gigs are with people with whom I have a relationship. And, even when I don't have gigs, I still have people in my network that I try to connect with and help. Giving is part of effective networking, even if you don't receive something directly in return.
- Be yourself: People respond to authenticity. If you want to make it as a freelancer, you need to be yourself. While I sometimes have a hard time taking off the filters that I put in place as a result of my ADD-related social limitations, I still do try to be myself. My introversion also makes it hard for me to open up. But I work hard to let people see me for who I am — even though sometimes who I am is a bit obnoxious.
- Touch base: This is part of building relationships and giving. Circle back to maintain your connections. You never know when someone will need a gig, or be asked for a recommendation. If you continue to touch base and maintain those relationships, you will be top of mind.
- Show your expertise: This year, I moderated a panel at FinCon. It was a little outside my comfort zone, but it allowed me to further position myself as an expert, and it offered a couple more networking opportunities, since it raised my visibility.
Once you start networking, and building a good reputation, you will find more freelancing success. People who know you will be more likely to recommend you to the people that they know. Pretty soon, if you network effectively and maintain those relationships, you won't have to rely on job boards for gigs, and you'll be working off referrals.