5 Freelance Networking Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
November 21, 2018
Networking is essential for freelancers to grow and sustain their business. Establishing the right relationship can lead to a myriad of opportunities, but there’s a fine line between making valuable connections and coming across as a spammer, or insincere. Here are five networking mistakes you should avoid both online and in person.
Don’t be too broad
As a freelancer, you’ve probably worked in several different areas and could rock many different roles. But when it comes to networking, you should pitch yourself as an expert in a distinct niche or field. Freelancer Sumit Bansal, who specializes in Excel spreadsheets and content marketing at Trump Excel says that this is a mistake he often sees at networking events and he’s even been guilty of doing it himself in the past.
If you introduce yourself as someone who specializes in a specific area, let’s say Facebook paid campaigns or email marketing campaigns or video SEO‚ then you’re more likely to leave a lasting impression and even get some targeted leads out of it.
“I meet freelancers who would introduce themselves as digital marketing experts,” says Bansal. “Since this is such a broad field, they are not seen as experts in anything. Instead, if you network with people and introduce yourself as someone who specializes in a specific area, let’s say Facebook paid campaigns or email marketing campaigns or video SEO‚ then you’re more likely to leave a lasting impression and even get some targeted leads out of it.”
Don’t be intimidated
For Austin-based copywriter Kristen Hicks, her two biggest networking mistakes were taking too long to start and being uncomfortable introducing herself to new people at networking events.
“I learned pretty quickly that it was a waste of my time and energy to go to a networking event if I wasn’t going to make connections,” Hicks says. “The trick was reminding myself that everyone there came to meet other people, and no one’s going to be mad or annoyed if I just walk up and introduce myself.”
With this positive mindset, Hicks was able to build up a referral network of local freelancers, which has led to a variety of writing opportunities.
Don’t make huge demands
In my own freelance writing career, I’ve been hunted down by several PR individuals who want to gain exposure for their new product. Oftentimes, the first email they send me is several paragraphs long‚ asking me to mention their product and schedule a meeting with them so they can tell me more about their business or offerings.
The problem is that they’re asking too much of me upfront. When you make huge demands of a person you just met, you risk rubbing them the wrong way. Make sure that you only ask for a referral or make your sales pitch after establishing a connection through several back-and-forth messages.
Don’t miss out on follow-up opportunities
Meeting new people is a great way to get the word out about your business, but don’t assume interested individuals are going to hunt you down after a networking event to connect or hire you. Instead, take the initiative to follow up with the necessary parties within 24 hours of meeting them.
That way, they’ll still remember you, and you can pick up the conversation where you left off. In your initial follow-up message, there’s no need to make a hard sale. Instead, tell them it was a pleasure to meet them and connect. This is also the time to send anything‚ such as a resume, sample or a link to a cool app you use ‚ they showed interest in when you spoke in person.
Take the initiative to follow up with the necessary parties within 24 hours of meeting them. That way, they’ll still remember you, and you can pick up the conversation where you left off.
Ada Chen Rekhi, founder of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for teams, experienced the power of successfully following up when she met the Chief Business Officer of a large, well-known company at a networking event for female executives. The CBO expressed interest in her product, and Rekhi made sure to reach out after their initial meeting.
“I followed up right after the event, and [the CBO] had us in their offices to demo it to the team,” says Rekhi.
Don’t make it all about you
Whether you’re meeting someone in person or trying to connect via social media, don’t make the connection about you. Show genuine interest in the person with whom you’re speaking. Your goal is to start a meaningful business relationship with them, rather than immediately gaining them as a paying client. It might feel like it takes longer to earn clients this way, but aggressively trying to sell yourself isn’t a successful method for growing your business.
Don’t fall victim to the above networking mistakes. In the end, it all boils down to doing the legwork to build strong relationships. By putting the extra effort in, your opportunities will grow‚ and so will your business.
Ashley Eneriz is an independent financial writer who has been published on Credible, GOBankingRates, MoneyCrashers, Huffington Post, Business Insider Australia, Life Hacker, Fidelity, CBS News, and MSN Money.
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