How To Network As A Freelancer
Schmoozing, mingling, rubbing elbows... networking as a freelancer can conjure up lots of different images in our minds, some of which probably seem daunting, unnecessary, or simply too formal!
But networking doesn’t have to be saved for corporate meetings. In fact, networking is a hugely valuable tool for freelancers for many reasons.
What is networking?
Simply put, networking is meeting new people, exchanging ideas, advice, and opportunities - both with potential clients and fellow freelancers.
Social media groups and communities, Slack and Discord channels, and in-person meetups are all fantastic places to network, and these can be especially helpful for new freelancers finding their feet, or those of us who don’t know any other freelancers outside of the internet!
Why is networking important?
As a traditional employee, you don’t have to worry so much about actively seeking out like-minded folk in your industry to connect with - you’re usually working as part of a team. If you’re looking for a job, where do you find one? Usually job boards or recruitment agencies.
Freelancers have to put in a bit more legwork to find their tribe, potential clients, and new work. But it pays off! And you can kiss those uncomfortable team building days goodbye.
I’m new to networking. Where do I start?
No problem! Everyone starts somewhere. Just remember a few handy tips whenever you’re networking, either in-person or online:
Get your freelancer website, portfolio, and/or your LinkedIn profile polished, so that if a fellow freelancer or potential client find you online, you’ll make a great first impression!
Respect group rules. They’re there for a reason!
Be a kind and courteous person.
Don’t put on a facade! It’s best to be yourself when networking - you are awesome just the way you are!
What should I avoid when networking?
Self-promoting in groups or communities, unless you know it’s okay to do so.
People’s inbox - unless they say they’re happy for you to DM them. Respect people’s privacy!
Any strange or too-good-to-be-true job postings. If you’re suspicious, report it to a group admin!
We hope this guide helps you squeeze every drop of opportunity from networking, and we’d love for you to join us in the GUAVABEAN group to tell us what you thought!
Why is networking so important for freelancers?
MAKE A NAME FOR YOURSELF
Creating online profiles and having your own website are both really important steps in making a name for yourself online, but don’t stop there. When you network with other freelancers and potential new clients, you have an opportunity to share your skills, experience, and advice to back up that amazing bio or portfolio. You can connect with people who face problems you could potentially solve. This may not lead to a contract opportunity straight away, but if you become a regular face in a community, people will recognize you as an expert in your niche, and could refer others your way.
FIND NEW CLIENTS
According to careershifters.org, an estimated 70% of jobs (that’s freelance AND traditional) are never advertised. That’s a huge number of potential clients you’re missing if you don’t network! Many businesses either don’t know where to start when looking for a freelancer to work on their project, or they’d rather float the idea in communities where freelancers hang out because it’s less hassle than listing a job on a board, and often gives better results.
Put yourself out there and start connecting with people. When you showcase a great attitude and your willingness to find new projects, you may land yourself a new client before you know it!
MAKE NEW FRIENDS
It’s no secret that freelancing can be a lonely career choice - and networking with fellow freelancers can alleviate that sense of having no one to relate to. Keeping a positive outlook and caring for your emotional needs are vital parts of being successful and happy self-employed, and online and in-person networking groups can give you a place to feel at home, and chat about those common things that only freelancers understand!
Everyone’s at a different point in their freelancing journey, and one of the most effective ways of learning new skills, finding out more about your industry or niche, and simply swapping tips with other freelancers is by networking. In fact, a rewarding aspect of being a freelancer is that you can constantly meet new people on your journey and learn new things. Online communities with knowledge bases are super convenient, too, and if you’re lucky enough to find yourself a community that hosts regular Q&A sessions, even better!
IMPROVE YOUR WELL-BEING
We’ve touched on this topic a little already, but keeping a positive sense of well-being tends to be a little trickier when you’re a freelancer - even if you’ve eliminated the commute, inflexible hours, and a boss breathing down your neck!
Networking gives you somewhere to hang out - whether it’s somewhere online that you frequent, or it’s a one-off group that meets up in person. Networking as a freelancer should be part of your weekly schedule - although you’ve left the traditional job behind, it’s still important to maintain work friendships and a sense of community.
BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
Introverts, in particular, may find it stressful to network and may leave it up to their extroverted counterparts. But networking is important for everyone and can do wonders in boosting your confidence, especially if you’re a newbie freelancer!
Whether you’re headed to a physical meetup or you’ve just joined a new Facebook group, just dip your toes in at first; try introducing yourself and explain a little about what you do. Don’t forget to show a little personality and get stuck in conversations, making suggestions and asking your own questions. When you start to feel useful and fellow freelancers get to know you a little better, your confidence will grow!
Where’s the best place to network?
That depends on what you’re looking for - there are many places you can find like-minded freelancers to network with!
These are some great places to start:
Facebook - we naturally recommend our own group, GUAVABEAN, as one of the friendliest, most helpful communities on Facebook, but we have a list of ten other awesome Facebook groups you should check out for amazing networking opportunities.
LinkedIn - thousands of people use LinkedIn every week to network using the ‘groups’ feature. No matter your industry, niche, location, or demographic, there’s a group for you.
Meetups.com - a brilliant website for finding in-person networking opportunities, no matter what you’re after. The site finds groups worldwide, so can be perfect for freelancers working from home, and those living the nomad lifestyle!