In both her virtual assistant and freelance writing course, Gina starts by outlining the importance of tapping into your natural market.
That’s because IT WORKS!
Not for everybody, and not every single time, but it generally works for a lot of people.
It worked for Seb Duper, too. And he’s here to teach us how to network like a pro when you’re just a newbie freelancer. From tapping your existing connections to expanding your network through social media, Seb’s got it covered.
Take it away, Seb!
Freelancing can be a tough business. Yes, you’re free to come and go as you please, working when and where you feel like it. There is nobody left to tell you what to do. At long last, you’ve gotten a taste of freedom and you love it.
Unfortunately, all of this comes at a price.
You may sometimes feel isolated and lonely, sitting within the four walls of your home office with nobody to talk to. If things aren’t going the way you want them to be, you’re ready to quit. Every rejection, every pitch which goes unanswered hurts more than the last.
You’re just about ready to sign up for the cubicle life again.
Yes, advertising your business might bring in new customers. The trouble is that advertising is expensive.
So, how do you cope? How do you keep growing as an entrepreneur and as a person? Your best tool may be one that you take for granted. You’re probably ignoring it, too.
As a freelancer, your network is the best tool to get the word out about your business.
Your network is one of your most valuable assets. Take it from me. At the moment, over 90 percent of my business is being driven in by my network. Family, friends, ex-colleagues, social media acquaintances; I’ve tapped each and every one of these sources to ensure that the clients keep pouring in.
Here’s how you can make your network stronger and get it to work for you.
1. Use What You Already Have
The base for your network is right there under your nose. Your family, friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues are all potential business developers just waiting to help you.
The key to tapping these sources is to spread the word.
For the past year, everybody I’ve come across has heard all about what I do for a living. When they ask how I’m doing, I don’t mention that I had the flu last week or that my son lost a tooth.
Instead, I tell them about the article I posted on my blog yesterday or about the copy I wrote for a caterer’s web site. I want to make it positive – there’s no need for them to know I’m desperate for work. By doing so, I increase the probability that they’ll bring my name up when they speak with someone who’s looking for a writer.
Be careful, though. You don’t want to overdo it. Stop right before hitting the point where you’re being obnoxious.
2. Grow Your Network
Now that everybody in your inner circle is out there drumming up new business for you, it’s time for you to increase the size of your tribe.
Lucky for you, there’s a nearly infinite source of potential allies to draw from: the internet. (No, I’m not joking!)
Facebook and Twitter each have over a billion users. But how many of them can help you grow your business? More than you think.
Join Facebook groups related to your niche and introduce yourself. Join a conversation or start a new one. Most people are very friendly and will try to help you to the best of their capabilities.
These groups don’t have to be directly related to your niche, either.
You only need to be in the (right) ballpark.
For example, I joined a Facebook group comprised of freelance web designers, programmers and the like, who often have customers and/or friends looking for a translator or a content creator. I visit this group regularly and take part in some conversations.
I also watch for posts by people who are asking questions and looking for help. That’s when I swoop in and send my pitch. This group has brought me more solid leads than the professional translation groups I’m also a member of. It pays to think outside your niche when it comes to looking for leads.
On Twitter, you want to make sure you’re following the biggest influencers in your niche. Not only will you stay aware of all the trends, you will also be increasing your visibility among other followers. You never know what may come of them.
3. Maintain Your Network
Your network is like a living being. You need to show it some love if you want it to grow and produce results.
Interact with your network; visit the aforementioned Facebook groups regularly and join conversations, or start new ones. One of your influencers just tweeted an amazing quote? Retweet it, love it, quote it: they will likely see it and know you’re out there.
Obviously, the more you feed this beast, the more results you’ll get from it.
But you don’t have to stay up until 2 AM every night to post in every group you’ve joined. I sure don’t.
I’ve lost track of the number of groups I’ve joined on social media, but I make sure to spend a few minutes every day to catch up on what’s happening in at least one group. When you plan out your week, try to set aside some hours to build and maintain your network.
If you remain visible, you’ll increase your chances of getting noticed. And getting noticed is a sure-fire way to attract new customers.
Always be thankful to those who have helped you. The goal here is to give more than you get.
If friends of yours have helped you land new customers, buy them a gift, treat them to lunch or (when possible) return the favor. If you show your gratitude toward them, they will be a lot more likely to help you again in the near future.
Kindness attracts kindness.
4. Tap Former Clients
Your existing customers can also be very useful.
On top of getting a referral for your website, make sure you keep in touch with them. If you don’t, you’re leaving the door open for another writer to come in and steal the business away from you. I’ve been down that road and it’s no fun!
I try to contact my customers once a month or so, even if it’s only to say hello. They may have forgotten about me, which I don’t want. They might not need me right then and there, but at least I have reminded them that I exist and I’m there to help if they need it. It’s half the battle.
5. Get to Work
If you haven’t already started networking, or if your network has gone dead due to lack of maintenance on your part, the time to get to work is now. Don’t put it off! Every day when you’re not actively networking, chances are you’re missing out on multiple opportunities.
Are you ready to go? Start by drawing up a list of people you know (and some you don’t) who you think can help you land new clients. Family, friends, colleagues.
Cast as wide a net as you can.
If that means leaving your comfort zone, so be it; that’s where great things happen!
Now browse Facebook groups, Twitter and LinkedIn to recruit new allies. Get your name out there.
Next, set yourself a challenge. For example, you might want to double the size of your network in 30 days. Or you may wish to get 10 leads from your network within the next month or two.
I’ve done just that earlier this year, and I blew that number out of the water. It’s a domino effect: you get one lead, then two, three, and the next thing you know you’re up to 20 or 30 leads. Not all of them will lead to business right then and there, but it’s never a bad thing to plant seeds. You never know what you will harvest from it in time.
Know that leads are everywhere. You can’t afford to leave any stone unturned. If you build a strong network, you’ll have other people doing the work for you.
How do you plan to increase your network to drive new business? Let us know in the comments below!
Seb Duper is a professional writer and translator who enjoys working with entrepreneurs to build and expand their brand. He and Mireille are the proud parents of two young children and reside in La Prairie, a suburb of Montreal, Canada. Seb is working on his first collection of short stories, called Midnight Shadow Dance.