The last strategy in the Finding Clients series is to expand your network – meeting new contacts in as many ways as possible and showing them just what an asset you might be to their professional life.
What it means:
To expand your network, you need to make yourself more visible to others in your industry – predominantly through social media and networking events. You show yourself to be an expert in your area and make sure you are very generous with your time and advice. Although this can be a strategy for seeking clients in its own right, it’s also a great complement to other strategies, making it much more likely that any initial connection will turn into a genuine prospect.
How it works :
- First, set up a professional profile/page on the social media sites where your clients hang out (don’t use your personal profile where you talk about your kids/hangovers/favourite TV shows).
- Make connections with as many people as possible – potential clients, other freelancers, people associated with your industry and anyone who shows an interest in you (even if they don’t seem immediately relevant to your business).
- Then make yourself helpful – seriously helpful – to as many of these people as possible. Share their updates, promote their work, watch out for conversations where you could provide genuine advice, introduce them to other relevant connections, and so on.
- Join LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages or other forums where people are discussing your area of expertise. Watch the conversation for a while to judge the situation, then start offering advice.
- Particularly try to identify the key influencers in your industry and make yourself known (and helpful) to them. Sometimes it only takes a single share from one of those people to give your profile a real boost.
- Don’t just go wading into any of these environments with a loud-hailer to talk about your own services. Although it’s fine to occasionally mention what you do, or provide links to your own site, you should try to ensure that the majority of your contributions either simply build relationships or offer free help with no strings attached.
- When the time comes for one of your connections to need your skillset, they may remember your helpful attitude and might just get in touch. It also means you’re more likely to hear the buzz when opportunities arise.
- You can repeat the same process with people you meet through networking events. Find out their preferred way to keep in touch, and look out for opportunities to help them.
The Freelance Parents View:
To me, social media is the perfect way for parents to do networking without having to go to all of those business breakfasts and evening seminars which clash so perfectly with the school run or bedtime. Tweeting, liking and commenting can be slotted in throughout the day (even when children are around), and what’s more, it feels like a bit of a party.
Giving advice (along with a brief mention that you do this for a living) doesn’t feel like the hard sell – it feels good to help others. Your network is also likely to start snowballing, as people repay the favour of connecting you with others and promoting your services.
What other freelancers say:
I got my first client via a cry for “a pair of hands” on Twitter. Still copywriting & tweeting 3 years on!
I got my first client from Twitter… He had seen me about and when he was looking for help with his new business, he emailed me. We were a good fit, he liked my prices, first client!
My first ever freelancing client was found during a weekly #DevonHour Twitter chat. In a burst of spontaneity I tweeted that I was a freelance writer, taking on clients and within five minutes, I had my very first offer from a local website design company!
To round up:
Remember that the key to expanding your network is to be visible, be friendly and be helpful. It’s a relatively long term and potentially time-consuming strategy, but one every freelancer should include in their toolkit these days.
Each of the potential networking ‘venues’ is a massive topic in it’s own right, to which I couldn’t possibly do justice in this single post. Luckily there are lots of excellent resources on the web for further reading. Here are a few of my own favourites:
Before you go, I’d love to know – do you prefer to network face-to-face or online?