Why Face-to-Face Networking Still Matters for Freelancers
This article was submitted by Anna Johannson and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork. Find out how you can contribute to Upwork and promote your content.
For freelancers, networking is one of the most important aspects of building your brand and attracting clients. Unfortunately, many of today’s freelancers are under the impression that all networking takes place online, when the reality is that relationships are best built in face-to-face situations.
4 tips for in-person networking
Face-to-face networking is more challenging than online/social networking – that’s for sure. But when something is more difficult, it usually means it’s worth it. This is certainly true with networking. Using the following tips and techniques, you can give your in-person networking skills a boost.
1. Nail the intro
The introduction is one of the most important and impressionable aspects of networking. The first few seconds you have in front of someone will, to a large degree, determine how they feel about you. You don’t want to get it wrong. Visually, you want to be sure you don’t look sloppy or disheveled. A clean, neat appearance shows that you care about yourself and are capable of making responsible choices. Physically, a firm handshake, eye contact, and a smile go a long way towards establishing trust and creating a connection. Verbally, you should have an effective 15-to 30-second intro prepared. It doesn’t need to be your entire elevator speech, but just enough to pique the other person’s interest.
2. Actually listen
Naturally, you have selfish intentions for networking opportunities. Your goal is to make yourself known and connect with people who can help propel you forward. But remember that networking is supposed to be mutually beneficial. In order to help the person you’re interacting with (as well as yourself) listen up. By listening, you’re showing the other person that you care. When they feel like you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying, they’re more likely to have a positive impression of who you are. Secondly, listening allows you to process information and gives you a better chance of actually remembering and recalling the individual down the road.
3. Carry your portfolio
As a freelancer, your portfolio is your biggest element of social proof. Any freelancer can walk up to someone at a networking event and say, “I design really beautiful websites.” It’s much more effective if you can show proof in the form of a physical portfolio. These days, it’s incredibly easy to design a portfolio. In fact, it’s so cost-effective that you can actually print off a stack of them and give them to people you meet at networking events (rather than telling them to visit your online portfolio, which few will take the time to do).
4. Know how to follow up
In most cases, a single meeting at a networking event doesn’t result in a strong relationship. You’ll have to follow up in order to begin building the connection. And while there are a variety of ways to follow up, it all starts with a quick email within 24 to 36 hours. “Simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and try to reflect back on a point from the conversation,” YEC Women explains. “Something like, ‘It was so nice to meet you at the Chamber of Commerce event last night! Best of luck with your son’s baseball championship this weekend!’”
Maximize your opportunities
When you get the opportunity to shake hands with a prospective client or an important figure in your industry, you have to seize it. One chance might be all you ever get and you can’t let it slip away without putting forth your best effort. While networking can be awkward and tiring at times, it’s almost always worth it. Hone your skills and begin to grow your network (both in size and quality). As a freelancer, you never know when one connection could lead to a big break.
This story was submitted by Anna Johansson and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.