First you should create a networking contact list. Do you have a customer list? Why not pull out all those business cards in your wallet/purse/handbag/desk drawer that you have collected over who knows how long, and try creating a contact list as well. Without a contact list, it’s easy to forget to contact a prospective client that you recently met or communicated with. By creating a contact list, you can check in with client prospects on a regular basis. Joining groups is another great way to network, professional groups are good for networking.
Make sure that you have the right tools for face-to-face networking. When you attend events where you are likely to have networking opportunities, be sure to take along your business cards, an updated copy of your resume if necessary, and something that describes the freelancing services that you provide,ie a brochure. Dress appropriately for the occasion, but avoid being too casual or too formal. Remember, you want to convey a professional image even before anyone actually speaks with you.
Practice what to say, but don’t repeat the same speech to every individual in the room when meeting them one on one. If you get nervous when speaking to others, it’s a good idea to practice in advance what you will say if someone asks about your business. There is nothing worse than getting tongue-tied.
If you are in a social setting and no one is talking to you, reach out and make that first contact. Introduce yourself and ask your new contact a few things about themselves. Before you attend the event, give some thought to what types of individuals you are likely to meet and which types are likely to be prospects for your business. When you get there, try to seek these individuals out.
Don’t forget to listen.You won’t learn anything about the person you just met if you don’t listen to what they have to say. Be sure to listen actively, and learn as much as you can about them. Ask questions and provide feedback during the conversation.
Why not volunteer to give a presentation. A quick way to position yourself as an expert in your field is to volunteer to talk about your speciality, at a professional organization or to teach a class. Your presentation will likely be attended by some who might be interested in your services. Be sure to get a list (with contact information) of attendees from the organization where you speak. Include your contact information on all handouts.
Connect your online and offline contacts. If you meet someone at a professional society, in a class, or at an organization you can offer to connect with them online by asking if they have a social media account such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter that you can use to stay in touch (but remain respectful if they say no). Be sure to provide them with your social media information as well.
Make sure your social media accounts are professional. If you are going to use your social media accounts to network for your freelancing business clean up your social media act. It’s okay to be a real person, but remove anything that others might consider risqué or offensive.
Make sure your social media accounts are complete. If you are using your social media accounts to network with potential clients, make sure that your profile information is complete. At a minimum, it should have a brief overview of what you do and also include another way for prospective clients to communicate with you.
People are attracted to those who are genuinely nice and helpful. Don’t just go on and on about yourself. If you know of something that would be of interest to your new contact, share it. If you can introduce them to someone who can help them out in their business in a way that you cannot, do it. Remember, good deeds build goodwill.