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When we talk about professional development, we usually discuss courses, congresses, diplomas, etc, often ignoring the importance of creating and maintaining a good network. But the ability of developing good networking is an essential quality in the current job market, especially for those who work as freelancers. Thinking about that, we decided to give you some valuable tips so that you can improve networking and have a positive impact in your career. Check out:

1. Have a strategy

Increasing your circle of contacts should be seen as a fundamental part of your job. So, don't go around randomly distributing business cards. A solid, and truly professionally network can't be built without a strategy outlined.

Answer questions like what are you looking for in your network, what impression you want to make, what are your professional interests and what places like people you want to meet usually go.

Knowing what you are looking for is essential for acquiring good networking as well as for having a positive exchange, both professionally and personally.

2. Look at your social circle

While meeting new people is, and will always be essential, don't forget about the circles you participate in and those who are close to you. Often, the eagerness to get new contacts make people forget some ‘obvious” and valuable connections and miss great opportunities.

So make a list of places that you go where it would be interesting to expand your professional network, and don't be afraid of starting conversations with people who you always greet, but never speaks with. Because... who knows?

There is no right place to develop your networking, you just need sensitivity so that you can feel whether there’s space or not to approach someone. As I said in the first topic, you won’t go around distributing cards, but rather establishing good connections with the people around you.

3. Don't show up looking for favors

There is nothing more inconvenient and negative than showing up only when you need a favor. Keep in mind that networking is not necessarily accumulating cards down your sleeve to solve your possible problems, but building a network that recognizes you as part of the community, admires your work and knows your skills.

Let exchanges and help flow naturally, without you needing to look like an opportunist wanting to use people. While you don’t need to become friends with your work connections, make sure you treat them with warmth. Send messages, events invitations, and, most importantly, make yourself available.

4. Use the internet to your advantage

It is impossible to ignore the power that the internet has in our activities, whether personal or professional. So use this tool to improve your network. Be active on social networks, especially on LinkedIn.

There is no point in exchanging cards at events if you do not develop and deepen this initial relationship. So it may be time to gather all those business cards you’ve got from people and plan the best activation strategy for each one. Have you added them on Linkedin? This can be a good start. Show up, be active and gain visibility.

When it comes to Linkedin, if you are looking to expand and make new connections with professionals in your area, you need to have attention to the details. Make sure to update your profile with the most relevant information about your career as well as optimize your profile with  keywords that can be easily found by other professionals and recruiters. Try to leave it as complete as possible, as it is unlikely that the person who entered your profile will enter again.

Finally, a more informal yet great way to find freelance work (especially part-time) are Facebook groups. In this case, the key thing is to join the right groups, meaning, groups where your customers are or where you’ll likely find opportunities within your industry. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, join a group of small business owners/online entrepreneurs (who may need graphic design work), as well as groups such as “Freelance Designers”.

If you’re not a Facebook - or social media - fan, let it intimidate you. Remember that the goal behind these strategies are to take the conversation out of the platform. You may start the chat through Linkedin or Facebook, but hopefully, you won’t continue it there - you’ll change it to email, phone, or video call to close the deal.

5. Be a reference

People want to connect with those who have added value, so never stop investing in your personal and professional growth. Keep up to date, participating in courses, lectures and workshops and seek to be a reference in your work.

Staying focused on your development is one of the most effective ways to improve networking, since, by having your value recognized, people will want to contact you - and not the other way around.

6. Cultivate more personal relationships

Finally, make your relationships personal. No standard messages or talking only about superficial things. Focus on each person you think is important to your network and identify what your common interests are.

It can be football, other sports, beer, music, travel, among others. It is easier to establish a network of contacts when there is an identification that goes beyond the professional, since the exchange ends up flowing even more naturally. Many professionals have immense contact networks, but they are malnourished. It’s more valuable to keep fewer and closer contacts than a big list of strangers.

Many people wonder about how they can improve networking, thinking that this is a very difficult task and intended only for extroverted and popular people. If you take anything from this article with you, let it be the fact that that’s simply not true. Everyone is capable of developing a good network of professional contacts with the willingness and knowledge to do so.

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