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Meeting potential clients through networking

You have the skills to start a freelance business. There’s just one thing you need - the clients. 

How do you find the right people, the ones who want your services, the ones that you want to work with, and the ones that can pay what you’re worth? 

Networking and making connections can make a huge difference in the success of your freelance business. When you network, use the connections you have -- whether in real life or virtually -- as a resource for finding people to do business with. 

Where Can You Start Finding People Who Might Want to Hire Your Freelance Business?

Start with your own personal networks, but don't stop there. Once you’ve let family members, friends and past colleagues know you’re in the market for new business, reach out to others beyond your immediate circle of influence. 

Social Media 

Start posting on social media, sharing information and knowledge, and developing a position of authority as a thought leader. When people are wondering about services in your field, you’ll be the first person they come to with questions, and eventually with work opportunities. 

In addition, social media groups can be a great way to start networking with people outside your local area. You can join groups with others in a specific field (like a group for writers) or with others also in the freelance industry. 

Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce can connect you with local small businesses. They tend to be filled with professionals across a wide variety of industries, from retail to restaurants to marketing and other professional services. 

You may also be able to join other local civic groups, like Junior League or Rotary Club. And, professional organizations like the Public Relations Society of America or the American Marketing Association can offer access to a group of knowledgeable professionals and a built-in referral network. 

If you’re a person who likes to present and share information, many local chambers and other organizations often look for experts to speak on panels or at monthly gatherings. When presenting on a topic at these events, you have the opportunity to highlight expertise, build connections and create a stronger base of prospects. 

Small Business Support Organizations

Many colleges and universities include a small business development center, where you can access educational materials, attend workshops and more.

Connecting with these programs can provide access to knowledgeable professionals who can support your business and who can help you plug into the community, strengthening your overall network. 

How Should You Connect with People? 

When connecting with people, make sure you tell a compelling story. 

Practice an elevator pitch - a concise 30-second to one-minute speech that focuses on your personal brand value. It should tell who you are, what you do and why it matters. Use this judiciously; don’t just blurt it out at the beginning of any conversation with anyone new. 

If you’re meeting people in person, have a business card ready to provide them. If you’re meeting people virtually, your business card might be a website link and/or online portfolio. Spend time making sure your site’s content is in good shape, focuses on the right message story and compels people to learn more about you and your services. 

And, in either case, virtual or in-person, provide an email address or get theirs. You can reach out by email to thank them for the connection, share useful information and keep a conversation going. 

In addition to your regular work, create tasks for yourself to follow up and stay in touch with the people in your personal network. Email them, plan a lunch or a phone conversation, or comment on their social media posts. Staying connected makes it easier to stay top of mind when they need resources you can provide. 

How Do You Network During Social Distancing? 

Social distancing can make it difficult to meet new people.

However, you can continue to network on social media. Many people have become even more active on platforms and in groups because they’re seeking additional connection during a lonely time. 

Watch for events from local community and professional organizations as well. Many of them are coming up with novel ways to virtually network or make introductions even when people can’t be together in large groups. 

Along with groups, continue building your network person by person. Look for people in your field or for potential clients on social media, then connect with them there or find their email address and write them a brief message. 

Your first outreach shouldn’t be a complete sales pitch. Honestly share your interest in getting to know them and offer them something of value, like an article or digital download that might resonate with them. When they see you as a useful source of information, they’re more likely to keep you and your freelance business in mind for the future. 

As a freelancer, networking must be part of your business, since you’re responsible for both doing great work and managing your business development efforts. If you do all you can to grow your knowledge, develop your personal networks and make yourself visible on social media, you’ll see your efforts pay off with connections and business growth.

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