Networking is an important part of freelancing but it can be difficult discerning which events are a good use of time and which aren’t.
Networking for freelancers
Being at the right place at the right time and meeting the right person could make all the difference to your freelance writing business.
The good news is, there are many in-person and virtual networking events to choose from.
The bad news is there are many in-person and virtual networking events to choose from.
Here are a few ideas and suggestions for making the most of your valuable networking time and energy. And yes, this applies to you even if you’re an introvert.
Extra reading: How to Choose a Writers Group
Tip 1: Have something to say
I’ve mentioned this tip before (in Meeting Your Ideal Client in Person) but it bears repeating. Before the networking event, prepare a few talking points ahead of time. These will change based on the type of people you’re meeting with but here are a few examples.
- Networking with other freelance writers? Think about industry questions you have or helpful introductions you can make. And why not prepare a few anecdotes about the writing life too?
- Attending an event for business owners? Revisit your elevator pitch and make sure it’s updated and accurate. Practice it a couple times. Have business cards handy if it’s an in-person do
- Participating in a writing conference? If you were teaching a workshop you would prepare ahead of time, treat conference attendance in the same way. Figure out ways to maximize your learning time but also your writing time. Prep answers to common questions like “What are you working on these days,” “What type of writing do you do,” etc. And think of a few creative questions to keep the conversation going
Tip 2: Prepare ahead of time
Whenever I attend an in-person event I try and look at the venue layout ahead of time. This is especially helpful when I have meetings or appointments lined up and want to make sure I show up on time and avoid getting lost.
At a smaller event, perhaps at a restaurant, I try and get a sense for how formal/informal it is and how the flow works. As much as possible I like to have a handle on what’s expected.
Something I haven’t done well at in-person events, but something I always appreciate when others do, is having some sort of name badge to help ease networking. Printing branded lanyards help you ooze professionalism and avoid the dreaded question, “Sorry…what was your name again?”
Tip 3: Have swag, if it makes sense
Maybe it’s cheesy. Perhaps even old school. But when I look at my pen collection I see it’s 90% branded swag from businesses.
While I don’t recommend spending a fortune on merch or even putting much thought into it, good swag can go a long way.
When it makes sense, invest in good marketing materials and some pieces of merchandise that you know that people are going to find useful.
Tip 4: Make connections and follow up
While it’s possible to book a new client or gain a referral in the midst of a networking frenzy, oftentimes the magic happens afterward. When you follow up.
So even if you’re not a business card person, find a way to exchange information. Here are a few ideas.
- Ask for their email addresses to stay in touch
- Or, if it makes sense, ask if you can add them to your email list
- Ask for their Instagram handle (or other social media profile info) and follow them
- Invite them to a future event they may find fun/interesting
- Take a photo of them at the event and offer to text it to them (don’t be creepy!)
Once the event is over, start following up with your new connections and/or leads within a few days. This should start a number of productive conversations and may even develop into new clients down the road.
Extra reading: How to Get More Email Subscribers
Tip 5: Look for extra opportunities
If the event is a good fit for you and your business, let the event planners know you’re interested in being more involved.
This could include:
- Speaking at the event
- Helping spread the word ahead of time
- Sponsoring a giveaway
- Volunteering in some capacity
- Joining the organization
Not only will this raise your profile, but it will also enhance your reputation as an entrepreneur and influencer in your sector, improving your credibility with potential clients.
Tip 6: Calculate your ROI
While networking events are fun and all, it’s also important to evaluate their effectiveness for your business.
The return on investment calculation is simple. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Add up all of your costs, including travel, accommodation and time spent and then record the business impact of attending the event. Financial benefits like new clients or opportunities may not show up right away, so keep in mind the true value of the event may not be apparent for some months. Revisit your event ROI report every few months and update it. Give it time, but not too much time.
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