Squeeee, this is one of my favourite freelancing topics of all time. Predominantly because I hold mine dear to my heart. It has created opportunities beyond my (previous imposter-syndrome self’s) imagination. Can you guess what I’m on about?
N is for… Networking!
I know well the feeling of dread that this word can conjure. I remember like it was yesterday the first networking event I went to in my late teens as a representative of a student organisation I had just joined and knew little about. I recall sitting at breakfast meetings, hovering around buffets, and wishing to be invisible while waiting to talk to someone without rudely butting in.
There’s only one word for it.
Many of these early in-person networking events reaped no rewards, business-wise. I made few contacts and would often get “stuck” talking to someone completely irrelevant, who wouldn’t quit gabbing about their opaque, weird, hippy, dull or unlikely business.
When there was someone relevant to talk to, I didn’t have the guts to strike up a conversation, frequently bailing on making the approach. Apparently, seasoned networkers aren’t impressed by any amount of nervous smiling and openers I rehearsed in my head and wished I’d said out loud. Go figure.
Then of course, when I was brave enough to talk to someone, I failed to articulate in a coherent and succinct way what I could do.
The thing is that networking feels icky, salesy, like people are always looking over your shoulder for someone better to corner.
That doesn’t have to be true though, if you look at it from the point of view of having an open dialogue with like-minded people and seeing what areas of common interest you have.
As an online business owner, I decided to build my network rather differently to how it worked back in the day. I have more meaningful conversations in all forums now, not just in person, but online, within groups, and in programmes. It’s much more lucrative now, because it’s more authentic. It also helps me get through the day because I relish making connections.
I’ve turned awkward around in my head. I’ve started looking at what I can give, not what I can get, a trick learned from Marie Forleo in this awesome video.
Top 5 All-Time Favourite And Most Lucrative Networks
- WE Mastermind – I rave about masterminds all the time. And this one really upped my level with who I was hanging out with. I’ve had referrals from WEM and even worked with one or two of the women in the group. Run by Natalie MacNeil and Natalie Sisson, the feel of this group is very supportive and driven, with an emphasis on women entrepreneurs launching online products or services.
- BSchool – The best investment I’ve ever made. This is actually an online programme about digital marketing for women running their own businesses. The community, though, is GOLD! The majority of my contacts in my first year in business came via BSchool. (I really have a lot to thank Marie Forleo for!)
- Twitter – I find that writers and editors have a bit of a thing for Twitter, so that’s been my social network focus. It hasn’t converted as much as it might, but I’m building a following out there. Watch this space! Twitter is perfect because you can connect with anyone, anywhere. Of course, whether they engage is an entirely different matter, but personal access to people is second-to-none.
- Friends – Start socialising! You have friends. You hang out. They’re people you like. They’re people who like you. Ergo, they might wish to plug your services from time to time. They can only pimp you out if they know what you do though! I’ve worked for many of my friends or friends’ friends in the past, transcribing interviews for a uni friend, summarising European Parliament documents for a friend in Brussels, copyediting the website of a Masters colleague
- LinkedIn Groups – I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t for LinkedIn Groups I wouldn’t have sold a single copy of my book! For that matter, I wouldn’t have written my book. Get into relevant forums, answer questions, ask questions, and occasionally plug your stuff (classily, always!)