When freelancers ask me what type of marketing is the easiest, costs the least, and yields the best results, I don't hesitate to recommend networking. Networking satisfies two primary prerequisites to secure clients. These two prerequisites are:
- Creating rapport. Networking has the ability to create strong rapport. When you have rapport you and the prospect feel at ease with each other, and conversation flows. Rapport creates feelings of trust and honesty. Prospects who trust you usually do not have second thoughts about outsourcing work to you.
- Establishing a relationship. When you establish a relationship, the prospect develops an awareness as to who you are, what you do, and what your intentions are. Relationships keep your name fresh in the prospect's mind; relationships create feelings of intimacy, trust, and rapport. Relationships have the secret power to turn prospects into paying clients, because the prospect knows you on a first name basis, knows what your intentions are, knows how your skills and services can benefit him and his business. He connects strongly with you.
Networking builds effective relationships faster than any other type of marketing. Many beginning freelancers acquire their first paying clients via networking or through people whom they know (the rapport and relationship already exist). And professional freelancers often expand their existing client-base via networking — asking clients, friends, other freelancers, etc. if they know people who can use their freelance services.
Where to Network Effectively
Professionals suggest you join two types of associations: The first type is a local association that attracts freelancers of your discipline. If you do commercial copywriting work, join a local writer's association. Many local writers’ associations offer referral systems and job banks to help you receive work. The other benefit is that you will meet other freelancers who'll ask you to assist on their projects or refer their clients to you for freelance or supplementary services.
The second type of association to join is one where your type of clients congregate. Why spend hundreds of dollars targeting your audience with expensive marketing, when joining a local association that attracts your type of clients lets you sell directly to them via networking.
How to Network Effectively
Networking is only as effective as you are: the more visible you make yourself, the better networking works. Always arrive ten to fifteen minutes early for each meeting or social gathering and mingle with people. Let everyone know who you are and what you do. Most importantly, make an effort to establish relationships with people. When people know who you are and what you do, they'll know more about your business, how your freelance services can help them, and that you're available for hire.
Nurture a habit to network on a consistent, repetitious basis. You'll want people to become familiar with your face and recognize your presence at each gathering. Because many people seem passive at gatherings, try to make an effort to become active. Strike up conversations with people; pretend you're interested in what they're saying, even if you're not. Be a good, active listener.
Remember: conversations are the crux of effective networking. Simple one-on-one chatter allows the prospect to uncover more about you, and you're able to find out more about him, his hidden needs, and his hidden problems.
Networking should not be used for personal gain. You should not blatantly promote yourself to people, otherwise they'll begin to ignore you. Instead, strike up conversations with people and subtly sell yourself. When people begin to take an interest in you as a person, then they'll begin to take an interest as to how you can help them.
What You Need to Network Effectively
Business cards are often synonymous with networking: don't leave home without them. Pass your business cards out to any person who seems interested in your services. Business cards give prospects contact information and they keep your name and business fresh in their minds. If prospects are not interested in outsourcing work to you now, they'll at least have your business card on file to contact you in the future.
- Always bring your business cards. Hand them out to anyone who might be interested in your services.
- Instead of being the listener, become the speaker. Prepare a presentation related to your expertise and specialty in your field for a future meeting. Prospects will be impressed with your knowledge and skills and they’ll want to hire you for their next project.
- Offer a free report to the organization's members. Your free report should relate to your specialty that offers professional advice. Again, prospects who'll read your free report will find you informative and insightful and will think about hiring you for their next project. See if you can get your free report mentioned in the organization's newsletter.
- Distribute promotional and informational material. If you know that a certain meeting or workshop is related to your specialty, ask the speaker if he/she would like to distribute some of your free information to the audience at the end. This may include a free report, or an article that you've written, or your own business newsletter that contains useful tips and advice.
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About The Author
Brian Konradt is a former freelance copywriter and graphic designer, and founder of FreelanceWriting.com (http://www.freelancewriting.com ), a free web site to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance writing.