A lot of freelancers I’ve met are terrified of networking. Probably because they’re introverts and the idea of 1) attending an event filled with strangers, and 2) being expected to talk to these people and sell themselves is completely beyond their comfort zone.
Before you freak out any further, keep these four things in mind about networking:
1) Attend as many events as are relevant to you
The more you put yourself out there, the more you get back in return. No one can hire you if they don’t know you exist. Below is a list of organizations and groups that put on events, offer excellent member resources and provide regular networking opportunities. Some of these organizations are (inter)national, but most of those listed are located in the Portland-Metro area. More than likely you’ll find similar organizations all over the place once you start looking for them:
- LeTip (National organization/networking group)
- I Take the Lead (National organization/networking group)
- Portland Business Alliance (Portland Chamber of Commerce)
- Portland Area Business Association (PABA–Portland’s Gay Chamber of Commerce)
- The Schmooze (Networking event)
- Portland Green Drinks (Networking event focused on sustainability)
- BNI (National organization/networking group)
- American Marketing Association (Portland Chapter)
- AIGA (National graphic designer group)
- Portland Business Journal
- Portland Ad Federation
PDXnex (List of networking events, education opportunities, and resources for Portland creatives)
2) Your friends are your friends
In order to find the highest quality events in your area, I would recommend asking everyone in your local network for networking event recommendations. Where do they go? What events and strategies have they found to be useful? Explore everything and see what works for you.
3) Networking isn’t limited to networking events
Networking opportunities don’t have to be called “networking events” in order for you to network. Going to a wedding is an opportunity to meet new people and share what it is you do with others. So is talking to the person in front of you in the checkout line, or striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the plane. Every time you’re around people is a potential networking opportunity. You don’t have to network at every opportunity…but you could!
4) Stay in touch with your new connections
Similar to the prospective clients you’ve cold-called, stay in contact with relevant contacts you meet at these events. Always get a card from them and follow-up with a LinkedIn invitation the day after the event, or a “It was nice meeting you” email.
For those contacts that I want to work with, in this email I’ll also ask them if they’d like to get together for coffee in the next week or two. That way I get to know them, they get to know me, and the next time they need a copywriter, I’ll be top-of-mind. And vice versa when I meet someone who needs what that new connection does.
I understand that getting out there can be hard, but your business depends on you doing it. And you don’t have to do it alone! Ask a friend or colleague to go to an event with you so you have at least that person to stick close to.
What networking events do you go to in Portland? How have you overcome your discomfort with networking?
Totally agreed. Networking and referrals is one of the biggest growth drivers for my business. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable going to gatherings, but the funny thing is that most everyone else feels exactly the same way. And, of course, not every event will be right for you, but there is at least one event that will be the right fit.
And a good way to discover the “right fit” is to learn if it’s peopled by folks you want to work with; I think many writers would be surprised by how many business owners out there need their help.