Growing a solid client/gig roster may seem daunting at first, but the truth is, there is one thing we all can all do immediately to get clients: build a great network. A large, diverse professional (and personal) network is a freelancer’s first and best weapon in the fight to win clients. After all, you never know who might need your services until you ask them.
We looked to the The Freelancer’s Bible for some “best practices” for connecting with new customers as you start looking for gigs:
Find Your Networking Style
Your style should mesh with your personality and habits, with gentle stretches in new directions. If “networking” makes you feel uncomfortable, call it something else: reaching out, connecting, talking, sharing, contacting, or meeting. Seriously. Use another word. Networking is far more effective (and enjoyable) when the idea isn’t so intimidating.
If working the room at random meet-ups isn’t for you, join a professional association and go to their events. Make small talk; get to know people. Keep showing up and you’ll soon be a regular welcoming the newbies. Then those meet-ups might not feel like such a dread fest.
If you hadn’t thought about freelancing before, branching off from a full-time job is one of the easiest ways to get your feet wet . Once you get the word out, you will start to be approached by co-workers and clients of your company periodically for help on a side project. These can be great starter jobs to get familiar with the process and build confidence in taking on more.
Open Your “Love Bank Account”
Often when people think of networking, they think, “What can I get?” That leads to the obnoxious, stereotypical networking we all hate to run into, or to anxiety-ridden encounters where you feel that you failed if you come away without landing a gig. Build a “Love Bank Account” by thinking of all the ways you can be helpful and start giving to those around you. After some robust giving, you can start to ask for help, advice, brainstorming, et cetera.
Changing your mindset to “What can I give?” makes it much easier connect to others because there’s nothing to worry about or fail at. Others will give back in their way. If you feel all the love’s coming from you, move on and show it to someone who appreciates what you bring to the party.
Two things to remember:
People don’t appreciate those who expect a “get” for every “give”. You want to set yourself up for long term success as a freelancer: Colleague A recommends you for a huge project they can’t take on, and is even spending some time giving direction on how to proceed. Colleague B refers work to you and asks for a kickback for the referral. Who would you appreciate more?
When someone gives you something, don’t ask for more. For example: If someone introduces you to a potential client, don’t ask them to “put in a good word “ for you. Once the introduction is made, It’s up to you to continue building the relationship
Do The Follow-Up Three-Step
You met some interesting people at an event, and they might be clients you want to work with. You’ve also collected their contact info; now it’s time for the Follow-Up Three-Step:
Personalize: When you get home, jot down some key words on their cards about what you talked about, including personal details.
Organize: Add them to your contacts list and include the notes.
Actualize: A couple of days later, call or email one or two of your new contacts and suggest getting together. Get into this habit and see how it accelerates your networking. Send emails to the others (create a template that you can personalize) saying it was nice to meet them and talk about such-and-such.
Don’t write off the contact if they don’t get in touch right away. Here’s where those notes on what you talked about come in handy; you’ll still be able to follow up, even after some time has passed.
Remember The Magic Words
Whether client or colleague, “thank you” has boundless power. Especially when someone gives you work leads, thank them and let them know what happened, even if it didn’t work out.
Getting a client roster together isn’t easy, especially when you’re just starting out. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll be surprised at what happens when you do a little love banking, and develop a willingness to throw yourself in the path of opportunity.
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