When you think about networking, do you visualize a bunch of people standing around schmoozing, trying to pitch their services to each other while exchanging business cards and “elevator speeches”?
You know, some people actually enjoy that sort of thing. And when they do it right (which is a rare talent), they reap genuine rewards. Rewards such as new clients, joint venture partners, knowledgeable advisors, helpful friends… in other words, mutually beneficial relationships.
But for many of us, the idea of going to a networking event ranks right up there with bathing an angry cat. Even if we think it ought to be done, we’d rather be flea food.
Don’t worry. There’s much more – and less – to networking than you think! You can reap the same wonderful rewards without having to mingle with a bunch of strangers.
Important: With any kind of networking, the key is to build powerful relationships by giving. Give your attention, advice, ideas, suggestions, support, compliments, referrals – and maybe even your business – to others. Give, give, give… then receive more than you can imagine!
There are many ways you can get freelance work by networking, even if you hate schmoozing. Below are four powerful examples.
1. Tell your family and friends about your online business.
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many people fail to do this.
You don’t have to pitch your services/products to your family and friends, but you certainly should not be keeping them secret! You’ll have many opportunities during normal conversations to mention that you enjoy internet marketing and earning money with your online activities. Just plant the seed and eventually it can grow into unexpected business.
And remember, even if your family and friends have no need for the products/services you offer, it’s very likely that they know someone who does.
Key: Every person has connections to an average of 250 other people. When you decide not to mention your services to cousin Annie and neighbor Tom, you’re missing an opportunity to offer your services to hundreds of people they know!
2. Engage in virtual networking.
You do this online, from the comfort of your home office. Besides the benefits of not having to deal with people face-to-face, virtual networking allows you to create contact lists and join online communities comprised of people from all over the world. Most of these people you would probably never meet in any other way. Your virtual network can grow larger and faster than any form of traditional network.
Are you on someone’s email list? (Of course you are!) When they ask for opinions, give yours. When they raise an issue that’s of interest to you, send them a response about it. If they’re selling something you can benefit from (and it fits your budget), buy it – then give them positive feedback about it.
Key: Become someone they know and enjoy hearing from, rather than just one of the many anonymous names on their mailing list.
Participate in online discussion forums, especially those where your ideal clients hang out. Lurk before you leap so you don’t jump in and accidentally make a fool of yourself (not good for winning clients). Read the posts, get a feel for the ambiance. When you have something worthwhile to contribute, start participating. If the forum rules allow it, include a signature block that has a link to your website. But do NOT sell your services! Give valuable advice freely. The idea is to show your knowledge, expertise and desire to help others.
Key: Eventually the forum members will get to know you, like you and trust you. The next natural step for them is to think of you when they (or people in their network) need the products/services you provide!
3. Show off your talent.
Write, write, write! Submit articles to online article directories, write reports and/or e-books, create your own website and e-zine – put yourself and your knowledge/skills on display, always including your contact information. When appropriate, offer to provide free special reports or articles for people with whom you’re building connections through your virtual networking activities.
Consider giving free workshops related to your niche through your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or other groups. If you have a job, check into offering “brownbag” (lunchtime) sessions on topics such as “10 Tips for More Earning Money Online in Your Spare Time” for your coworkers.
Key: You want to become the obvious person people will think of when they need your expertise, or the products/services you provide.
4. Attend seminars.
What types of seminars, workshops, conferences or meetings do your customers attend? Go to those events. They are networking goldmines and offer many opportunities to engage in natural conversations with people you want to meet. You don’t have to schmooze or pitch your services. Just be friendly, ask questions, participate in discussions, and be yourself.
Key: You’ll not only learn about the specific issues and topics your target customers are interested in, you’ll build relationships with them at the same time!