If you had been in the freelance world, for sure, you won’t get into it and be successful with it without getting into networking. Remember the adage that “no man is an island”? This can be linked to the value of networking. The adage is not merely about surviving with other people but it is also about surviving a career with the help of the people around you. No man can ever succeed in a business without clients. Same as clients can never be successful with their own things without the aid of other business people.
Look at this scenario. A certain town is comprised of various businesses. Let us say there is a printing company which prints newspapers, calling cards and others. Do you think they will survive without an existing newspaper company with writers, reporters and editors? Or will they survive if there are no other businesses around them that would need calling cards, brochures and tarpaulins? No, they won’t. That is a bigger scene for network but for this post, we will look into our own little worlds. How can you grow your freelance career through your network? Is it really important to establish one? If so, how can you establish a network?
What is Networking
Simply looking at the image will give you an idea of what networking is. People connected to each other. Networking is like planting a vine that every good soil it touches allows it to spread a root. It’s like reaching into a limitless world of roots. These roots are the people that can get into your network which are connected with the healthy green vine. Amazingly, a network really works like a vine since it would reach out and grow in any possible way it could, creating extensions from every root until it grows very very long. The thing is, you won’t be able to notice how long it is already unless you pick up that vine and stretch it. That is how your network will be if you will have a good foundation and if you are able to take care of it all the time.
Networking is something that you have been doing ever since you were a child. Your friends while you were still in grade school are still relevant part of your network today. Even your playmates that you used to play hide and seek with are also part of your network. You may not know how important they are right now but time will come that you will remember them especially when you need them or when situations arise that would connect you to them. Up to this day, you are still expanding and extending your network whether you are exposed to people or merely working online.
When we speak of business networking, it points to the kind of networking that is intended to increase business. This can be done by associating with people who will not merely play a vital role in your network but would also increase the growth of it. But in this kind of world, networking succeeds when you are able to plant seeds that could grow and last through time. That can be done if there are mutual relationships by creating win-win situations. So, since we are done in giving you ideas on what networking is, let us jump in to why networking is important.
Why Networking is Important
If you are not yet fully aware of the importance of networking, we will give you 10 reasons why you should start doing it. The points we will be mentioning below gives weight to how significant networking for you and your career is. This could also motivate you to start creating a network if you haven’t made one.
1. Get clients.
There is no better way to get clients than networking. With the people in your network, you will find it easier to get clients since they can be your clients or they can also refer you to people in their network. The bigger your network is, the more chances it is for you to get clients.
2. Get to know people of the same niche.
The advantage of knowing people from the same niche is that you only not make friends with them but you will also be able to seek for their help and advice. When you are working on something and you are uncertain about it, you can consult your friends that work on the same niche. For sure, they can give you professional help for it.
3. Get more chances of exposure.
Having a network will also expose you to more people. No one can hire you if they do not know where you are good at. No one will also know that you are a designer if you won’t expose your skills. When you have many people in your network, it is like you are performing on stage with so many audiences watching you. That would be more fulfilling than only having two or three people in the audience.
4. Learn more about your field.
Networking is not just about people. It is also about learning. With the people in your network, you can get new things from them. Like with your online friends, you will learn from the things they share online. For people that you get to talk personally, you will also get from their experiences especially in terms of design and freelance.
5. Develop interpersonal skills.
When we speak of networking, it is about interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are about how you interact and communicate with other people. This is important especially for business people. One’s ability to listen and understand what the other end is trying to communicate is vital to have a successful transaction. Dealing with people in your network is a good way to practice that.
6. Seek new career opportunities.
If you are seeking for new career and work opportunities, you can get that from your network. There could be someone who needs a designer or would need some services that you can do. Or a friend of yours might know somebody who is currently in need of a good designer to work on some stuff for him.
7. Establish your business contacts.
Having a business or going into freelance designing will be more successful and flourishing if you have established your network. It’s not merely collecting them or creating a list. It is about building relationships and constantly tapping these people whom you know could contribute to a strong network. An establish network can bring you to greater heights.
8. Getting referrals.
Your friends and friend of friends will be able to give you referrals. This makes it a lot easier for you since you won’t have to go far to get clients. There would be people who’ll approach you and ask for your services. Another good thing of referrals is that you will be assured that this person is a good client since someone you trust has referred him to you. But still, you have to keenly observe every client you have even if they are referred by people you trust.
9. Get up to date info.
Another good thing of having a network is that you will be able to get all information you want. This is because of what people in your network share to you. Different kinds of information will come to you (well, even gossips). You will surely be thankful that these people are in your network since you get a wide variety of information from them. You don’t even have to exert effort in order to get that information. But be sure to sift which information is true and reliable.
10. Reach many people.
Of course, when you do networking, you can reach many people. This way, you will be able to extend and expand your market for your career and you will also have more sources of learning and valuable information that would be helpful in your profession.
Sources of Networking
Now that you have munched on the value of networking, we will give you ideas on where you can start building your network. Actually, even before you have decided of building one, there is already an existing network. All you have to do is decide the type of network you need for your career and expand it.
1. Personal contacts. Look into your personal contacts. This includes your relatives, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, classmates, teachers, organization or club members and church members. Personal contacts are a good start to build a network.
2. Professional contacts. Then jump in to your professional contacts. These are people you meet during business transactions and could help you with your career. It includes colleagues, fellow association members, employers, supervisors, subordinates, clients, customers and fellow designers.
3. Online contacts. This time, you can check on your friends online. This includes any person or professional that you communicate with via email and social networking sites. Even a recently added friend on Facebook or a follower in Twitter is already part of your online contacts.
4. Extended contacts. This one refers to the contacts of your contacts. They are and will also become part of your network if you will do something to reach out to them. They are already there. All you have to do is take steps to get them into your network.
Now what are you going to do with those contacts you have? You will be able to make use of these contacts in building your network. How to do that? Read on the tips below.
How to Build a Network
1. Check your contact list.
To begin building your network, you have to check on your contact list. What can these people in your contact do to help you? Or what kind of people are still lacking in your list? Are there some people in your list that might be a hindrance to your success? Check on what you still need and get them. Also look into what you do not need and eliminate them. But eliminating doesn’t mean that you have to quarrel with them or you have to bad mouth them so they’ll go. Just don’t consider them when it comes to your business or career.
2. Plan a network.
Since you have checked your network, it’s time to plan what you need to do and what kind of network you want to build. Look for people that you want to know and sift those which you do not want to know. Doing this will help you choose only those that you truly want to be part of your network. It won’t help to be working with people whom you don’t really wanna be with.
3. Drop networking stereotypes.
There are networking stereotypes that might hinder you from creating a network. If you look at networking as merely pretentious and manipulative, think again. You can actually establish genuine relationships. Well, it can be manipulative and pretentious at times but not at all times. You might also think that you couldn’t reach out to people since you are too shy. But if you are with people that share the same interest with you, you won’t be shy anymore. Looking at networking as time consuming might also hinder you from building one. Instead of thinking that way, just enjoy doing it. Without knowing it, your network has already expanded.
4. Know and connect with other people.
Get to know different people and connect with them through simple conversations. A mere hi and hello can actually lead to stronger relationships. Just start that way and at the right time, you will be able to befriend them and get them into your network. Learn to look into the traits and personalities of people so you can check if you want to know them or not. This can help you avoid connecting with those whom you won’t get along well.
5. Be generous.
There is what we call a win-win situation. This means that you are able to create situations where in you and the other end will both get benefits. You should know how to do this so that you will both feel good about the relationship which will eventually make it strong. You also need to be generous at time by extending help to other people. Even offering a kind gesture and a comlipent is one way of showing generosity.
6. Know where to find them.
A simple way of letting your client see your portfolio is by providing your website portfolio address. But pair that with a good pitch so you can encourage the client to click the link and check on what you’ve got in your portfolio.
7. Make it a habit.
When you start networking, continue doing it. Make it a habit because if you will stop, the roots that you have planted might die. So, continue taking care of them so each will remain healthy. Also, you have to continue meeting new people and doing activities to expand your network like attending gatherings and seminars.
8. Reach out.
You will be successful in building a network if you learn to reach out to people. It means that you approach them first or do the first move in order to establish a connection. Don’t be shy. You are not doing anything bad anyway. Bear a good smile and a good aura when you approach people. When you are online, make sure that you choose the right words in communicating with them.
9. Tap your network.
After you have created a network or have made friends with some people, do not just leave it like that. Tap them once in a while. You can do this by dropping a simple hi or hello. Doing this will not make your relationship stale. You can also try inviting people for coffee or something. But of course, you won’t be able to invite everyone in your network. You can choose those whom you want to hang up with. And then for online contacts, you can send e-cards once in a while or mention them in some posts that you share which might interest them. It is important to maintain your network.
All of the above mentioned things will not be possible if you are not confident. Hence, you should have self-confidence all the time. Having confidence in speaking with people is one way of showing professionalism. Also, try to empower your self-esteem so you can succeed more in your career.
So, there you have it. With these tips, you can surely come up with your own network and you will soon be able to establish one which can help you a lot in your career. Do not look at networking as something little because your actions will be paid off along the way. That is the good thing about networking; you harvest the advantages and benefits while you are still picking up people that would complete your network. You don’t need to wait for long since you will be seeing the fruit of your labor at an early stage.
Something to Look Forward To
Got some valuable information from this post? Well, it’s not yet over. We still have a lot in store for you about networking. Look forward for the second part of this where we will be looking into online networking. You will get tips on how you can establish an effective online network and other information about online networking. We’ll see you then to the next part of our Ultimate Networking Guide for Freelancers Series.