Networking is helpful for everyone, but for freelancers even more than for other professionals. New jobs, helpful tips or simply personal exchange - you can get all this through your network. We show you how to build it up and what you should pay attention to.
Why networking is important for freelancers
As a freelancer, contacts are especially important for your professional life, because you are more or less always on the lookout for new clients. A good network takes a lot of work off your hands, as the projects can simply come to you. This can happen, for example, because someone recommends you or because someone tells you about an exciting project. Without a network, on the other hand, you're on your own and may have to search for projects on platforms or make tedious cold calls.
But networking doesn't just play a role in finding customers: you can also get valuable tips and advice through contacts. For example, you can discuss hourly rates with other freelancers or get a recommendation for a good tax advisor. You may also be able to cooperate with other freelancers, for example, as a web designer you could work together with a copywriter on a website for their clients. And last but not least, as a freelancer it can sometimes get a bit lonely. Through your network, you can make interesting contacts who can take on the role of colleagues for you.
These are the ways to build your network
There are many ways to meet new people and grow your freelance network. Here are a few promising ones:
- LinkedIn & Co: Professional networks like LinkedIn make it easy for you to get in touch with others. Send a request, drop a few lines, and your network is one contact richer. The downside, however, is that you don't know most of these people personally. Just because you're connected there doesn't mean they have you on their radar for projects or would support you if needed. If people are particularly interesting to you, you should actively stay in touch with them, for example, by messaging them or commenting on their posts.
- Meet-ups and events: With this option, you meet new people in person and can exchange ideas with them directly. The impression is much stronger, and it’s easier for you to stay on their mind. To keep in touch, you should network with them on LinkedIn, for example, or exchange contact details. Otherwise, all that will remain is the memory of an interesting conversation.
- Trade shows: Trade shows are very much about selling. Companies present themselves and their offerings and may therefore be less interested in meeting freelancers. However, if you prepare well, you can head for specific booths and easily strike up a conversation there. In addition, there are often networking events as part of the program.
- Networks & communities: There are many specialized networks and communities, for example for freelancers in certain cities, from certain industries or for self-employed women. The good thing about this is that you have a common basis and thus topics of conversation and points of contact.
- Volunteering: In an association for freelancers and self-employed, you will quickly find like-minded people. This can be a regional organization or a large industry association. There you will find new contacts with whom you can work on projects. A membership in an industry association can also look good on your website.
- Coworking: If you don't want to work at home, you might book a place in a coworking space. There, you'll meet other self-employed people and perhaps start-ups who come from very different backgrounds. These can include potential customers as well as interesting contacts or cooperation partners.
By the way: The 9am community is also a great place for freelancers to network. You can get to know other freelancers and exchange ideas with them via Slack and at our events.
Take advantage of all networking opportunities
You can network not only at designated events, but also at any time in everyday life. You might meet interesting professional contacts at a party or find out that another freelancer lives next door during a conversation in the neighborhood. Or you might run into former classmates or fellow students and find out that you are now working in a similar field. Just be open to new contacts.
A diverse network pays off as a freelancer
Whether client acquisition, exchange or collaborations are your focus when networking: It's always advisable to build a diverse network. If you only network with other freelancers, you won't have companies in your network that can become clients. And if you focus solely on client acquisition, you'll miss out on interaction with like-minded people. Contacts with people who belong to neither side are also interesting and can help you. After all, it's always good to know a lawyer or tax advisor, for example.
Cultivate relationships and strengthen your network
For many people, it's not that hard to make new contacts. The challenge is to maintain them. This is the only way to build a real network that goes beyond a collection of names and that you can rely on. Stay connected with these tips:
- On LinkedIn, for example, you can stay connected with reactions and comments to posts from your contacts.
- If you come across an article that might be of interest to a person, forward it to them and put yourself back on their radar with little effort.
- Suggest to contacts that you go to an event together that is of interest to all of you.
- Arrange to meet for lunch or coffee.
- Before a trade show, find out which contacts will also be there and arrange to meet them.
- If you are in another city, check ahead of time to see if you know people there and suggest that you meet. If there are several contacts, you can also organize a small meet-up. This way you will also help the others to expand their network.
- You have the impression that two people from your network would get along well or could help each other? Introduce them. You'll be doing them a favor and putting yourself back on their radar.
Networking is give and take. Offer your help and don't be afraid to make the first move. The best thing to do as a freelancer is not to see networking as a chore, but to make sure you have fun doing it. Then, bit by bit, you'll build a reliable network and maybe even make some real friends.