In some jobs, spending time on Twitter or Facebook during working hours is “time wasting” and would get you in trouble. However, if you are a freelance creative it is an essential part of your job.
When you are a freelance worker, the web of connections that you build around yourself is everything. Without the security of a full time job and a paycheck, you must always be juggling clients, putting yourself out there, making new connections and negotiating new working partnerships. Networking is an essential part of the job and with the right techniques, the connections that you make can rocket you into the Big Time.
So how can you make the most of the online networking opportunities that the internet offers to you as a freelancer? Here are a few things that I have learned along the way:
Letting Your Voice Be Heard
Your goal should be to create a presence for yourself online that is captivating, exciting and true to your own “voice”. Think about your “USP” or your “Unique Selling Proposition” – which is the one-of-a-kind set of skills and expertise that only you can offer as a freelancer. Next, show off this expertise and establish yourself as an expert in your niche. Don’t be afraid to put a little bit of your opinion or your personality into your online presence – it will make you stand out from the rest.
This idea extends to sites like Peopleperhour (and other places where freelancers can list their services). The nature of the service suggests that all you need do is send out proposals for jobs or set up a profile boasting about your skills, but that won’t help you to stand out. You need to highlight what it is that sets your work. Now the simplest way to do this is to showcase the best of your past works as part of a portfolio, but even that could be extended by creating a bespoke piece that is purely meant to generate interest in your skill set. Build your brand by being funny, opinionated or even controversial. The point is to be memorable!
But Don’t Just Talk About Yourself
Networking isn’t about spamming everyone else with self-promotional blogs, tweets, posts and shares. Instead, it’s about making worthwhile connections with others. If you are always blowing your own trumpet you will get ignored, but if you share something of value that helps someone else they will remember you.
Keep it Going
It is important to remember that networking isn’t something that you can do once and then forget about it. It’s an on-going part of your job that is always essential to your success. When I use the tools available to me and reach out to make connections online, new and enjoyable projects start to roll in. On the flip side, if I ignore the networking part of my job for a while, the work starts to dry up and the emails stop coming. Make it part of your workday every day until maintaining your networking connections becomes a habit.
If you are a freelance writer, it can be especially hard to make it a regular habit, especially if you are one of the many travel writers out there. Being reliant on technology can be difficult if you are traveling from country to country, especially if you can’t seem to find WiFi. That’s why wireless broadband is a godsend, even in countries where the cost of living is high and it doesn’t seem like something you should invest in. But networking is something that won’t wait for your 3 week holiday to end, and even in countries like Australia, a simple wireless 4g plan (like this mobile broadband plan from iiNet) can be purchased for a fairly decent price.
Most freelancers have already tried the most popular networking tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – and these are a great place to start. However, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try different strategies as well. Why not create a video series and post it on Youtube? Or perhaps you could host a Google Hangout question and answer session about your area of expertise? It’s totally up to you, so start by brainstorming a list of fun and exciting ways to connect with others and put yourself out there.
There is a simple rule for online networking as a freelancer – you get what you put in. That is, the more time and energy you invest into building relationships online, the more rewards you will reap for your reputation and your career.
When you build your connections there is no limit to what you can do, so why not get started today?