New freelancers know that the easiest place to find clients is your own network. But what if you don’t know anybody who would want what you provide?
There’s a reason why your network is such a great place to find your first client. Quite simply, people want to buy from those they know, like, and trust. The people you know are the easy ones to win over.
Of course, the first thing you would have done is to make sure everyone you know knows about your freelance business. But that’s not the end of it. You can get even more leads if you actively grow your network.
The ways you can do this might surprise you.
Two Examples of growing your network
I first got the idea from Ed Gandia, a coach who helps business writers market themselves. Early on in his freelance writing career, he was at quite a low point. He had just quit his corporate job, and the job he had with his one client had come to an end. There was no more work in sight.
One evening there was an industry dinner he was supposed to go to, but Ed just didn’t feel like it. He forced himself to go anyway. That night he had a conversation with a VP, who later hired him for a huge job that made all the difference to his business. That’s pretty spectacular.
I was thinking of Ed when I decided to expand my network as a freelance indexer. Of course, nobody in my circle ever needed an indexer—it’s a rare thing for most people. I was a year or two into freelancing when I decided to join the local historical society. History books is one of my specialties, and I really like history.
Then one evening, a local historian was giving a presentation to the society on the book he was writing. Perfect!
I went to the presentation, and afterwards I made sure I went up to him to ask him questions about his book and his research. We had quite an engaging conversation. Before we parted, I gave him my business card and said “By the way, if you don’t already have someone to write the index for your book, that’s what I do. I’d really be interested in doing that for your book.”
Two years later, he finally finished the book. I was asked to write a formal proposal, and I got the job.
The “Know, Like, and Trust” factor really is a thing. Another way you may have heard it, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Simple strategies—and a caution—for growing your network
If you start looking, you’ll see many opportunities to organically grow your network. And you don’t always have to leave your house—I have a colleague who gets indexing jobs through conversations on Twitter. I have no idea how that works. But for many freelancers, LinkedIn could be a possibility.
I will caution you on just one thing—your interest in people and their activities has to be genuine. When I talked to the historian, I was not faking anything. I was truly caught up in his project.
One thing I look for in a marketing strategy is that it should feel natural for you. If you think you have to be an extrovert to talk to people, know this: even the most extreme introvert enjoys talking to a person who shares a common interest.
I hope this gives you ideas, courage, and inspiration to try growing your network naturally. Start looking at every invitation as an opportunity, and start engaging in communities that share your interests. And let me know what is working for you.