Most of us freelancers love to go to networking events to meet new people and potentially grow their businesses, but with dozens of events and speakers, which ones are the best ones for you?
Here are a few insights I’d like to share to make the best of your freelance networking pursuits.
Know Your Customer
Before you head out to your next event (or right now for that matter), figure out who your ideal customer is. Or if you don’t need more customers, figure out who you really want to meet at this next event that would benefit your business or personal life. Is it a big business or a small business? Are they a solopreneur or a ten-employee company? How old are they, what are their needs, what do they have to offer you or your clients?
By figuring out exactly who you are looking for, you can focus on those one or 2 people at the event that fall into that profile. And when chatting with someone, you can clearly state who you are looking for, in case they know someone that fits that profile at the event or within their network.
When you go to events, you network with more than the people in attendance; you have potential to meet their whole network.
If you go to events already, you know that you can end up with a whole bunch of business cards that get put into a drawer and never get used for anything.
Have you ever had the experience when you really wanted someone that you met to contact you and they never did? They missed out on potential business from you, and the same could be happening with you by not following up. You go to the trouble of meeting people, learning about them, and getting their information, but don’t go the extra step in solidifying that relationship with a follow-up call, email or coffee session.
If your goal is to create relationships, and truly grow your network, you need to follow up and create lasting connections. Who knows where it will end up?
I was at an event and I met a guy who asked, “What is the ROI of joining this group. I can’t justify spending X much without a tangible return.”
I told him not to join. If you look at things only in dollars and cents, you are missing out on a lot of the things that you get out of professional groups.
I’m not just talking the free food, but the networking and education that you can get from joining those groups. Plus, when you join a group or organization, it impacts your brand. If you want to be seen as a professional, join the professional groups. If you are targeting a certain type of consumer, then you better join the groups and go to the events where those people are at.
I believe that some of the groups that I join will eventually pay dividends. If not in experience, networking or volunteering, but it will be in building long-term relationships with people that will know more and more about you, and could potentially be that big deal once it makes sense for both of you.
I wrote a post about selling the other day. If someone doesn’t buy from you, it could mean no right now, not necessarily no forever.
Think long term, build those relationships, and think of your career, not just your quarter.
Improve your Skills
I am a proponent of focusing on your strengths, and using what you are good at as the foundation for your business. When I work with new business owners, I find their core competencies, and competitive advantages to figure out how to create long-term value for their prospective clients using those skills. Find out where your skills are at and keep getting better: go to speakers on your field, take classes, read books. Always keep learning.
For me as a consultant, I look at all the things that I learn and figure out how I can apply them to my clients. If I have more value that I deliver, I can charge more, because I give more.
Not only will learning more things let you charge more, but also you will grow as a business owner and leader. I can’t say enough about reading books, traveling, and stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s not just for your business; it’s for your whole life, and you’ll appreciate the time that you put in when you take a step back and evaluate how much you’ve grown as a person.
One Last Tip
Get better every day. Someone said to me: “If I get 1% better everyday, after 70 days, I’ll be twice as good.”
I’ve never stopped and done the math, but it seems right to me. Always do things to get better, and appreciate the days where good stuff does happen.
One (for real) final thought: “Judge the success of your day, not on the harvest you reap, but on the seeds that you sew.”
Anthony Taylor is a business consultant with SME Strategy. SME Strategy develops strategic plans for small and medium sized businesses and acts as a complement to existing management teams. Anthony has 10 years experience as a business owner, and specializes in project management and B2C businesses. You can follow him on Twitter at @anthonyctaylor and read his blog at www.smestrategy.net