Some time ago, I attended a niche networking group that had a relatively small number of participants. They had changed locations and not everyone was aware of the new meeting area. I had several reasons for attending this particular meeting (close to home, interesting theme) but I was a bit disappointed by the turnout. Oddly enough, I’ve avoided networking events with “too many” people.
However, I thought about this event compared to other events I’ve attended. When it comes to networking, the number of participants is not that important to the success. One could argue that more people will produce a greater chance of meeting potential clients or a great lead. I’ve met people who treat it like a numbers game (or the bar scene) – meet enough people and you will eventually score.
The only number that matters is 1. You are the key to your networking success. Your approach will determine whether you succeed. One valuable tip on networking that I was taught, and that I tell others, is that you should treat it like developing a relationship. Get to know a person, and they’ll trust you to refer you to their friends and acquaintances. I’ve found that the people I meet generally do not need my services. But there is a very high likelihood that they know someone who would. The person you network with is one person, but they have a network of many contacts, who also have networks of contacts.
As usual, it’s about quality, not quantity. You will have more success establishing a strong relationship with one person than you will exchanging business cards and pleasantries with many people. One great networking relationship will take you a long way.
Unless you have a few regular clients who keep you busy, then you probably need to keep finding clients to replace the ones who have moved on or to fill in those slow periods. Where do you go to find prospects to turn into clients? This is the question that plagues many freelancers.
Sometimes, we put too much stress on ourselves, thinking that prospects are too difficult to find. The answers are often obvious, but the stress of looking for prospects, plus the time required to keep current clients happy, can get in the way.
Let’s simplify things – here are four key ways to research and find your best prospects.
Mine your existing network
Believe it or not, you already know people who can give you work. The most obvious ones are members of your family and your friends – or rather, who they know. All you have to do is ask – “Hey, do you know anyone who works with writers?” or “Do you know any marketing or communications managers, or someone who works at an advertising agency?” Asking people you know can yield some great results.
Don’t forget your past and current clients. They worked with you before, and you understand their needs, so reach out to see if they have any pressing needs. Timing and luck will turn that outreach into work.
Go through your existing network on LinkedIn and other social networks. And read through past emails to clients, or prospects you’ve reached out to before. There’s gold in your network.
Look for clones of your favourite clients
Your clients are not unicorns. They work in an industry with competitors, so if you’ve worked with one accounting firm / publisher / dentist / web developer, you can work with others. Look for companies in the same fields as your best clients, and reach out to them. You already know what type of work they need, as well as their language, issues, pain points, and solutions. It’s just a matter of speaking to them, and letting them know that you can help.
If you’re used to working with marketing managers, search out other marketing managers. LinkedIn is a great starting point, but there are many job boards and websites with contact information. Again, you managed to work with one marketing manager, and others will have similar needs.
Find prospects who look like they need your help
If you’re a writer, look for companies that need writing. Understand the characteristics of a client that needs your services. They might have poorly written marketing materials and websites, or they lack key content, like case studies and blog posts.
This tactic requires understanding the needs of your prospects. They must also think or know that they need your help. Trying to sell writing services to companies that have never used writing services is a challenging task. It’s better to work with companies that need writing, and have used writers, which you can determine based on doing some research on the company.
Find prospects who value your services
This reiterates some of what was written above. Go after clients that already use and pay for writers – rather than companies and industries that never or rarely do. If they work with freelance writers, or have writers on staff, then they value these services.
Here’s the key takeaway: Just because they already work with writers does not mean that they are satisfied with the writers they have. Do not assume that they are settled. Approach these clients to see if you can help because you have something to offer that they don’t already possess – extensive writing experience, specific knowledge of their industry, ability to write specific content, etc.
Where do you go?
As I stated previously, there are many places to find prospects:
Local businesses in your neighbourhood
Online and print directories
Chambers of commerce
Trade groups and associations
Bonus tip: Start with practice prospects when reaching out. Send out emails to prospects that are not your primary target to work out your approach. Once you’re satisfied with your email or calling script, reach out to prime prospects.
If you need an experienced content writer or copy editor, let me know – email@example.com.
Some people believe that you should not network with other people in the same profession. For example, if you are a bookkeeper or a plumber, then you shouldn’t network with other bookkeepers or plumbers, respectively, because they are the competition.
It’s true that they are in the same business and have the same client base. But networking with “competitors” can help to build your respective businesses. It’s part of the reason to join associations and other groups that cater to people in your business.
Networking is about building relationships, including people in your business. Your “competitors” have the same problems that you do, and have learned how to deal with those problems, so you can learn from each other. It makes sense to build a relationship with someone who understands your business, as they can offer advice as well as provide feedback on questions and issues. They can also make great business friends, since they understand you better than people who are not in your business.
Also, networking with peers allows you to share leads and trade clients. You might be in the same business, but you could have different niches or specialties. How often have you turned away a client because you were busy or it was not the right fit? Instead of turning them away, you can refer that client to a peer, who can do the same for you by referring business to you. This benefits you and the client, who will remember that you helped them. And they will think of you when someone needs your services.
Develop relationships with your peers and “competitors” and it will benefit you in the long run.
Who should you be networking with? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freelancing tends to be a solitary business life. Many self-employed professionals do a lot of things on their own. This includes engaging in activities that involve meeting potential clients and growing their business, such as attending networking events.
Why not set up a buddy system? This means partnering with another self-employed professional to attend networking events and engage in these types of activities. Having a networking buddy allows you to:
Meet more people at events by dividing the group and sharing contact information.
Develop techniques to introduce one person to another contact.
Share a booth or table at a networking event and get the same results at a lower cost.
Split up to attend separate events on the same day to extend your reach.
Get a buddy and improve your networking reach – but don’t just talk to your buddy when you’re networking!
What suggestions do you have for improving your freelancing life? Let me know – email@example.com.
I believe that the telephone/smartphone is essential for every marketing program, as we interact with people on the phone every day. I think that we can all get better at contacting people by phone, and making better use of the phone in promoting our business. This includes writers and editors, as we still need to reach potential clients.
So, here are my top 8 tips on making more effective use of the telephone in marketing your services-oriented business:
Start with people you know, such as past and current clients. People like hearing your voice, particularly when they know you, and it is a good way to remind them that you are available and present.
Call with an obvious purpose – to get together, catch up, discuss a project, ask for advice, do research, etc. (do not call “just to chat” or “to see how they are doing”). Other ideas include:
– You are new in town or you have a new business or product/service.
– You are doing research on an important topic.
– You want to invite the person to join your newsletter or receive information.
Create a benefit-oriented message if you get their voice mail so that they have a reason to call you back.
Aim for “warm” calls ahead of “cold” calls. Send a letter or email ahead of your phone call, or ask someone who knows the person you want to call to provide a connection or introduction before you make the call.
Don’t give up – the average sale requires five calls, and many people give up after two.
Be prepared when you make the call; you can use a script, but you should at least write down your goals or key questions.
One tactic when making a phone call is to offer a package of your services. For example, for $400, the client can purchase a 4-hour training session, where I will teach their employees to write better emails, business letters, sales and marketing materials, etc. Or they can purchase a 5-hour block of editing, where they can use five hours of my editing services over a period of one month, one week, several different days, etc. This allows them to try the service without spending a lot of money, and it could turn into a long-term relationship.
Hire an assistant (or professional telephone salesperson) to make phone calls on your behalf. In most cases, their hourly rate will be less than your hourly rate. Your time is best spent doing work that pays more than what you are paying them to get appointments, client leads, etc. You can test it by spending $500 for a specific number of phone calls or hours, and then measuring the results. If it turns out to be cost effective, continue employing that person to make phone calls on your behalf so that you can do what you do best.
What tips do you have on being better at using the telephone to market your business? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I used to network quite regularly, often visiting different groups and networking events as part of regular efforts to build my business. I even joined a couple of groups, and attempted to make the most of the opportunities to build my network and expand my business prospects. However, I am somewhat introverted, and I did not take full advantage of those networking opportunities. These days, I have fewer opportunities to network as I spend a lot of my free (and work) time with my family, taking my daughter to school, etc.
However, networking is one of the best ways to expand my circle of professional and social contacts, as well as effectively and efficiently build my business. Here are 15 great ways to be better at networking.
Keep track of who you know: I use my Mac address book to track my contacts, but this is very basic. There are many great contact management software programs, both free and paid, that will do the job more effectively. I do a pretty good job with my address book, as I write notes on the different contacts and make an effort to email them every few months. However, a CRM program can help me to stay in touch and market to them more effectively.
Remember names better: I am terrible at remembering names, although I am very good at remembering faces (which is odd). I will have to work on this, and make sure that I repeat a person’s name several times when I meet them.
Pay attention: Paying attention while networking is similar to juggling, as it can be difficult to follow various conversations, remember names and personal details, and actively participate in the art of networking to develop relationships and build business. If I can find a common point of interest between us, paying attention will become much easier.
Project sincerity: I’ve met people who are only interested in doing business with people that they believe can further their business interests, and I don’t want to be like them. My goal is to always ask about the other person and their business, as well as determine how I can be helpful. I believe that I am an honest person and people will discover that when speaking with me. Getting me to talk is the real challenge.
Improve your self-introduction: The introduction or elevator speech is very important in networking, and I have at times struggled with it, as I find it difficult to explain what I do in a short and interesting way. I’ve heard many great elevator speeches, and have on occasion given a few that were memorable. Here are five ways to improve my self-introduction:
– Be more enthusiastic about what I do.
– Show a sense of humour by interjecting something amusing related to what I do.
– Reveal something personal about myself, such as being shy or having a young daughter.
– Use trivia or facts related to writing and editing.
– Build an implied testimonial into my introduction.
Listen more than you talk: This is relatively easy for me, as I am not a big talker at networking events. Sometimes I ask people what would be a good referral for them.
Ask for referrals: Ask people I meet at a networking event if they know any companies that produce content on a regular basis, which is my ideal client. I can be more specific by asking for referrals to design firms, advertising agencies, publishers, etc.
Read the Monday business calendars: I already subscribe to an ezine called BizNetworkNews that provides a list of networking groups and events.
Regularly visit groups and join the best: I used to visit a lot of networking groups, and joined a few. Participating and volunteering for a group is a good way to get known
Make notes on business cards: I’ve often ended up throwing away cards because I did not write anything on the card, and forgot all about the person I spoke with.
Do research: Ask people at the networking event a question for research on a particular business topic. It’s a great way to find out what would or wouldn’t work in promoting my business, writing a book, marketing, etc.
Do it online: Business networking sites like LinkedIn make it viable to pursue online networking. It’s more comfortable, and you can do research and “warm calling” via online contacts.
Follow up: This is often overlooked, and a great way to build a relationship. When I meet someone at a networking event, follow up within a couple of days to refresh their memories, build the relationship, provide useful information, etc.
Become a “star”: Being a star means being at the centre of a group of contacts where you are the common denominator (they don’t know each other). The goal is to help everyone else around you.
Give a lot: I subscribe to the philosophy of trying to help others without expecting something in return. When you do something for someone out of good intentions, it provides the added reward of raising your social value. At the same time, you should avoid continually helping people who only want to take, as they can suck a lot of time and energy out of you.
Do you have any good networking tips? Send them along – email@example.com.