In thinking back on the reasons why you chose the life of a freelancer, I’m sure there were many attractive ones — increased flexibility? Being your own boss? Doing what you love? Working in your pajamas?
“Networking” was probably not one of them.
Let’s face it — it can be awkward, uncomfortable, and frankly, sometimes hard to know what you get out of it. Yet while there are plenty of things to hate about “networking,” let’s take a dive into why every freelancer needs to learn to love this 10-letter word.
1. You’re lonely (sometimes), admit it
It’s no secret — freelancing can get a little lonely at times. Therefore, it’s sometimes necessary to remove yourself from that home office and seek the company of your peers. Networking events provide a great outlet for taking a little time off to both celebrate and commiserate with other freelancers in your position. Events such as freelance meetups are fun, informal options for taking some time off to hang out with like-minded peers, often over drinks or with speakers or educational content.
2. If you build it, they will not come
While it’s undoubtedly easier (and more comfortable) to try to grow your business by sending off a few emails, getting on some phone calls and polishing up your Dribbble portfolio; getting out there and being a pro-active networker can pay huge dividends to your business as a freelancer.
Whether that’s investing the money to attend a large-scale conference such as HOW Design or attending local events within your community, meeting potential clients face-to-face is a powerful (and under-utilized) means of acquiring potential clients, establishing beneficial relationships with other freelancers and ultimately putting yourself in a position to succeed. After all, the fact that business cards aren’t yet extinct should tell us something…
3. Try it Mikey, you just might learn something
While focusing on your projects may seem like the best (and most responsible) use of your time as a freelancer, there’s a swath of evidence out there that would indicate otherwise. Your creativity and education as a freelancer is at its peak when you’re constantly learning new things, connecting dots and broadening your perspective.
Attending networking events is a great way to optimize for all of these things. Whether that’s stumbling across a new app to make your life as a freelancer easier, engaging in a conversation around that next breakthrough project idea or hearing about an unorthodox morning routine to jump-start those creative juices, you never know what you’ll learn by attending events and putting yourself out there. (Who knows, you might just learn about that brilliant app that allows you to create freelance contracts from your phone…)
Events such as Creative Mornings, a “breakfast lecture series for the creative community,” provide an excellent forum to learn from inspiring creative professionals, as well as mingle with other creatives in your community.
4. Your work is your business, your business is your work
As a freelancer, you’re probably hyper-focused on your “work” (aka your creative project) and less focused on your “business.” Yet in a world in which freelancing is becoming more and more competitive, it’s imperative that broadening your definition of “work” become a priority. Committing resources (both time and money) to activities that help you expand and better your business, such as marketing yourself as a freelancer, growing your personal brand and obtaining new skills and resources, are integral to thriving as a full-time freelancer. And might just be the difference in you being the next SwissMiss…or not.
Joining a national trade organization, such as the AIGA for designers or the ASMP for photographers, can be valuable, low-cost investments in your business. On top of exclusive speakers, events and networking opportunities, these organizations offer a number of business resources and perks to help you grow and compete as a freelancer.
5. Be at the right place, at the right time
We’ve all heard it before — so much of success can be determined by “being at the right place at the right time.” Attending events and networking is one way to put this adage into action. You never know who you might meet, what you might learn and what might come out of it; but by instituting a process and attending events that align with your goals, you’ll be increasing your probability for success.
Networking may not be the first concept you associate with freelancing, but if you want to get new clients, improve your skills, and meet other professionals like you, it’s absolutely essential.