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This is Day 21 of 31 Days to Start a Freelancing Business (or Make Yours a Better One). If you want to catch up, click here to read Day 1.
Yesterday, you drew up a marketing plan for your freelancing business. I hope you included networking as one of your marketing activities. If so, you’re going to start networking today.
Based on my personal experience, it’s easier and faster to find clients through networking than through other types of marketing activities. I stumbled upon it by accident, because nobody advised me to do it (unlike you -aren’t you blessed?). It was only after looking back on my freelancing career that I realized I found most of my early clients through an online forum I belonged in.
I didn’t join the forum with the intention of finding clients there. As I said, it was totally unplanned. I joined the forum to learn how to make a living from home, and the members gave me plenty of practical advice about Internet marketing, as well as freelance writing.
How to Get Started
If you did your target client research well, you would know by now where your ideal clients hang out, both online and offline.
If not, use Google to find suitable forums. Type into Google: “(niche or industry) forum.” For example, if you’re targeting childbirth professionals, you would search for “childbirth professionals forum,” as well as “doulas forum,” “childbirth educators forum,” and “midwives forum.”
The problem with this approach is that you may not be eligible to join the same forum. For instance, in the example above, you may not be able to join if you’re a web designer without any childbirth qualifications yourself (I’m a certified childbirth educator, so I could join those groups).
In that case, you’ll have to do more research to find out where they do hang out. Maybe your target clients are members of business-oriented networks which are not focused on their industry alone.
Another way to approach this is to network with those who are already in your target client’s circles. This person may never hire you, but can refer you to your target clients.
The same networking principles apply offline, too. So if your target client is a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, then by all means, join the Chamber as well.
The Icky Factor
As I was writing this, I was getting an icky feeling because I was telling you to join groups for the purpose of marketing your services. It feels manipulative and sneaky, doesn’t it?
If you feel the same way, this might stop you from actively marketing yourself.
See if this will help: You’re somebody who has skills and expertise that will solve the problems of your target clients. Therefore, it’s your duty to let you prospective clients know that you have such a solution. Your prospective clients are in pain. They are suffering. Something’s keeping them up at night.
And you have the answer.
So join these groups with that attitude in mind. Not that you’re some sort of a messiah. But you can help. Network to be helpful. Network to offer value. It’s not about you; it’s about them.
What Does This Really Mean?
Networking is about building relationships. You’re in the forum to meet people, learn from them and help then when you can. Read forum posts regularly (daily if you have time, but at least once a week). Respond to the posts. Be genuinely interested in others. Be helpful. You’ll be ok.
“What Makes Marketing Hard? #1: Eww, It’s Gross” by one of my marketing teachers, Sonia Simone – Sonia’s got 5 tips for overcoming the icky factor. If you like this, sign up for Sonia’s free marketing class.
So, tell me: what do you think of networking? Post your comment below.
photo credit: kevindooley