You can find networking tips for freelancers everywhere on the internet. Why? When it comes to making a living as a freelancer, neither productivity nor rich clients will make you successful. They can help you pay the bills for a time, but if you want to maintain a long-term freelance career, you should cultivate a network of peers you can count on.
These people will get you work when you aren’t giving them work, and they’ll help you grow and learn new skills you’ll need to advance. Think of them as the indy equivalent of valued coworkers. Here are five tips for improving your networking skills:
1. Join Online Communities
Facebook provides a regular buffet of groups dedicated to freelancers and freelancing across the world. On Twitter, you can follow hashtags freelancers use to discuss issues mattering to them, such as #freelancelife. Slack is also a good source for those who use the tool to communicate with clients. For example, freelance community Domino hosts a series of channels for designers, developers and art directors to share ideas. In each case, you can rely on these tools to find and connect with like-minded peers.
2. Advertise Your Expertise
Communities are made stronger by a wide range of diverse experience and expertise. Advertise what you can offer by sharing the URL to your website and portfolio. Over time, peers will instantly know whether a potential gig they can’t take is right for you.
3. Refer to Your Network
Freelance long enough, and you’ll have the opportunity to recommend others for work you can’t take. Look to your network when this happens, and be an advocate, even when there isn’t work to refer. In 2009, a friend I met in various online freelance meet ups recommended me and another writer to an editor at Entrepreneur magazine. Her endorsement led to several assignments, and I’ve been paying her kindness forward ever since.
4. Be of Service
Office workers get the benefit of gossip, which informs and shapes the informal rules governing a workplace. As freelancers, we can replicate this dynamic by sharing experiences about clients with whom we’ve worked. Say you’re a freelance writer: Letting your peers know a certain client always pays late can help them decide how — or if — they want to take a gig working with the company. At the least, having the knowledge can make it easier to price terms; waiting 90 days for payment might be worth it if the rate is triple what you might normally receive.
5. Meet Face-To-Face
Online relationships are good, but face-to-face meet ups can add context and deepen budding friendships. Plus, getting out of the home office is good for your creativity, and it’s more fun to bounce ideas off a fellow freelancer right there in the coffee shop or coworking space.
Freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart. Money can get tight, work can dry up and good clients can turn bad overnight. Use these networking tips for freelancers to help you find the peers who’ll fill the gaps and keep you sane. Once you do, stick with them for the long haul — your career will be better for it!