To be a successful freelancer, you must get your name in front of as many potential clients as possible. But as more people flock to the indy lifestyle, it gets harder and harder to stand out. The truth is that you can’t just rely on a website or an online portfolio to bring in business anymore.
It’s time to consider incorporating conferences into your marketing efforts. These events provide you with an opportunity to meet others in your field, update your skills and connect with plenty of prospective clients. Here are a few conference networking tips to help you make the most of your experience before, during and after the event.
The Importance of Networking As a Freelancer
Yes, freelancing lets you work from home and grants you the luxury of not having to make water cooler talk with co-workers every day. That being said, you can’t afford to become introverted or withdrawn if you want to have a truly successful freelance career. Through networking, you can build strong relationships with both clients and other indys.
Networking is particularly essential as a new freelancer. When you’re just starting out, you may not have the necessary experience or online presence to attract clients. But at a conference, you can connect with other freelancers, clients and even advertisers face-to-face. You never know when these new connections will turn into business opportunities.
Before the Conference: Do Your Homework
Make sure you’re doing the necessary preparatory legwork in advance. Doing so will allow you to stay organized and make the most of your conference experience.
- Research the speakers, and narrow down which classes and events you want to attend. This can help you optimize your time once you arrive so you can go straight to where you need to be, without missing a second.
- Connect with speakers and companies beforehand. Conferences will usually list their keynote and breakout session speakers and the attending brands ahead of time. This provides you with an opportunity to email speakers and brand contacts to let them know how excited you are to see them. You could even try to arrange a meetup if a particular individual you’d love to connect with is free during the event.
- Have business cards made and update your LinkedIn. Business cards may seem old school, but they’re easy to hand out, and they’ll remind everyone of who you are and how they can get in touch with you after the conference. Chances are that interested individuals will use this information to look up your LinkedIn profile, so update and polish your profile before the conference, too.
During the Conference: Maximize Your Time
Once you’re at the conference, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the excitement. Here are the top things to focus on:
- Listen and learn as much as you can. Conferences bring together top experts, so take advantage of the knowledge and advice they’re pouring out. Take detailed notes and list out a few action items to take once you return home.
- Update your social media accounts. Don’t be afraid to post pictures to your social media accounts several times throughout the event. And be sure to tag speakers, brands and the conference itself to increase your visibility. Other attendees will see your posts, empowering you to stand out and potentially capture the attention of prospective clients.
- Keep track of connections. Meet and talk with as many people as possible. Ask for business cards, and tell new contacts you’d love to connect with them after the conference. On the back of each card, write down something that’ll help you remember the individual and what you talked about (e.g., “John Smith of XY Business said he wants better images for his website“).
- Participate in offered events. After a long day of speakers and breakout sessions, you probably just want to pass out in your hotel room. Don’t. Instead, attend mixers or after-hours meetups for the best opportunities to connect with busy speakers and potential clients.
- Don’t forget to talk with fellow freelancers. Connecting with others in your field can be intimidating — after all, they’re your competition. But befriending a fellow writer helped me realize that my rates were too low, and now we recommend work to each other when our bandwidth is full. Plus, it’s nice to talk to someone who understands hard editors and work-at-home burnout.
After the Conference: Send a Friendly Follow-Up
Once the conference is over, follow up with the connections you made. But unless an individual made it clear that they wanted to talk “shop,” this isn’t the time to send hard sales pitches. Instead, be sure to:
- Connect with individuals via LinkedIn or email. Message them with a friendly note, stating, “It was such a pleasure meeting you at the conference. I love what you’re doing with X (e.g., content growth), and I wanted to stay in touch.”
Keeping your initial follow-up light and friendly will make it easier to inquire about potential business opportunities down the road.
Some of the Best Conferences for Freelancers in 2018
The best conferences to attend are the ones in your field that connect you with desired clients and teach you skills that apply to your business. Ready to put your conference networking tips to work? Here are some top events to consider attending this year:
- World Domination Summit (June 26–July 2; Portland, OR)
- MozCon (July 9–11; Seattle, WA)
- Small Business Expo (August 9; San Francisco, CA)
- Writer’s Digest Conference (August 10–12; New York, NY)
- Content Marketing World (September 4–7; Cleveland, OH)
- Inbound (September 4–7; Boston, MA)
- The Freelance Conference (September 17–21; Austin, TX)
- FinCon (September 26–29; Orlando, FL)
- Tribe Conference (October 26–28; Franklin, TN)
- B2B Marking Forum (November 13–16; San Francisco, CA)
Conferences are a fun way to connect with potential clients and fellow freelancers. By making an effort to network before, during and after the event, you will be well-equipped to continue expanding your business this year.