Small Business Advice Week: networking

To mark Small Business Advice week, IPSE is contributing to the discussion with a series of advice blogs written exclusively with the small business community in mind. For more information on Small Business Advice week, visit the website or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SBAW.  

Autonomy is one of the primary reasons people cite as the appeal behind running their own business. But with that comes the sole responsibility for obtaining your own clients and contracts.

Mastering the fine art of networking can go a long way to success and longevity in your freelance career. But how do you go about building a comprehensive network list to bring in a regular supply of business?

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the premier business-related social networking site and should be a go-to for all freelancers looking to expand their network. Indeed, IPSE research found that 97% of members said that LinkedIn is their preferred networking platform.

According to the site itself, members with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the platform. Testimonials, references and recommendations add credibility to your profile and increase your appeal to potential clients.  

Regularly updating your status and profiles, joining LinkedIn Groups and using the websites database of contacts as a tool for research are all great ways of getting noticed and maximising your appeal.

Social Media

Facebook and Twitter are synonymous with networking on a social basis, but are rapidly becoming imperative platforms for professional networking. Social media has the potential to be a far-reaching tool to spread awareness of your brand so it’s worth creating a profile for your business, posting regularly, and engaging with friends or followers.

Like LinkedIn, there are many online groups and networks to take advantage of. Linking in all your social media accounts is a good way of maximising your networks across numerous platforms.

Social media is a particularly good method of networking if your work lends itself to visual networking. If you’re an artist or designer, for example, Instagram and Facebook can be invaluable resources. 

Be careful though, some people may look at your personal profile so it’s wise to turn on your privacy settings or make sure there is nothing on there that could hamper your chance of winning a contract.

Attend events

Attending events is a great way of meeting other freelancers, and the face to face nature of these engagements means relationships are stronger from the start. Don’t necessarily go along with the sole intention of securing your next contract though, it can be just as valuable going to listen, learn and see how you can develop.

IPSE’s annual National Freelancers Day (NFD) is a great place to start - and not only for the opportunity to network. Masterclasses, seminars, workshops and panel sessions are targeted at all sectors of the self-employed workforce. Eventbrite and Meetup are good sources for events.

Remember to have a healthy stash of business cards with you though!

Co-working spaces

Surrounding yourself by likeminded professionals at co-working spaces is another great way of meeting people and making connections. With other freelancers keen do the same, there is plenty of opportunity to swap ideas, contacts and refer new business. Co-working spaces are also a good source of networking events and keeping you in the freelance loop.

IPSE Ambassadors

The freelance community is very inclusive and there are some fantastic networking groups out there. In Katy Carlisle, Faye Dicker and Charlotte Wibberley IPSE has three ambassadors who have set up networking groups for their respective communities.

These communities weren’t necessarily designed with winning work in mind, but are great ways of building up a contact base without the formal, and potentially uncomfortable stigma, that comes with professional networking.

Instead it’s just an informal place to meet other freelancers; and you never know where making friends might get you!

Stuart Sanderson is IPSE’s press and PR intern. Stuart works for Hudson Contract Services and is currently studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

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