If you want to be a successful freelancer, then finding more like-minded people to join your network is essential. One way to achieve this is to go to one of many networking events set up round the country every month.
I went to a Big Circle event in Worcester which was fairly local to me. Your local Chamber of Commerce runs events, there is also breakfast networking and other organisations set up to facilitate networking including some that are women only and others that only allow one of each profession into the group. Some people feel that they are the best way to get referrals while others find them difficult to do, especially if you are a quieter type of person.
I am fairly outgoing. I have been known to do some cold calling on the telephone and I enjoy meeting and talking to people. Even so I was a little unsure of myself as this was not something I had done before. However I really wanted to make the effort to get away from my keyboard for a while and give myself the opportunity to meet some new clients.
I found the Big Circle event to be friendly and small. It was billed as having 300+ people booked in to attend, but there were only about 20 exhibitors. There were however lots of people milling about. The event lasted for a morning: between 9.30 and 1.30 which allowed people to get there in time and to get back to the office if they need to. The refreshment stand was quite expensive considering I only wanted a hot water because I drink decaf tea and take my own teabags – they still charged me £1! I decided not to ask about any of the snacks!
I met some great people at the Expo. I would like to say hi to Natalie of Nutcracker Design, Rosie of Revmarketing, Richard and Ian at Charles Design and Adrian of Clarify Copywriting. I also met a friend there who had gone quite independently. I enjoyed my time and gave out some of my (new) cards (thanks, Beanprint!).
So if you are thinking of going to your first networking event, here are five things that you should bear in mind:
1. Know where you are going. Obvious, right? I’ve gone past the stadium a few times, but I’ve never gone in before. I ended up going round the wrong way before I found my way in and I was already late because I didn’t…
2. Allow plenty of time to get there. This is not always easy when you have a family to get out the door as well. Then you get on the M5 and it is crawling at 20 mph due to roadworks! I was not on time yesterday, but I didn’t give up and made sure that I did eventually arrive at the exhibition.
3. It actually doesn’t matter if you’re late. I missed a speaker and it took me a little while to organise myself, but as I arrived, people were leaving and others were arriving. People were working to their own timetables and that’s the nature of business. At least I had arrived and I was giving myself that chance to network.
4. You don’t need to do everything straight away. I decided not to take part in the speed networking and I missed the speakers. I arrived too late to hear one speaker, and I was enjoying talking to one of the exhibitors during the start of another one. It would be interesting and next time I might factor in one of the speakers. I might also decide to speed network, but I met some interesting people and still got to chat.
5. Remember your business cards. I had some new cards made because my last set did not have my website on. I have also changed since I last had some cards done. I enjoyed swapping cards and it’s a great way to pass on your details.
I would recommend taking the plunge and starting to network as a way of increasing your freelance business. Freelancing can be lonely and it is great to get out of the office and talk to like-minded people and make new contacts. I will definitely attend one of these events again. It could get addictive.