Last time I told you more about my early days of freelancing. It was a spontaneous start that led
to a diverse bunch of assignments until I gradually established myself as a content writer.
The truth is, starting out in a country that is not your own and not really speaking the language
can be quite the challenge. Having to build your network from the ground up only adds to the todo
list. But boy is it important!
So, I’ve decided to dedicate a few lines on the importance of building a strong network and keeping
it close. I find that quite crucial when starting a business, because – in my humble opinion – the
best way to get a new project is by being recommended. Referrals and word-of-mouth rock.
Now, a short disclaimer: I have to admit that where I come from, if you say that you got a project/job/any other perk through a contact, you might get a jealous look and a comment along the lines of: “Oh, so you got it because you know people.”
Ehm, well, yes. That comment always comes with a tinge of judgment. As in, you didn’t get it yourself, someone else did it for you.
Let’s get one thing straight. A strong network does not fall from the sky. You patiently build it up. You reach out to dozens of people and hear ten no’s for every yes. Sometimes you don’t hear anything at all. But the people that do respond are the ones you want to be talking to. The ones you want to be working with. The ones you want to keep close.
The truth is this all sounds great, but making the first move is not always as easy. Here’s a list of tips I’ve put together over the years and that I go back to ever so often.
- Make a list of potential clients and reach out. Don’t wait, just do it. The worst that can happen is they say no.
- No answer doesn’t mean no. Give people time to respond (two weeks, my gut feeling says) and follow up.
- Invite current or potential clients to a (virtual) cup of coffee. Get to know them. Not every meeting has to be about doing business. Give yourself time to establish relationships.
- Go out there. Select the events relevant to your niche and make yourself known.
- Social media is your new best friend. Read, share, post. Engage in discussions.
- Start a blog.
- Do a great job at the projects you’ve already secured. Like I said, referrals are the way to go.
- Once a project is over, don’t just assume people will come back to you for more - even if you’ve done a great job. Everyone’s busy. Everyone has their own priorities. Yours is to stay on top of your clients’ minds. So…
- Make yourself available and send the occasional reminder. If they don’t have anything for you at the moment, stay polite. A no now doesn’t mean a no forever.
- If you get stuck, you can always go back to point 3. Invite people to a coffee.