As an employed creative your job role does not generally involve business networking,
but if you decide to go it alone as a freelancer you 鈥檒 l struggle to find new business
unless you regularly attend networking events. We look at how you can forge new and
lasting relationships through these organised business events. Networking - by
definition - is creating new links between resources and entities and (in a business
sense) this link will form a mutually beneficial relationship. A long-term freelancer in
any industry will be well versed in the necessities of creating these relationships and it
鈥檚 only when you throw yourself in do you begin to understand their value.
Many creative types shy away from networking; we leave that to the salespeople
who have a tendency to be more extrovert but there is no reason why a good designer,
confident in their abilities, cannot play the role of a salesperson when needed...
Networking Tips for the Designer
You are a creative designer so it 鈥檚 cool to turn up to a networking event in jeans
and a t-shirt, right? Wrong. If you do this, not only will you stand out like a sore
thumb but people will find it hard to take you seriously. It 鈥檚 okay to dress how
you please in employment, but as a freelancer you are a business person, not just a
designer, and your clothing should reflect this.
In networking, projecting a professional image is paramount, so be sure to dig out
Take more than enough business cards with you
For each and every person you speak to at a business event, you need to be
supplying them with a card which contains your contact details and speaks about your
business to some degree. Turning up to a networking event without any business cards
renders the whole exercise pointless.
Give everybody you meet one of your business cards!
Overcome your fears and talk to people
People are generally friendly and will often approach you first. Take every
opportunity to make eye contact with the people around you and don 鈥檛 just hang
around the coffee table staring at the wall. A lack of alertness can make even the most
willing of individuals reluctant to introduce themselves to you.
Be open to meeting people 鈥?you actually have nothing to lose!
Never do the hard-sell
There is nothing worse than a networker-come-salesperson that only talks, never
listens and pushes their service or product relentlessly. That is not the purpose of
business networking. After the introductions it 鈥檚 a good idea to ask questions and
listen before you speak about yourself.
Listen first, then ask questions, but be sure to talk about your business too!
Ask the right questions
Ask questions relative to both your businesses 鈥?for example; if you are a web
designer ask them about their web presence; what experiences they 鈥檝 e had, how
their site is performing etc. This will show them that you are attuned to their needs as
a result of the knowledge you have of your own industry, and will, in turn, increase
their confidence in you and the likelihood of contacting you in the future.
"So, do you live around here?" is probably not the best line of questioning...
The point of networking is to chat and exchange business details so that they can be
kept and used in the future or passed onto a friend (this is called a referral). With
everybody you meet and every card you hand out, you are increasing your chances of
potential clients contacting you in the future.
Every brief encounter is a tiny seed from which a mighty oak tree could grow!
Follow up every encounter
For each business card you obtain, be sure to follow it up with a courtesy email (not
a telephone call 鈥?nobody likes that). This essentially keeps you on the person 鈥檚
radar and hopefully, they will come back to you in the future or refer your details to a
Email each and every contact out of courtesy!
Practice makes perfect
To become an expert at networking and to truly reap the benefits, you will need to do
it intensely. This means travelling to different areas of the country and reaching out to
a wide and varied range of businesses. This can be costly on both time and money, but
if you master the art of networking there are no limits as to what you can achieve.
--- Looking for networking events in your area? See Open Networking