“It’s not what you know, but who you know” is a concept almost as old as the idea of business itself. For those who work freelancers, such as many in the professional translation field, it’s also an unavoidable part of working life.
Networking can be something of a divisive issue. Some freelancers love it and thrive on the opportunity to make new contacts. For others, a room full of strangers that they must make small talk with is their worst nightmare. Whichever category you fall into, it’s always possible to improve your networking skills. As such, here we look at some top tips to help you make the most of networking opportunities and give your freelance career the boost that it deserves.
Exude confidence and calm
The vibe that others get from you will influence how they treat you. As such, if you approach a networking event with your nerves on show, people will be more awkward in their dealings with you. Take a deep breath, smile and fake confidence even if you’re feeling the complete opposite. The approach will ensure that those you speak to are put at ease and will ensure a more effective networking experience for all concerned.
Opt for organised events
Whether you’re a nervous networker or naturally brimming with confidence, local business breakfasts are a great way to make new contacts. They’re often attended by particularly proactive and enthusiastic local entrepreneurs, so the potential to make beneficial business connections is excellent.
If you do find that nerves affect your ability to network effectively, then business breakfasts can prove particularly useful. The nature of these events means that there is usually one or more speakers to kick things off. That means that all you need do is listen carefully and pick out pertinent points and you’re instantly armed with plentiful small talk once the speaker has finished.
Open the door for introductions
Don’t worry about admitting at networking events such as conferences that you don’t know anyone there. Many other attendees will be in the same position, which instantly gives you something in common. For those who are attending with colleagues or other contacts, your admission of not knowing anyone provides an excellent opportunity for them to introduce you to people, which is precisely what needs to happen in order for you to get the most out of the event.
Be ready for small talk
Successful small talk can be something of an art. Thankfully, it’s one that anyone can learn. If you’re terrible at small talk, you don’t have to remain that way. There are plenty of books that can help to grow your skills and confidence in this area. Allan Green’s Fine Art of Small Talk is a great place to start and is (at the time of writing) available as a free download from Amazon.
Before you attend a networking event, be sure to get up to speed with current events, even if you don’t usually follow the news. Not only could doing so give you some ideas of conversation openers, it will also ensure that when someone else begins talking about current affairs you won’t lose the thread of the conversation.
Rehearse your selling points
Perhaps an obvious point, but make sure you are fully up to speed with your own offer. If someone puts you on the spot and asks for details of what you do, your prices and so forth, you need to be able to provide instant answers. Floundering around and sounding vague will not present you or your work in a good light!
Practice makes perfect
Practice your networking skills whenever the opportunity presents itself. Whether you’re at the supermarket, waiting for a bus or milling around with other parents while picking up your offspring from school, take the chance to hone your skills. Just remember that others may also be shy of speaking to strangers and tone your networking down accordingly!
Do you dread networking or thrive on it? Is it possible to still have a booming freelance career without networking? Share your thoughts and experiences via the comments.