Whether you’re already established as a freelancer or are considering moving away from permanent employment in favor of going solo, you should be constantly thinking about ways to stay ahead of the competition. Whether it’s finding the best professional contractor accountants, creating a strong portfolio or getting to grips with the latest changes, every aspect of business is down to you.
As a freelancer, you don’t need to be exhibiting to make the most of an event. If you’re looking for ways stay ahead of the game, we’ve gathered together 5 top tips for networking at an event – to ensure you’re making the most of your valuable time by securing contacts and ultimately increasing your workload.
The old adage ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ has never been truer than in the life of a freelancer – particularly when it comes to networking. Networking events are attended by any number of professionals across a broad spectrum of industries and, if they express an interest in your services, they’ll expect you to be fully prepared. From answering unexpected questions to having examples of previous work to hand, no stone should be left unturned when putting your networking strategy together.
Whatever your industry, freelancing is competitive – and whether it’s ensuring your CV is up to date or establishing your rates, the way you present your service is a reflection of what you have to offer interested clients. You can never be too prepared or know enough about the industry in which you’re working – and the more knowledgeable you are, the more valuable you will be to prospective customers.
2. Know your audience
When it comes to deciding on which events to attend, this is where your planning and research will come to fruition. By learning from others in your industry and being active in online communities, you can cast a wide net and more effectively hone in on a relevant audience.
From finding the best location for you to targeting the right audience once you get there, being clear on the demographic you’re trying to target – whether you’re reaching out on social media or promoting the event by word of mouth – will maximize your chances of securing prospects. Your marketing skills might help you make hundreds of contacts as you explore the event – but if you’re not clear on the services you’re offering, your pitch will fall flat and your efforts will be a waste of time.
3. Stand out
As a freelancer, you’re working alone and events offer a chance to sell your skills – so make sure you’re putting yourself out there and networking with as many potential clients as you can. Approaching individuals or teams at an event can be nerve-wracking for a freelancer, but don’t discount the importance of making new contacts – as even a five minute conversation with an interested client could ultimately lead to a new contract. Visiting as many exhibitors’ stands as possible will allow you to build on your pool of contacts and help you make potentially lasting connections.
Events are a hive of activity and, as a solo exhibitor, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd or dwarfed by bigger businesses – so you’ll have to fight to make yourself known. Events provide a platform from which you can network face-to-face, helping you establish valuable relationships – so throw yourself into the event by expressing a genuine interest in the individual needs of each person you meet, letting them know how your offering can satisfy these needs.
4. Create and maintain social connections
Having reached out to exhibitors ahead of the event, you can use social media to stay in touch and expand your contact list after the big day is over. When networking, make sure your social media details are visible to potential clients – making it as easy as possible for people to make contact with you after an event.
As a freelancer, there’s no more useful social media platform in your arsenal than LinkedIn. The app can be downloaded to your smartphone, allowing you to connect with clients and prospects from remote locations and respond to any queries in a timely and efficient manner – helping you to maintain an active social media presence and maximising your chance of securing work. You can integrate multiple platforms by adding a link to your LinkedIn account in your email signature, ensuring clients can contact you through a range of professional channels.
5. Follow up
No matter how thoroughly you’ve researched or how well you’ve networked, a failure to follow up can mean a well-executed event falls apart in the final stages. Whether it’s sending out a couple of emails or using social media channels to approach prospects in a more informal way, be timely with your follow up – as other freelancers will be competing for the work you’re interested in securing.
A quick and enthusiastic approach to follow-up can turn potential prospects into paying clients – which is the end goal. This is the point at which all of your planning and preparation comes together – so don’t miss out on building lucrative relationships by failing to follow up.
So, whether you’re just starting out in freelancing or you’re a seasoned pro, these top tips can help you on your way to successfully networking at an event and staying one step ahead of the competition.
Paul Gough is Managing Director at Intouch Accounting – providing specialist contractor accounting services to skilled contractors and freelancers across the UK.