You’ve taken the right steps to set up your freelance business and maybe you’re second guessing that email blast announcing you’re open for business. Or perhaps you’re thisclose to hitting send on a LinkedIn post, but aren’t sure if it communicates the right message. You want to remind your network of your skills and let them know you’re looking for new business, but you don’t want to look desperate.
It’s ironic that some of the best communicators feel trepidation about going after new business as a freelancer. The trepidation can lead to frustration, especially when a freelancer is first starting out and their network doesn’t immediately respond to their request for a meeting. Don’t take it personally.
Many communications pros are legitimately busy. If the person you want to have that cup of coffee with is working full time, think about it from their perspective. How much time will it take out of their day to do you a favor?
Stepping out for 30-45 minutes to “catch up” with you can mean they’re at the office late that night, interrupting their after work activities. It’s not that colleagues don’t want to network in person, it’s just that the meeting needs to be beneficial for both parties. For these reasons, here are three strategies to consider when networking for new business.
1. Have a website
It doesn’t need to be full of bells and whistles or loaded with content. You simply need a dedicated online presence that outlines your services and areas of expertise. This allows connections to understand your elevator pitch in advance of your meeting and it leads to more focused, live conversations.
Some freelancers opt to skip the website portion of the program and focus on their LinkedIn profiles and old-fashioned emails. Those actions are highly effective, too, and there’s no right or wrong answer. However, if you’re looking to build a full-time freelance consulting practice where you can earn the same, if not more than you do at a company or agency, strongly consider creating a website and having a professional email address as opposed to using your personal email account.
2. Skip the email blast
Instead, send personalized messages. It does take longer, but it forces you to focus on the contacts that are most receptive to hearing from you. It also allows you to initiate one-on-one networking meetings. People are more likely to respond to personalized messages than group messages.
3. Ask for what you want
Be direct. It’s surprising how often new freelancers ask to meet for a cup of coffee to “catch up.” Positioning the meeting as a catch up instead of what you really want isn’t likely to fill your calendar or bank account. And it doesn’t accomplish your goal of scheduling a successful new business meeting.
Since people are busy and can’t read minds, it’s in everybody’s best interest for the freelancer to say exactly what they hope to get from the meeting. For example, “I’ll be in New York the week of the 15th and I’d love to chat with you for 15 minutes about what I’m focusing on these days as I start my freelancing business. In exchange, I can offer you XYZ.” Just be sure that what you offer is aligned with what that person wants and/or needs.
Finding new clients is an on-going effort
Having a professional website, a focused approach to networking, and personalized messages allows you to get meetings with people who can genuinely benefit from your skills and services. If someone responds immediately, you know they have a sincere interest in what you’re doing and either want to help or tap into your expertise.
For those contacts that don’t respond immediately, it doesn’t mean they haven’t taken notice of your new role. It just means that they don’t have an immediate need or are under a tight deadline focusing on other work. They’ll likely come around when they have more time, need your services, or hear about a potential opportunity that’s aligned with your expertise.
Meanwhile, continue to cultivate new business leads and keep your connections apprised of your activities via LinkedIn, your website, or a newsletter, for example.