Business networking can be intimidating – especially for web people. Technology enthusiasts and designers are quite often more reserved that the extrovert salesperson so networking amongst such creatures can prove a difficult task.
Nevertheless, it is essential for success, and as a successful freelancer I have learnt a few tips along the way that I’d like to share with you.
Dress accordingly. They say designers can get away with wearing t-shirts and jeans, but this is just not appropriate to all situations. Be sure to look the part when you attend networking events – shirt, trousers, and shoes and maybe even a suit jacket. That’s to say -if you are a man.
As a woman, I refuse to wear a tailleur just because if I didn’t I would not be considered capable enough. I got some of my best jobs wearing a Desigual jeans waistcoat pretty similar to the one in the picture (taken straight from Desigual’s site). And I’m no head turning beauty like that model!
Take plenty of business cards. Better yet design your own business card in Photoshop and make it a personal, creative piece of art. You will need to pass your business card onto each person you meet so carry lots of them with you. It’s better to take too many than not enough.
Talk to as many people as possible. There are endless reasons for this – talking to lots of people spreads your business further but it also aids in meeting new faces for the next event. There is nothing better than turning up to an event and seeing familiar, friendly faces.
Don’t do the hard-sell. Remember these functions are to meet people, not sell to them. The moment you start banging on about your product or service, people will switch off. Talk about them and their business, not you and your business.
The opportunities are endless. Even if you have no direct success from a networking event, there’s a good chance your card or contact details will be passed onto a friend of somebody you meet. This is referral networking, and it’s arguably the best form of marketing.
Follow up your meetings by email (or even a friendly telephone call if suitable) after the event. You’ve met them so don’t fall off their radar. Nowadays I find tweeting is gaining popularity for lo-fi business relationship, and a job or two can land from a well placed tweet.
Remember the most important thing about business networking is to actually network. And do it with NEW people. If you know people from previous events, say hello but don’t hang around because ultimately, you’re there to make new contacts -just like them. Exchange pleasantries and business cards and with any luck you’ll leave a lasting impression.
The path to success will always see obstructions and for me personally, business networking was one of them. It took me some time to attend my first event but I don’t regret it for a second – I met some good people, got some work out of it and overcame that shy side of myself that makes me feel good at home, working on a wordpress theme.