It’s tempting to hide behind your laptop as a freelancer, but it won’t get you where you want to be.
Before coffee shops and coworking spaces shut down due to strict social distancing guidelines, going out into the world and forming connections was the bread and butter of our industry. It’s what leads to work, referrals, and true friendships that make freelancing a lot less lonely.
A strong network is essential as a freelancer because connections (for the sake of building a new relationship, not simply to gain a new client) and social capital are your currency.
Social capital is how willing people are to help others in their social network. A key part of this? Reciprocity. If you’ve heard the adage “collaboration over competition,” you understand the concept of social capital.
As we reflect on 2020 and look forward to the new year, it’s nice to see companies understand the benefits of collaborating with freelancers. Whether you work with an enterprise or fellow freelancer, there are plenty of reasons to build (and utilize) your network.
With that in mind, let’s get into 4 ways a strong, supportive network helps your freelance business grow.
You can outsource the work you don’t want to do
There’s a lot of work to juggle as a freelancer – lead generation, invoicing, marketing, branding, content creation, bookkeeping, accounting, creating offers, selling those offers, and so much more.
Can’t (or don’t want) to do it all? It’s time to outsource!
Outsourcing isn’t just for large companies, it can also be useful when you’re a freelancer. If you come across a task you don’t enjoy or it takes a lot of time for you to do, this is where you call on your network.
You probably already know someone who is good at what you need to outsource. Free up your time while helping out a fellow freelancer in the process!
You can create holistic offerings for your clients
As a freelancer, you’re an expert at your craft. But sometimes, your client needs more from you. Rather than refer them to someone else, this is where exchanging skills comes in handy.
Are you a website copywriter? Collaborate with a web designer to offer clients complete website packages. Do you write for your client’s blog? Partner up with a public relations specialist who can get the content seen by an audience who wants to read it.
Not only will this put you in good graces with your clients because you remain the expert while providing more holistic offerings, but your fellow freelance friends will also thank you!
You don’t have to constantly worry about lead generation
Lead generation can be time-consuming and exhausting. You research where potential clients are online, engage with them, record each interaction, and follow up after the appropriate amount of time… but for what?
While throwing money at marketing and sending endless cold pitches will work, it’s not sustainable or even recommended. What is? Building relationships and connections that lead to word-of-mouth referrals and collaborations down the line. Free platforms are also a great way to keep your pipeline full.
The bottom line is this: People buy from people they know and trust. This is why I can confidently say that a strong network is how you find consistent leads and get referrals for fun projects.
You never know who someone else knows.
You find your community of people who “get it”
As I mentioned earlier, freelancers juggle a lot of balls in the air at once. With so many things to do on a weekly basis, it’s tempting to isolate yourself from others so you can put your nose to the grindstone.
Hard work and hustle pay off, right? Not quite.
A strong support system of other freelancers is how you ride the wave. Be careful not to limit yourself to connecting only with others in your niche. Network with those in adjacent or complementary industries (like web designers if you’re a copywriter, remember?). They likely have a unique perspective to offer and can help you in ways you never imagined.
Don’t have a community of other freelancers you can lean on for support? Erin Cafferty and Remote ID is for you. You can also join the discord of the Beelance community to exchange with freelancers specialized in the IT and digital sector. Find your people who get it, they’re out there.