Many of us who work online and manage to eek out a living often find ourselves becoming overly comfortable at times. Like anything else, as long as we know our boundaries and the client’s happy, we know where to draw the line when it comes to self-discipline.
Especially when a job is no more.
We all know that as freelancers it helps to be in constant learning mode as well as promote services in order to stay marketable in an ever-changing workplace. We also know that clients may have a final deadline and no longer need services, their budget may be maxed out, or the relationship isn’t what either party desires in the long run.
So we get away from the box and plan to find new clients but first, we must read about the latest celebrity breakup, the stock market, or after the last (for real, this time) funny cat video.
Whatever we consider our priorities at that moment, one thing to look up between breaks are places to network. Community development centers, small business associations, and private events are good places to look into and possibly get on their mailing lists. Meetup.com is a great place to find in-person meetings and there are many categories from which to choose.
When I began attending networking sessions, though nicely dressed and fairly well spoken, I also made mistakes that may have killed other opportunities.
Some of these were –
- · Arriving hungry
- · Spending too much time with people who didn’t have a neat (or fitting) appearance
- · Spending too much time with someone who had interests outside of business
Finally, I didn’t have a 30-second pitch. Since becoming a Marketing major, I’ve realized the importance of these both online and offline. I’ve also cleaned up many profiles so they are keyword dense and show off my best features. Yet, there’s more work ahead of me when it comes to selling marketable skills and not telling female attendees about my favorite stores for size 10 shoes.
However, as a natural introvert who has worked for someone else most of their life, I had minimal networking skills. Although my last employer held meetings that offered get-acquainted sessions, many of the attendees on my caliber gossiped about other departments and situations. Even though many spoke “in code”, I knew this could backfire in a major way.
Fast forward to present.
As I’m gathering data and drafting a new promotional campaign, networking events are high on my list. That invaluable resource called the library led me to borrow The Networking Survival Guide recently. Though some topics are best suited for someone on the executive level and the author is a little chatty in some chapters, I’m grateful to Diane Darling for writing this book.
Before returning, I found a simple checklist that most newbies should not be without in order to make an impact. Here are some checkpoints before arriving –
- · Handshakes – give two firm shakes and let go; no fishtail or dishrag (moist and/or limp)-style grips. Also, make eye contact and give a slight smile
- · Name badge – place on right side of chest at eye level and it may be a good idea to keep a Sharpie pen near to ensure that your name is visible
- · Basic conversation – three to five minutes but no more than eight minutes; also keep it friendly without discussing matters that are personal or controversial
- · Wardrobe – if not sure, dress up but one common question is ‘What is business casual?’ Or a better question is how does a person know when to come dressed to nines and whether to be comfortable. Sometimes a plain shirt and khaki pants that are neat and clean go over better than a suit that is obviously dated.
· Dining Etiquette – Always hold drink in left hand and if possible, eat before arrival
No matter how attractive or charming someone is, resist the urge to hook up for a date. Though we may read a sweet story about couples meeting on the job or a business trip, think of each networking event as an investment in your brand, so keep it professional.
Finally, make sure that you have plenty of business cards on hand with information and links that are current. If you have a promotional item to give away, save these for those who are interested in the services you have to offer and not hand them out at random.