How to Network Without Being Needy
Leverage networking to create your own opportunities
Closed mouths don’t get fed. Let’s talk about it.
How to Network and Create Your Own Opportunities
As a full-time, six-figure freelancer, the majority of my current clients came from networking. This used to feel super abstract to me — how tf do you network? I didn’t shake any hands!
So, this is my personal strategy for landing clients with effective, non-weird-and-awkward networking that will allow you to create your own opportunities.
Put Yourself Out There
If you want to interact with people, you’ve got to put yourself in a place where that’s possible. Now, I’m an introvert, so in-person networking events are my personal hell. LinkedIn on the other hand? Love it.
So, I’ve got an active, well-filled out profile there, and I don't force myself to attend in-person events.
Keep Your Profiles Updated
You never know who’s watching. I’ve had periods where I’ve gone inactive on LinkedIn, but people still found my profile because it was updated and searchable.
For example, a company reached out to me a couple months ago. They found my page because they loved Company X and noticed I had previously worked with them. I offered the services they were in need of, and they immediately had more trust in me because they knew a reputable company had previously hired me. (We went on to work together and still do till this day.)
List out your previous employers (or clients) in your work history. Write accurate descriptions about the work you’ve done. You want your profiles to be an all-in-one landing page.
Don’t Be Desperate
Once you’ve got a completed profile, it’s time to start reaching out to people.
That said, if you’re only networking when you need something, it’s going to show. Your first intro message to someone you want to connect with shouldn’t be asking them for something.
Connect with them because you genuinely think they’re a valuable asset to your network or someone you’d love to learn from.
Here’s a message I sent to the founder of a startup I thought was genuinely cool. Notice that I didn’t ask for anything, I asked how I could support their business. (He later needed to hire someone for a service I offered. He remembered me and we’ve worked together for over a year now.)
Networking shouldn’t be a take-take-take kind of interaction. You should be giving back to your network as well. This means that when someone asks you for a 15-minute networking chat, be open to it. Again, you never know where one conversation might lead.
This is another great example of what it looks like to be helpful when networking. Notice that this person (name and picture blurred out for their privacy) mentioned wanting to connect so they can refer me. The message was genuine, helpful, and didn’t ask a single thing of me.
Be Prepared for More Than Small Talk
You want to engage in memorable conversations. Now, I’m of the belief that by being authentic and genuine, you’ll do just that. Trying to act a certain way, be stiff and professional, or say what you think you should likely won’t go over well.
Instead, engage in genuine get-to-know-you conversations. Love baseball and notice that this person does, too? Great! Mention that. Think someone’s product is genuinely incredible? Cool! Tell them what you love about it!
I think networking was once portrayed as awkwardly shaking hands with people in suits, but that’s not how it needs to be in reality.
Bonus Tip: Negotiating Outreach When You Need To
Like I said above, closed mouths don’t get fed (AKA if you never ask, you’ll never know). As you start to build your network, you may find that people begin to ask things from you and even offer you opportunities.
But know that you don’t always have to accept them as they come to you. Here’s an example of what I mean by this:
A company reached out to me on LinkedIn. They found me because one of my clients is a startup they know (and love) the founder of. They were looking to hire me full-time at $30/hour for a role (I was arguably a perfect fit; what they were looking for was very niche, but I had all the experience).
Instead of responding “No thanks, I’m not looking for a full-time role because I own my own business.” I said “Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to chat more about what this might look like.”
I got on a call with them, and they liked me, so I asked if they were open to doing it on a freelance basis. I explained that the tasks of the role were something I could do in that capacity, and in less than 40 hours per week.
They talked with their internal team and agreed. Then, I renegotiated the compensation from $30/hour to $50 per script (the task of the role). Now, I write them 5 scripts per week, which take me around 20 minutes each. That’s $250 in an hour and 40 minutes, or the equivalent of $142 per hour.
Never be afraid to ask.
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See ya Friday,