Dear MANMAN, People are always talking about how the best way to get more clients and more projects is to network. But what does that mean exactly? How do I network when I'm sitting in my home office all day?
The topic of networking comes up often in my conversations with fellow and potential freelancers. It sounds daunting and mysterious, but it really doesn't have to be.
To me, networking is just building relationships with other people. Every conversation you have, every email or text you send, every deliverable you share says something about you. And all those impressions add up to define you in others' eyes.
1. Start a convo.
When you meet new people, simply chat, sharing what you're interested in and what you're good at. You don't need a formal elevator speech, but having a few standard lines that you say when someone asks what you do will help you feel prepared.
For example, I usually say something like, "80% of my business is graphic design (I do websites, branding, packaging, anything you can think of), 20% is photography, and I recently got into interior design, which is really fun." And the conversation usually takes off naturally from there.
2. Ask questions.
People love to talk about themselves, so ask the other person(s) about their work / life. Who knows, you might need their help someday. Or you might find a way to help them, which could come back around to you. Karma, baby!
3. Be passionate and excited about your work.
Talk to people about what you do because you love it and you want to share the goodness with others. And post about it on your social media accounts. Late last year, I got to design the living spaces of four new AirBnbs in Covington—the furniture, the rugs, the wall hangings, the plants, all the decor—and it was so much fun that I posted about it a ton on Instagram and in almost every client meeting, when people asked how I was doing, I excitedly told them about this new project. Before the AirBnb project even finished, I had two new interior design projects lined up!
4. Force yourself to meet new people.
Sometimes when you're working in your home office, it can get a little lonely. And there's not much chance to meet new people, unless you count the Amazon delivery person. So go to a nearby coffee shop to work and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you (if it feels right). Join a club in something you're interested in, take a local class (like pottery or baking) or attend a social event that interests people in your field (for me, that might be a gallery opening).
5. Don't be boring.
Last but not least, I'm always looking for the next exciting thing. It's the curse of being a creative, I guess (or a blessing, however you choose to look at it, haha). The amazing Elizabeth Gilbert once said, "The only boring people I know are bored people." When I start to feel like I don't have anything to add to a conversation, I think of that quote. It reminds me that it's time to push out of my comfort zone and go try something new.