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Building your professional network

From: Freelancing Fundamentals

Video: Building your professional network

I've mentioned how the biggest asset you have from past jobs as your network of professional connection, but that's a use it or lose it kind of thing. You have to take steps to turn it from a bunch of folks I used to know to a network of colleagues who'll help me build my freelance career. I break those steps into three parts: collect, contact, and grow. Before going into detail, I want to point out that the purpose isn't to ask these people for work. You'll do that later. Work might come out of it naturally but forming bonds is more important right now.

Building your professional network

I've mentioned how the biggest asset you have from past jobs as your network of professional connection, but that's a use it or lose it kind of thing. You have to take steps to turn it from a bunch of folks I used to know to a network of colleagues who'll help me build my freelance career. I break those steps into three parts: collect, contact, and grow. Before going into detail, I want to point out that the purpose isn't to ask these people for work. You'll do that later. Work might come out of it naturally but forming bonds is more important right now.

The first step is to take a walk down memory lane. Remember and gather the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of former colleagues who know and like your work. You can collect these contacts in any system you like, your computer's address book, a database system, or just a plain text file. Whatever you use, make it a sole, central, and convenient place for such information because you're going to use it a lot throughout your freelance career. I hope you've been saving all your e- mails too, because they are prime place to mine for old contacts.

As you copy the information over, it's also a good idea to make notes about who those contacts are and how you work together. You'll need that when you contact them. Beyond your list of previous contacts, I found the website LinkedIn.com to be a great help. I recommend you join it, fill out your information and use it to research old colleagues. However, I suggest that you not use its automated tools to contact everyone from your address book, because that could irritate people. Once you have all the information gathered, pick out a few people to contact.

Don't just send them a form letter. Nobody likes that. Instead, write personal e-mails to those who you think will be most relevant to your freelance career. If they're from awhile back, remind them who you are and how you know each other. Later on, you'll broadcast your availability more widely. But for now, your point is to start building relationships with the top tier contacts. Be sure to let them know that you'll be freelancing. This alone might lead to work but don't be pushy. If it's been awhile since you've talked, ask them what they're doing and make sure they have your contact information and you have theirs.

Finally, ask them if they have any advice or if they know anyone you should contact. This last step can be amazingly productive. It was one of these referrals that basically got my writing career started. That leads us to the last step. Grow your network. Besides your existing contacts, there's also a world of colleagues out there you simply haven't met yet. The best way to meet them is to take part in communities that'll bring you together, such as mailing lists, conventions, and volunteer projects.

I'd urged you to think broadly. If you're a musician, talk to writers, directors, and graphic artists, as well as other musicians. That's how the real collaborations get started. I have to stress again that you should do all of this with a light touch. First, be sure to respect past contracts when you connect with old colleagues. A lot of companies have non-compete agreements that say you can't take their clients or employees when you leave. If you have any questions about past agreements that you've signed, talk to an attorney. Also, some marketers will recommend that you just hit them all hard and repeatedly with your message.

But for freelancing that's the wrong approach. You're not selling cheap trinkets to the masses; you're building relationships to provide highly personalized services. Approach your network with respect and you're sure to get the same in return.

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This video is part of

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Freelancing Fundamentals

42 video lessons · 25171 viewers

Tom Geller
Author

 
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  1. 10m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 53s
    2. What is freelancing?
      2m 53s
    3. How freelancing and employment differ
      2m 33s
    4. Preparing your mindset
      3m 31s
  2. 9m 24s
    1. Defining career goals
      2m 48s
    2. Sharpening your market focus
      3m 18s
    3. Transitioning to freelancing
      3m 18s
  3. 16m 11s
    1. Preparing your portfolio
      3m 11s
    2. Estimating costs
      3m 10s
    3. Funding your startup
      2m 42s
    4. Establishing your workspace
      3m 35s
    5. Building your professional network
      3m 33s
  4. 8m 51s
    1. Getting licenses, permits, and insurance
      2m 15s
    2. Creating contracts
      4m 23s
    3. Finding professional service vendors
      2m 13s
  5. 12m 54s
    1. Setting prices
      3m 13s
    2. Establishing payment systems
      1m 36s
    3. Invoicing and getting paid
      3m 50s
    4. Keeping the books
      2m 32s
    5. Managing taxes
      1m 43s
  6. 14m 41s
    1. Announcing your availability
      3m 16s
    2. Finding work through agencies
      2m 2s
    3. Onboarding clients
      2m 59s
    4. Avoiding scams
      3m 25s
    5. Choosing assignments
      2m 59s
  7. 11m 27s
    1. Interacting with clients
      2m 11s
    2. Delivering quality work
      2m 28s
    3. Getting referrals and recommendations
      2m 34s
    4. Losing and firing clients
      4m 14s
  8. 10m 48s
    1. Deconstructing big jobs
      3m 34s
    2. Adopting time-management tools
      2m 35s
    3. Creating schedules
      2m 30s
    4. Turning off the clock for "me time"
      2m 9s
  9. 20m 6s
    1. Staying motivated
      3m 3s
    2. Increasing your rates
      2m 52s
    3. Marketing beyond your professional network
      2m 56s
    4. Growing through hires and partnerships
      3m 30s
    5. Building passive income
      3m 48s
    6. Changing focus
      3m 57s
  10. 4m 52s
    1. Case study: Publishing a book
      2m 47s
    2. Next steps
      2m 5s
  11. 12m 42s
    1. Freelancing Q&A
      12m 42s

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