Freelancing,  Ultimate Blogging Challenge

Cents & Sensibility: Networking

Note: I have been wrangled into writing a column on freelancing business related issues for the Society of Editors (WA) Inc.’s monthly newsletter Bookworm.

There are times when I enter a room and I freeze. I know why I am there, I know I am supposed to talk to person X, Y, and Z, but I freeze regardless. I end up sidling around the room, propping up all the walls as I go.

It’s probably because I prefer to be far more indirect and casual. A formal networking session where people look at you expecting a wonderful elevator pitch as soon as you approach them tends to unnerve me. I assume that this puts other people off networking as well.

I personally don’t like it at all when someone darts up to me, quizzes me on what I do, doesn’t wait for me to answer before delivering their pitch and then gives me a business card and darts off elsewhere. That leaves me feeling like the social interaction hasn’t quite finished and holding a card for a service I will never need.

Business card house
Business card house by rahims vic Flickr (See? That is all that they are good for if there is no meaningful interaction to go with them)

 

The point of clients and customers is that you want them to become repeat clients and customers. That means they need to trust you enough to start working with you, and then trust your work and you enough to come back. That’s a lot of trust and that doesn’t come unless you build up a relationship with the people you work with. Guerilla style working the room just doesn’t cut it.

I suppose people who work the room want quick results as building relationships takes time. However,   I think it is key to keeping your business going. I have my business cards with me all the time but they are the last thing I pull out in an interaction with someone, I am more interested in the people I meet, what they do and what their passion is.

This is what you want to happen: save the elevator pitch for the few moments you do need them and get to know the person you are talking to. You want them to be excited by what you do so that then they tell someone else and suddenly you have word of mouth marketing.

Excitement (July 2011)
Excitement by SkippyJon via Flickr

 

You might not be a people person at all, but there needs to be a bit of a give and take. I always smile and ask people questions about what they do, and when they ask me in return, I tell them. I am so used to this now that when someone who has followed me online meets me and actually starts off by asking me how ‘project A’ is going, I get a bit stumped and shy.

The other tip is to not get intimidated by the sheer number of people in a room. Take your time, hang around the edges and then go talk to the other person standing by themselves first.

Networking happens anywhere and everywhere. I am just as interested in an editor who works at say, Lonely Planet or New Scientist, as I am in the guy who runs the newsagent on the corner of my street. In fact, I am probably more interested in my newsagent because he remembers my name, makes me laugh and exchanges gossip with me. I don’t think you can peer into the future and pick and choose people based on whether a relationship with them will get you anywhere – you don’t know enough about a person to judge that accurately simply from what they do.

kiss
Kiss by Piez via Flickr

That being said, take all the opportunities you can. Always keep your business cards on you. People make life worthwhile so get to know them and let them get to know you.

Cheers, Marisa

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

4 Comments

  • Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. @Cerebrations.biz

    You described what I call people ping-pong. These folks don’t get it. They are just like the paper boys in the streets of old- screaming out their headlines. One day they will recognize that folks just take their cards and dump them in the trash, after such experiences.
    It always pays to listen- that’s when folks remember you.

    • Marisa

      Hi Roy,

      Thanks for the comment. “Ping pong” is a great name for it. I desperately don’t want people to a) be afraid of networking and b) do it the wrong way hence hwy I wrote this post in the first place. But oh I have had some horror stories happen to me in networking I can tell you. I also expanded rather gaily on this theme and how exactly to go about using your cards at a networking social event in an extremely long comment on a post on Marilyn’s blog the other day which you can read here: http://schoolnlife.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/do-business-cards-work/#comment-6

      Cheers, Marisa (PS, thanks for the tweet)

  • Leanne Chesser

    You’ve made some excellent points. I believe that the purpose of networking is building relationships . . . getting to know others an what they want . . . being a resource for them by helping them and connecting them up with what will solve their problem, whether it’s what you offer or what someone else offers. People who do what Roy calls “people ping-pong” either don’t understand (and posts like yours will help teach them) or are only out for what THEY want, rather than finding out what others want.

    • Marisa

      Hi Leanne.

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, I hope people learn how to do it and I wrote this post initially for a newsletter for the Society of Editors (WA) Inc. I have no idea if it was helpful or not. I think my next one may be on marketing.

      People and relationships are important. Definitely.

      Cheers, Marisa

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