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.
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.
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.
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.