Networking plays a large role in my day-to-day life as an entrepreneur. Every week, I connect with new people to build new relationships. At the same time, I am tapping into my current network to foster deeper connections with the people I already know.
I’m constantly checking in and making myself available. Over time, I’m building a community around myself. But why? What’s the point of networking?
Why Should I Network?
Most of my freelancing clients come from networking. I’m not applying to jobs directly. And I’m not even competing with other freelancers. When you’re networking, the competition isn’t as fierce.
I’ll give an example. I applied for a job a year ago through a job posting. There were 140 applicants for that one writing job. I was pretty discouraged because I knew I probably couldn’t compete with many people.
But then I noticed something. The job posting was created by someone in my network. So, I reached out to him directly, began chatting, and inquired about the listing.
He offered me an interview, even though I didn’t have experience writing in
that area. During the interview, he said he liked my personality. So, he offered me the job anyway and said he would be willing to train me.
If I stuck with the traditional route of just sending in my resume and portfolio, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. The person hiring wouldn’t have known how eager I was to learn. He probably wouldn’t have taken a chance on me.
Networking gives you a leg up by allowing you to showcase your personality, talents, and other attributes that may help you stand out against the competition. It can also give you access to jobs before they’re posted. I’ve had people just directly ask me if I had time for a new client. All without me even reaching out or applying.
Other times, my network may send me a lead directly. Instead of the person hiring, it may be another connection I’ve just built a relationship with. They may not be writing in my niche, but they will recommend me instead. This is a win-win. The freelancer gets to help out the editor and someone in their network. I do the same for people in my community.
How Do I Network?
Networking isn’t that hard. If you can carry a normal conversation in real life, you can network over social media apps, including LinkedIn. The same etiquette applies.
You should never pitch-slap someone. What’s a pitch slap? It’s when you immediately ask for something.
Here are some examples:
Hi, do you have a lead?
Hi Janelle, can I write for you?
Hi, how are you? Do you have any work?
I get about 2-3 pitch slaps a day. I either ignore them, or I politely let them know I’m not offering that service. I never seriously consider a pitch slap. Everyone gets declined.
Why do I decline pitch slaps? There are several reasons. I don’t know anything about the person. I can’t give my authentic leads to random people just because they ask. I’ve also worked hard for my leads. Shouldn’t these people do the same? Handing over my leads feels like cheating.
What If I recommend them to an editor and they’re an unkind person? What if they just use AI to write all their articles? What if they actually can’t write at all, or their research is inaccurate? I have no idea if this person is trustworthy. Why would I vouch for them?
If you wouldn’t walk up to someone randomly in real life and immediately ask for a job or even for money, why would it be okay to do so over the Internet? Just because we aren’t face-to-face doesn’t mean we aren’t all people on the other
side of the keyboard. No one wants to just feel like they’re being used right away. I’m much more likely to help friends and people I actually know, than a random person I know nothing about.
And If I’m getting 2-3 of these messages a day, I don’t have the time to go through them, read the portfolio, and ask them questions to figure out if they may be a good fit for my network.
I love helping people. But at the end of the day, my time is limited and I can’t help every single person that just copies and pastes the same message to everyone. Some people don’t even take the time to change their introduction. They start with: “Dear sir/madame”. If they can’t take the time to personalize their message, I can’t take the 30 minutes out of my day to vet their articles.
On the other hand, if I have an actual connection with someone, and they ask me for advice, I always respond. I’ll always make the time to look over their portfolio for them and make myself available for quick questions
I’ve also given plenty of leads to my close connections. Because I know them. They’re good people. They can write and research content. When I hand over a lead to a close connection, I’m vouching for them as a writer. And I’m happy to do so.
You should connect authentically for the same reason you should avoid pitch slapping. People can always tell when you’re just using them. I understand that we all have motives, especially on job platforms like LinkedIn.
But, it helps when you want to help people, too. You’ll be remembered as the person that cares, not as the person that just uses other people for their gain. And you’ll get more opportunities.
So just be yourself. Chat with people. Tell them what you like about their content. Ask them meaningful questions. Build a relationship with them over time. Be authentic.
Send Messages with Every Connection Request
Every single time you connect with someone on a social media platform, send a message with the connection requests. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be detailed. Just let them know who you are or why you’re connecting.
Did you like a post they made recently? Are you in the same field? Are you thinking about transitioning to that field soon? Make it easy for them to remember you by starting a conversation, even if it’s brief and basic. It opens the door for later conversations.
Comment and Support
An important part of networking is offering public support to content you like. If you see a post that resonates with you, don’t just scroll by. Make sure you’re offering support through a meaningful comment.
Avoid writing “I agree” or “Good point”. Instead, write a sentence or two on
why you agree or what part of the post resonates with you. That information is really helpful when the person is creating content.
And people are more likely to comment on your content in return, which boosts your reach. You should try to offer public support as well as the occasional message.
Don't Ask for Comments or Likes
In general, avoid asking for things directly. Save the favors for when you need them, like for an introduction to a prospective client. If people like your content, they’ll comment and like it. And if you’re asking them to do so, they’re probably just going to ignore your request. This is a part of authentically connecting.
Networking goes both ways. Instead of focusing on a transactional interaction, focus on collaboration. What does this mean? Stop asking for leads. Instead, offer what help you can to your network. Make yourself available for questions. Be friendly. If you’re available, organize coffee chats.
Then, you can ask for favors in return. The main point here is to provide value before you ask for something. Make sure your connections understand that they’re more than just a dollar sign to you. If you take the time to offer value, you’ll get more in return than if you just pitch-slapped someone.
Networking brings you a sense of community and helps generate leads. But, you need to network in an authentic way to see these results. Never start the conversation with a pitch slap. You’ll just be ignored. Instead, provide value and build a genuine connection with a person. The next time a lead comes their way, they’ll remember you and return the favor by passing it over.
Are you looking for more tips? You can check out my course here.