Launching Yourself as a Freelancer – Networking

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

In the first two parts of this series, I talked about setting up in business as a freelancer and publicising yourself via branding and blogging.

Creating a brand and blogging are two important steps to getting yourself known, but are of little use if you do not actively build relationships through networking.

A good friend of mine, Rob, has some great advice: Get to the pub. When a project comes up and someone wants a Flex developer, you want to be front-of-mind.

Of course networking is more than simply going to the pub, it’s talking to friends and colleagues online, it’s attending conferences and groups. In essence it’s about ‘getting out there’.

Build Online Relationships

Many of my contacts are not from the London area, but include locations such as Brighton, Edinburgh and Birmingham. Added to this, I have international contacts in countries such as Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and the United States.

Clearly it isn’t easy to call up these people and say ‘do you want to go to the pub’. Therefore, building online relationships is a must. There are a whole host of services that essentially let people understand me as a person, not just a work colleague.

I use, to varying degrees, services such as FriendFeed, SocialThing, BrightKite, Jaiku, Meebo, Bebo, MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, LibraryThing, Cork’d and Dopplr. Indeed, you can find links to my most-used services in the footer of my site.

Take a look at the links in the footer and get to know me. You may notice that all the services are registered under my brand name. Again, this allows people to draw association with the profile they are looking at and me. It also means that if you want to follow me on one or many services, it won’t be hard to find me.

Attend Local Meetings and User Groups

Attending local ‘geek’ meets is a great way to meet like-minded people, exchange thoughts and quite possibly find work. These meetings can be found on the Yahoo! service Upcoming.org and on Meetup.com.

On the odd occassion, I may be found at meetings such as the Web Standards Meetup, the ColdFusion User Group, London Geeks, the London Flash Platform User Group, the Flex London User Group etc. (I do have a life outside my work, honestly!)

Attend Conferences Related to Your Industry

Conferences are really an extension of local user groups and meetings, but they allow you to network with a wider, often international, audience. It is quite possible to spend a few days a month attending conferences, so chosing ones relevant to you are key.

In the past I have attended, Adobe MAX, Scotch-on-the-Rocks and CFDevCon, but there are a tranche of other conferences that could be equally relevant such as CFUnited Europe, 360Flex and Flash on the Beach.

Conferences provide a varying degree of networking and job opportunities, but if anything they provide a great sneak-peek into what other people are working on and in what direction the industry is heading.

What’s Next

In the final part of this series I will introduce methods by which you can advertise your business.

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  • Nice article.
    Just one question though: how will you keep on getting work when you get a life ? 😉

  • @Bengali, it really depends upon your definition of ‘life’. I’m not suggesting you should live to work.

    Networking doesn’t always involve going out and talking about work amongst your peers, it can also mean simply going to the pub to socialise and to get to know those people. It’s almost a certainty that you have other things in common; music, films, travel etc.

    The post should really have been titled “Building Relationships”.

    Building relationships is increasingly easy online, the difficulty comes taking them offline. But when you do, they become some of the most valuable relationships you can have.

  • Another great post, I glad the things that your writing about I’m putting into practice at the moment, so i must be doing something right. I think social networking is a massive must, and it’s something I’ve really worked on in the last few months. This has bought about so many friends already from the web design industry and although no work yet (because of my experience), I believe it’s still vitally important even in the early stages of your development as a web designer/developer. If over time I stay in touch with all these designers it can only help me in the future, and maybe help them out as well.