The world of social media began as an innocent app designed to connect family and friends, which blew up into the political and social behemoth it is today. It’s part of the cultural zeitgeist. It’s also likely a core part of your marketing strategy as a freelancer.
What if I were to tell you the way to grow and scale your career isn’t by posting on social media consistently, but by connecting and building real relationships with people in (and outside of) your industry? This is done both offline and online. Don’t believe me yet, here’s how it works.
Before you can show up online and start connecting with potential clients or collaborators, you need to have a presence. Imagine getting a friend request from a stranger with no profile picture of their face and zero recent activity on the account…
However, if you optimize your bio, add an on-brand photo, create and share posts sparingly that highlight your expertise, field of interest, or brand values, and include links to your website and other (optimize) social media profiles, it goes a long way to win someone’s trust.
That’s what you’re doing here. Building trust without ever having to meet.
For me, this means meeting people IRL. Whether you have a business card, website, or social profile to direct people to, make sure you have it handy if someone wants to connect further.
There are a variety of in-person events or spaces to choose from such as:
Go with the intent of meeting people to connect with. Marketing yourself consistently in this way means your pipeline will never be empty. If you find yourself in a dry spell, all you have to do is send a quick email out to your recent connections and let them know you’re taking on new clients.
Like many of the suggestions in this blog, joining a directory is a long-term marketing strategy. However, it’s a great way to begin diversifying where clients can find you. This ensures you have multiple sources for leads and is an amazing way to become affiliated as the “go-to” person in your field, area, or industry.
There are other benefits too. If you join a directory for freelancers in the DMV, those looking for your services can rest assured you understand the local area. Those clients also already understand what constitutes a freelancer vs an employee since they’re on a freelance directory. This helps you avoid the stress of convincing clients to pay you an appropriate rate.
Haven’t joined a directory yet but are now considering it? You can add yourself to a public business directory for remote workers right here.
Two other directories I can recommend to people in the DMV area are:
This can be in your local area or online. I find online communities like Facebook Groups and memberships to be my favorite to meet freelancers and remote workers.
By joining directories and getting involved with communities, you can find other freelancers to outsource the work you don’t want to do, meet people who you may eventually hire or collaborate with, and have a high-quality network to refer leads or current clients to. You can also find people who are looking for contributors to write for their site, guests for their podcast, or someone to interview for an upcoming Instagram or YouTube video — leap at these opportunities!
Just remember: If you pay to be somewhere versus join for free, the people surrounding you are going to be more “in” it. They’re likely just as motivated and active in their own business as you are in yours because they invested money and time to be there.
This is HUGE for me and something I think a lot of freelancers forget about when it comes to building a business and network.
While leads that land in my inbox looking for a web designer are going to be disappointed to find out I only write copy, they will leave with a glowing recommendation for a freelancer who can help them with their project. It’s also probably going to be someone I’ve collaborated with on websites in the past.
Imagine YOU are the one looking for help on an upcoming project — you need to hire a branding expert for a new business you’re launching. You reach out to 2 different freelancers and get emails back from both. Which email do you think would lead to an amazing connection that you can tap for future projects?
How does it feel to receive that first email? You’re left with a dead-end and no real desire to reach back out to them for copywriting help. They haven’t done anything for you.
Now imagine getting that second email. Not only have they let you know they don’t offer those packages (and told you what they DO offer), they recommended freelancers you CAN reach out to for your project. Plus, you now have a copywriter to tap if the need ever arises. This is the Principle of Reciprocity (a persuasion technique) in action.
The trust continues to build the more you allow connections to surface. Then, it’s up to you to take those opportunities and run with them. Making real connections is a long-term strategy, not a way to make a quick buck.
But if you stay committed to meeting new people, getting creative about collaborations, and putting yourself (and your business) out there, you will have a thriving freelance career built on word-of-mouth, referrals, and recommendations.
Ask any freelancer 10+ years in the business and they’ll tell you THOSE are the ways they’ve created a sustainable career. Not by posting 3x a week on social media. Use your presence online to make real connections with people instead of constantly selling to them, it will pay off for you and your business in the long run.