By Laura Pennington
As a freelancer, it is your job to constantly be marketing your business. After a while you can run out of ideas that can help take your business to next level and this is where many people get stuck and don't think to expand beyond the basic tools and opportunities to work at their company.
With the advancement of social media and so many new opportunities to network socially, it is always in your best interests to consider how you can continue to grow and scale your company with the insight and expertise provided by other freelancers and leveraging result as a thought-leader in the industry.
From Inside the Trenches: My Experience as a Facebook Group Founder
I currently run the Facebook Group Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura. I've been the main moderator there for just under two years, and it's been a great tool to interact with other people and to help them navigate the challenges of freelancing.
One of my favorite things about being active in that group is that most of us in there are working on similar goals. It's nice to know I have a community to turn to when I want to share successes or challenges.
Being part of a Facebook group of like-minded people cheering you on and there to help you when you encounter difficult clients or tricky negotiations reminds you of why you started this business to begin with. And, when you're a member of a group like this, you get first access to free trainings and special promotions shared by the group owner. Last year, for example, I did 10 free weeks of one-hour trainings to help my group members uplevel their strategies for marketing and growing their business.
During live trainings and events like that, as a freelancer you get to ask questions and get expert eyes on your challenges and struggles. It's an amazing feeling to have quick access to such a talented pool of people who know your business like you do!
Social Networking Benefits
Here are some of the primary benefits of social networking as a freelancer.
Learn from Others
As a freelancer, every new level you achieve means that you're facing new challenges. You're constantly out of your element if your business is growing, especially if that growth happens quickly.
But you don't need to start from scratch. Thanks to the fast pace of the freelance economy, other people have been there before and can provide meaningful guidance and action steps for you.
I always find it helpful to follow a proven path. This is especially true when you are launching or growing a freelance business because there is probably someone who has been through whatever challenge you are facing before you and can help you avoid many of the common pitfalls and obstacles you'd otherwise end up stuck in. For this reason, social networking and Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups in forums or at conferences for freelancers or industry professionals can help you work through problems more quickly and effectively.
You'll also learn what's on the cutting edge in your field and be able to implement new software tools, strategies and ideas into your business effectively. You can learn a great deal from other freelancers and social networking makes that easier.
Networking with freelancers who are a couple of months or even a couple of years ahead of you can also prepare you for the obstacles and challenges that you may face down the line.
Even though you might currently be in a different point in your individual business, social networking with other freelancers in the field keeps you apprised of what to anticipate and empowers you with the necessary tools to be able to navigate through the obstacles when they do come up.
Claim A Role as A Thought Leader
Along the lines of what was stated above, it's very empowering and meaningful to be aware of the common risks, challenges and opportunities in the world of freelancing. You have an ideal target audience of people who are going through the same challenges and issues that you are, and who you can bounce ideas off of. But you can also claim a role as a thought leader by participating in these discussions and actively helping others.
This means that you will be at the top of their list should you decide to expand your own freelance business with books, courses, podcasts, or even coaching opportunities. These are all additional revenue streams that you can incorporate into your freelance business that allow you to help even more people and to earn additional revenue.
Keep Yourself Top of Mind for Referral Opportunities
There have been many different times when a freelancer that I have helped or interacted with through social networking has thought of me as the first person they choose to work with if I had personal opportunities to provide coaching, but there have also been plenty of opportunities in which they met an ideal prospective client for me and passed that information along.
This is an invaluable form of networking. For example, if you are a writer and you partner up with a graphic designer as a referral partner, every time the graphic designer brings on a client or interacts with someone that they believe could be helpful for you in your own business, they might refer this client directly to you.
You are much more likely to convert this new client because they came in the form of a referral in which your services and quality was already positively discussed with the prospective client.
Developing a referral network of freelancers means that it's your responsibility to share business leads with them as well. But this is a mutually beneficial relationship that can serve everyone in the referral circle for many years to come.
Get Immediate Answers to Your Questions
In social networking, whether it's on a social media site such as LinkedIn or Facebook or in some other manner, you have a pool of people who understand your world and can help provide you with strategic insight and steps to take when you hit an obstacle.
For example, if you're currently encountering a challenge with getting a client to sign a contract or to pay the late fee established as part of a previous contract, you might post in these social networking groups to get insight from others who have been there before.
As freelancers and business owners, we are often navigating situations that we are not familiar with, and the more that we can align ourselves with those who have seen these kinds of issues, the easier it will be to push yourself through the challenge and emerge victorious on the other side.
Identify Market Demand
Groups of freelancers are well placed to determine whether or not there is enough demand for your individual services. Before someone launches a freelance business in a specific niche, it's very powerful for them to ask whether or not there is currently enough demand for them to earn a good living as a freelancer in that field.
Within a group of freelancers you will be able to see what kinds of projects other people are working on and you could even ask the forum directly whether or not they have seen a need for your specific type of project. Social networking for freelancers is becoming increasingly important in this digitally interconnected world.
You can expand your network of freelance professionals successfully by establishing referral relationships, providing helpful answers to people who have pertinent questions about the world of freelancing and by remaining active and an engaged member of groups.
People will keep you top of mind and will be more likely to provide you with referrals or other opportunities to generate cash flow when you participate in social networking in this manner.
Using Social Networking When It's Not Your Comfort Zone
As a fellow introvert, I know how tempting it is to opt out of social media entirely. I often say that if it weren't for my clients who need me to maintain their Facebook pages and my own Facebook group for freelancers that I would have closed down my account entirely.
If you're feeling resistance to social networking, step back and ask yourself if there's a good reason for this. If most of your business is generated from word of mouth, for example, you might not need social networking as a lead source.
But that doesn't mean you couldn't still find benefits from interacting with other freelancers. Seeing how other people run their business could open up new avenues of revenue or productivity for you.
For those who are averse to falling into the social media black hole, set timers. Perhaps a quick check of LinkedIn and your most relevant Facebook groups gives you some insight into what's new in the freelance world without it becoming a hub of distraction. There's a great app called "KilltheNewsFeed" that you can use to check in on your favorite groups in Facebook without having to see a scrolling newsfeed at all when you log in.
You'd be surprised at how quickly you can interact with other freelancers and learn from their successes and challenges with some great takeaways for your own business.
Furthermore, working as a freelancer is often an isolating venture. It's hard to find people who understand what you do and how your day works. Being able to connect with a group of people who completely understand your business and plans for growth is empowering and forward-thinking. Whether you're there to celebrate a recent success or to navigate through an obstacle with the help of people who have direct insight, social networking holds a lot of power for you.
And don't forget that you can help other people, too! Being on the cutting edge of what's happening in the freelance world positions you to create books, courses, or even public speaking options to reach this growing section of the market.
Being mindful of your social networking usage- and also your underlying reasons for being on the site to begin with- is the first step towards viewing these sites as opportunities.
Commit to building your network and interacting more on social networking. You never know who you'll connect with and where it will lead.
***Laura Pennington is a freelance SEO writer working with law firms across the country. She's also worked for companies like Microsoft and TrueCar helping to build teams of digital freelancers. She blogs at Six Figure Writing Secrets.