Last week I started a four-part series of posts focused on the topic of networking for freelance designers. The first post looked at the general role of networking in the business of freelancing. Today we’ll take a deeper look at online networking and how it can benefit the freelance designer.A growing number of opportunities are available for networking with other professionals all over the world. Social networking sites and online communication options are making geographical boundaries almost no barrier for establishing a network. The basics of networking online are a good bit different than networking offline, although there are some similarities as well.
Keys to Networking Online:
Have a Home
Every freelance designer probably has a portfolio site, but as far as networking is concerned, a blog is the most appropriate home. It’s very common now for designers to have a blog at their portfolio site, and that is the ideal situation. As you start to build your network online it is necessary to have a home to point people towards. You may use other networking sites (we’ll look at some of them shortly) and most of them will give you the opportunity to link back to your own website or blog.
By having a blog you’ll be able to interact with other designers and professionals through your posts and comments. Ideally, your blog posts will draw others to your site and open up the lines of communication.
Get Yourself Out There
Everyone who is successful at networking has made an effort to simply be active with other professionals. It’s a simple concept, but taking action is the first and most critical step to building a strong network. Online networking can be uncomfortable for some people at first. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to force yourself to be active in some way (blogging, forums, networking sites, social media, etc.), and most likely it will become more comfortable pretty quickly.
Choose Some Favorite Places and Focus
There are so many places and ways that you can network as a freelance designer that you’ll never be able to use all of them. In fact, you’ll probably never be able to use more than just a few of them effectively. Focus on quality over quantity. Rather than having a small involvement at 20 different sites, work on building a strong presence at just a few.
Make it a Part of Your Schedule
With a busy schedule, networking typically gets overlooked. If you build some time for networking into your schedule you’ll find that the results are more than worth the time. Once you’ve chosen one or more sites to actively use, set aside some time for building your presence there. Also, set aside some time to respond to emails and comment on blogs.
Respect the Online Connections that You’re Building
The dynamics of networking online are very different from networking in person. When you’re networking offline and your dealing with people face-to-face their are some elements that just can’t be duplicated online. One of the problems that results is that it’s easy to regard your online connects and contacts as less valuable than those that you deal with in person. In order for your online networking to be as effective as possible, you must respect the connections that you’re making and realize the full value of their potential. Treat them as a significant part of your business.
Make it Easy for People to Contact You
One of the reasons it’s so beneficial to have a blog is that it makes you much easier to contact. Others can email you through a contact form or they can just start getting to know you by interacting in the comments on your posts. While being proactive is essential to networking success, you also have to give others the chance to be proactive themselves by contacting you.
Places to Network Online:
Professional Networking Sites:
Examples of Networking/Streaming Sites:
For more, see: