I hate to say it, but a lot of freelancers and other online business owners still aren’t utilizing their professional networks as effectively as they could. I know that time is a big challenge. I’m a busy wife and mother of four running this blog and my own home-based business so I get it. Thankfully networking online – through forums, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites – helps you stay in the loop. When utilized, it can be just as effective as face-to-face networking. Don’t believe me?
It Started with an Opportunity I Didn’t Even Know I Wanted…
Last week I accepted a freelance consulting role with an exclusive Canadian-based executive career firm. I’ll be working with this firm on a part-time basis (as an independent contractor) while continuing to grow and operate my own U.S-based resume writing and career marketing business. Getting the consulting gig is exciting, but it’s not the focus of this post – it’s HOW I got the opportunity that really matters.
While working as a sub-contracting resume writer for another firm two years ago, I acquired a new professional contact. Company protocol required all contracting writers to forward all completed documents to the company-hired proofreader to ensure that clients received error-free drafts. This often required constant back and forth email communication. My upbringing, along with the years spent in corporate America, have taught me the benefit of extending gratitude and appreciation to others when collaborating on projects. I didn’t do anything “extra.” I just made an effort to be friendly and appreciative of her services and skills whenever we communicated.
Many of my colleagues, including the proofreader, also connected with one another on LinkedIn. As my own resume home business began gaining steam, I reduced the number of clients I worked with for the firm. I make much more working for myself, so eventually I decided to resign from the subcontracting role. I hadn’t spoken to anyone other than my husband about my decision.
Imagine my surprise when I received a LinkedIn message from a Canadian executive career marketing firm looking to hire a certified professional resume writer. He explain that his contact (the proofreader) highly recommended me as an experienced career consultant to join their team. Although I was initially hesitant and somewhat resistant join another firm, they were persuasive and the pay and scheduling flexibility eventually won me over.
And This is the Takeaway…
Now there are two important things I sincerely hope you take away from this: 1) I was NOT actively looking for this opportunity. 2) This opportunity was NOT advertised publically. In fact, this company relies on internal recommendations/referrals when recruiting talent to work with their exclusive clientele; 3) I don’t think my skills alone moved that proofreader to recommend me for the consultation role. I truly believe my taking the time to build a rapport through simple expressions of kindness and gratitude in our correspondence affected her and I’m grateful for that, alhamdullilah.
This is all a part of networking, sisters. You don’t have to be in constant communication with others, but make an effort to connect with and communicate with others genuinely, masha’Allah. In this world today, there are people who truly appreciate small and random acts of kindness; and as you can see, you NEVER know how someone will reciprocate.
Friday evening I was emailing a sister some possible client leads, and I explained to her that the majority of jobs and business opportunities are never publicly posted. Most people get leads on business and jobs through someone in their network. If like you’re unable to attend many in-person events, take advantage of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Use the 20/80 rule when interacting on these platforms: talk about yourself 20-percent of the time and share information that’s useful to others 80-percent of the time. This is an easy formula to follow and people seem to respond to it positively.
I’ll admit to not putting as much effort into networking on LinkedIn in 2014 as I should have; and I still earned 35% of my income from connections made there. Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn when it comes to building your client base. My new book can help you get started.
How much effort do you put into networking? Which do you prefer: networking online or offline?