#24: Networking Tips, Especially as an Introvert

On today’s show I am going to go over several networking tips that will be particularly helpful to introverts. But I also know extroverts who don’t love networking, so I think you extroverts out there will find these tactics useful as well.

Let’s be clear: I am an introvert. In this episode, I tell you about my solo adventures in Europe, where I enjoyed being alone with my thoughts and experiences and reactions.

Several things that I like are common among introverts:

I am comfortable doing things alone.

I enjoy being alone with my thoughts and my inner monologue.

I don’t have trouble filling alone time.

I like being with other people but usually one-on-one or in small groups and only for a short time.

All of this seems counterintuitive to everything we think about networking. How many of you would say you hate networking? Many people think of networking as those happy hour/reception-type events with strangers. But that’s only one small part of networking.

First, let’s reframe networking in our minds. I have renamed it: “relationship building.”

And “relationship building” is a necessary part of building your freelance business. You cannot sit in your home office all day and just do the work, without meeting new people, marketing your business, making connections. You MUST talk about your business A LOT. Life is word of mouth.

I’ll start with three steps to prepare for networking events:

Step 1: Set a monthly networking goal. Choose the number of networking events you will commit to in one month. Put it on your calendar to plan this out at the beginning of each month.

Search on Twitter, go to Meetup.com, search Facebook events in your area, and Google the local chapters of national organizations you are interested in or already belong to.

Step 2: Develop ice-breaker questions ahead of time.

Step 3: Set a networking goal for that particular event. For example, tell yourself you are going to meet 3–5 new people. And when you hit that goal, give yourself permission to leave.

Now, I want to also talk about email networking. You may not think of this as networking, but you can build great business relationships and connections through email.

Here’s one of the best tips I got when I started my freelance business: Email everyone you know.

Not just former co-workers and friends. Email family, neighbors, classmates, former bosses, even other freelancers who you might think of as competitors. Tell them you are starting your own business and explain your services. Focus on how you can help people solve their challenges.

If you didn’t do this when you started freelancing, it’s not too late. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been freelancing; you can do this at any time. It just takes tweaking the email. Maybe explain that you are looking for new clients—or even that you added new services—and that you wanted to see if they could use your services or know of anyone who could.

Here’s the trick: Don’t just say, “please let me know if you know of anyone who might be interested in my services.” ASK for that person’s contact info: Do you know of anyone who might be in need of my help? Would you mind sharing their contact info with me so I can reach out to them directly?

That is the critical piece because if you don’t ask for the contact info, they may not forward your email on and you’ll have no idea who might see it.

Now, let’s talk about conferences, which I love. Before you go to a conference, download the conference app. Don’t just look at the schedule; look at the speakers and attendees (if the app allows this).

Search the conference hashtag regularly in the week leading up to the conference. You can even tweet something obvious like “Hey, who’s going to hashtag XYC next week?” You may realize that people you’ve known only on Twitter will be there. Go ahead and suggest you meet up. You can move your conversation to the Twitter DMs or email or text to make plans.

I recently went to the Podcast Movement conference for the second time. Having a podcast provided the perfect question to approach strangers with: What is your podcast about?

I noticed that because of this, there was a culture at Podcast Movement of introducing yourself to people you sat next to during sessions. I’ve never seen that happen to that extent at any other conference.

Podcast Movement has an friendly vibe and culture. I saw more than once people commenting on Facebook and Twitter just how NICE everyone is. There were about 3,000 people there this year, a huge conference in my mind. I could so easily be overwhelmed and not talk to anyone.

But this friendliness was contagious. After a day or so, I too was automatically introducing myself to the people I sat next to. I had great conversations about podcasting, found some people who have similar focuses and audiences as I do, found other freelancers, and just learned new things. It was exhilarating, and I’m really going to try to remind myself of this at my future conferences so I can help implement this awesome culture into other events.

One note about conferences and being an introvert: All those people can be EXHAUSTING— especially when you’re doing all that extra networking.

Introverts get their energy from within and get tired after a while of being around so many people. So take care of yourself and your energy. For me, this means I always splurge a bit and stay at the conference hotel so I can just pop upstairs to my room to rest.

Don’t feel guilty if you skip a session to rest and relax in your room. Even take a nap. You are paying for this conference and you need to get out of it what you want. Sometimes that means taking a break from people in the middle of the day so you can rally for the late afternoon sessions or evening events. I often eat lunch at conferences by myself. If lunch isn’t provided, I leave the convention and go find some healthy fast food. And I take it back to my hotel room. I don’t stay in the restaurant, which is also loud and full of people.

At conferences, it’s important to be aware of how you’re feeling and if your energy is waning. Don’t be afraid to escape for a bit.

Biz Bite: Finding Podcasts via Google

The Bookshelf: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport

Resources:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Meetup.com

Podcast Movement

By the Book podcast

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah: Ears Edition (podcast)

Episode #9 of Deliberate Freelancer: This Is a Smartphone & Social Media Intervention

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