Are you taking advantage of in-person networking opportunities to find freelance writing clients?
When I wrapped up a phone call with an agency that hires freelancers to write content for Portland-based sports and athletic companies, I got an invite to a meet-and-greet with people from these companies.
The after-hours meeting fit my schedule, so I decided to go and see if networking opportunities like this could help me find more prospects and clients.
You don’t have to be an extrovert, gifted sales pro or marketer, to benefit from in-person networking opportunities that can connect you with potential prospects and clients. But you do have to open your mouth, ask questions, share contact information and follow up.
I walked away from my client’s networking event with some new contacts, and scored a few referrals from the effort since attending.
That got me thinking about the many free in-person networking opportunities available for freelance writers. If you’ve stayed away from in-person networking because you didn’t want to pay hundreds to join a group, good news — there are plenty of free opportunities.
Here are my tips for in-person networking success, and a list of free places you can find in-person connection opportunities:
Make the most of in-person networking opportunities
Want to attend an in-person networking event, meet potential prospects, and market your services as a freelance writer? It’s really not that complicated. You don’t need to be an extrovert who “works the room.” All you really have to do is this:
- Show up. Find an in-person networking opportunity in your area that has potential to connect you with contacts in your niche.
- Introduce yourself. Practice your elevator speech. You’ll likely have a chance to introduce yourself to the group as a whole. Or you may just mingle with the crowd and talk to people one-on-one. Get comfortable introducing yourself in a sentence or two. Here’s what I say: “I’m a freelance copywriter and write about health and fitness for gyms, personal trainers, hospitals, and wellness programs.”
- Ask others questions about their business. When you meet someone at a networking event, ask questions about their business, products, and services. Then listen closely. It’s the in-person, live version of doing your research on a company before sending an LOI.
- Share contact information. Come prepared with business cards. And ask for contact information from the people you meet.
- Raise your profile and be a co-host. Want to know the easiest way to get massive visibility and connections? Volunteer to help run a networking event, instead of merely showing up. Most everybody thanks the host, so you get to meet more participants.
- Follow up. After you get home from a networking meeting, follow up. Send personalized emails. Mention something specific from your conversation. If you talked specifically about potential writing projects, ask about that. If not, just ask: “Do you know anyone who needs a freelance writer?”
Free networking opportunities for freelancers
Ever wonder where you can meet up with potential prospects, influencers, and people in your niche in person? Check out these 30 free resources to find networking opportunities for freelance writers.
This website lists events, activities and questions that local business owners post. The online conversations frequently lead to planned in-person networking meetings.
2. Black Business Women Online
This network of female entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals includes 9,000-plus members. Members frequently organize local meet-ups.
3. Business Network International
This world-wide organization functions to help support networking and marketing to help businesses grow. You can attend a couple local chapter meetings in your area as a guest, before joining, and you can also look for opportunities to attend as a ‘substitute’ for a regular member. Den 2X Income Accelerator members report some positive experiences with BNI in-person networking. One writer recently dropped out of a Seattle BNI group because she acquired more than enough work.
4. Chambers of Commerce
You’ll find a Chamber of Commerce in every major metropolitan city, suburb, small town, and even most rural communities. Solopreneurs like insurance agents, real estate brokers, and attorneys, frequently make up the most active group of members. But you may find marketing managers from bigger organizations at Chamber events, too.
5. Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
Here’s another in-person networking opportunity to find potential clients. Attend a convention and visitor’s bureau meeting in your area. These organizations can be a good place to connect with businesses that hire freelance writers. But visitor’s bureaus also frequently hire freelancers for special projects like annual reports, visitor guides, and website copy.
6. Data.com Connect
Created by the customer relationship management software company SalesForce, this is another networking site that gives you access to contact information for decision makers. It’s free to create an account. Then you can check the events schedule for an in-person networking meeting in your area.
Want a quick way to find out if there’s an in-person networking opportunities in your area? Just use the EventBrite search feature and a keyword like “networking” or “your niche” and select your city and state.
Search this site for business and networking meetings or keywords or phrases in your niche, and you’ll find free and low-cost meetups, conferences, and expos to attend where you can network with people in your niche.
Did you know you can find in-person networking opportunities via Facebook? Just sign in. Then go to Explore>Events>Discover. Then choose your location and a category (networking is the obvious category, but you may also want to select a category based on your niche).
10. Kiwanis Club International
This service organization has more than 600,00 members in 80 countries on a mission to make life better for kids in many different ways. Active members often include a mix of civic leaders, business professionals, and retired seniors. Attend as a guest. Or check in with the club president in your area and offer to make a presentation to help business owners with topics like blogging or copywriting.
You’ll find a searchable directory of conferences, events, and local meetups for in-person networking on this site, now owned by Eventbrite.
12. Lean In Circles
This organization was inspired by the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. There are now more than 32,000 Lean In Circles that provide business education and in-person networking opportunities in more than 150 countries. Guys, this networking group is not just for women.
This North American networking organization has been around for almost 40 years. Find a local chapter and attend as a guest to see if it’s a good fit. If it is, LeTip has rule that could be good for your freelancing business. “Only one representative of any given profession is accepted into a chapter, and members are chosen for their occupational expertise.”
You can get a lot of value out of developing your LinkedIn profile online. But it don’t stop there. Join a LinkedIn group based on your location. Participate in group discussions online to get to know people. Then take it offline and attend local events hosted by your LinkedIn group.
15. Lion’s Club International
This international service organization was created to be an influence for good on a local and global scale. Attending a monthly meeting, or participating in a Lion’s service project can provide networking opportunities to connect you with potential clients or get referrals.
This popular site for freelance writers and media professionals has been around for more than 20 years. In addition to freelance and full-time job listings and career development training, Mediabistro also hosts in-person events. The best way to find the schedule is on the Mediabistro Facebook page under events.
Of all the networking opportunities listed here, Meetup may be one of the best to find an in-person meeting that fits your schedule and includes the kind of people you want to connect with. Sign in and use the search bar, location settings, and calendar to find a meetup.
The National Association of Women Business Owners is one of the oldest organizations for women owners — and they have an open Events calendar members can add to, as well as partner organizations whose events they also list.
NetParty (Site no longer exists)
If you fit the description of a young professional and want to combine night-life activities with business networking, check out this platform to find an in-person event in your area.
What do you usually do when you need a product or service? Well, after Google, you ask a friend or neighbor for a recommendation. And that’s the idea behind NextDoor. It’s a networking platform designed to help you connect with people in your city — and a great place to ask around and discover business networking events happening near you. Getting to know your neighbors is a side benefit.
21. Optimist International
This is another service organization that frequently attracts entrepreneurs, small business owners, business executives, and civic leaders. These are people who may need to hire a freelance writer, or have connections with others that can lead to referrals.
22. Political parties
Whatever your political affiliation, getting to know political leaders can help connect you with their network of contacts, which usually gets bigger based on the office. Most politicians host events you can attend, and some may even need to hire a freelance writer for website copy, speeches, press releases, or campaign copy. But the bigger benefit to tapping into your political party and getting to know politicians is their ability to send referrals your way.
23. Public Relations Society of America
You’ll find young PR professionals and veterans of the trade in this organization representing small business to Fortune 500 companies. And many need and work with freelance writers. Check out your local chapter, and find out when they might host other meet-and-greet events for in-person networking.
This is a crowdfunding site for entrepreneurs that regularly hosts in-person meetings and events, typically in metropolitan areas.
25. Rotary International
This is another service organization that has local chapters in cities, small towns, and rural communities throughout the world. And like some of the others, you’ll find civic leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, and community-minded people in this organization. Show up. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Share contact information. You might be surprised who you find at a Rotary meeting.
“The goldmine I found was joining the Rotary Club in downtown Seattle,” Carol said during a recent Den 2x chat. “Everybody was in that. The Brotmans of Costco. The Nordstroms. Ben Bridge of Ben Bridge Jewelers. It was a who’s-who of top Seattle businesses.”
26. Society of Professional Journalists
Yes. Lots of freelancers belong to this organization. But so do editors who need writers. Either way getting to know people in your local SPJ chapter can help you build your network and open the door to referrals and potential client introductions. If you don’t want to become a member, SPJ does host recruiting events periodically, or you could just check out a local chapter meeting.
Write in the finance niche? SoFin is a financial planning site designed to help people with saving, buying a home, investing, and planning for the future. But it also host local events to connect entrepreneurs and business owners for networking opportunities.
28. Tuesdays Together
If you want to get out of the house and connect with other creatives, this networking group, created by the Rising Tide Society, is designed to help you improve your marketing skills, meet like-minded people in your area, and grow your network for referrals and potential clients.
29. Twitter TweetUp
Here’s another reason to improve your presence on Twitter…TweetUps. Make Twitter connections with businesses professionals in your city, and you’ll eventually get invited to a TweetUp. It’s an in-person networking opportunity where you can meet and greet the people you’ve been talking to in 140 characters or less. But that’s not the only way to find TweetUps in your town. You can also use Twitter search to find in-person networking opportunities. Just type in “your town” TweetUp to see what’s happening.
This networking site is designed to help you connect with recruiters and professionals in your niche. Build a network here, and you’ll likely have opportunities to get together with some of the people in person, talk about freelancing, meet potential clients, and get referrals.
Don’t forget to ask your clients
If you work with local clients remotely, you might not actually get together that often. Check in and ask if they’re hosting any in-person events. As I found when my client asked me to their event, this is a great way to build your relationship and meet other prospects. You can also simply ask if local clients know of any good business networking groups in town.
Finally, ask clients in other cities if they attend any national conferences, and see if it might be worthwhile to connect at one. Big conventions and conferences can be well worth the money and offer you a chance to find scores of new connections in a short timeframe.
Network to find senders, not just spenders
As a freelance writer, you spend a lot of time working in your own little world. You might have client phone calls, video-chat meetings, and lively exchanges via email and social media. And that’s great. But there’s real value in shaking hands and getting to know people in person, especially if you want to build a bigger network to find clients and get referrals.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need to find your clients directly when you’re networking — be on the lookout for ‘senders’ who might be able to refer or recommend you to good prospects. In fact, if networking stresses you out, try just asking people you meet networking if they would refer you is a much easier request than asking if they would hire you. It’s easier.
How do you find in-person networking events? Join the conversation on Facebook or LinkedIn and share your tips on in-person networking.
Evan Jensen writes about health, fitness, and nutrition for gyms, personal trainers, and wellness programs. He’s also one of those crazies who runs 100-mile ultramarathons.