… or any freelancers really. Those of us who work from home and don’t get out much. You know who you are.
At this time of year when it’s cold and wet here in the UK, it’s tempting to bundle ourselves up in blankets, scarves and fingerless mitts, and get down to work without giving the outside world a thought until it’s time to do the school run / buy more coffee / go to bed. And that’s fine a lot of the time. But if you do that for weeks at a time, and possibly longer, things might start to pass you by and you can start to miss out on events, industry developments, and opportunities to take part in a bit of CPD.
Which is why, as a work-from-home, self-employed freelance editor and project manager, I’m a huge advocate of a bit of networking every now and then. This will give you the opportunity to get dressed in clothes other than your comfy trousers and meet others with the aim of developing contacts, both professional and social, promoting yourself and possibly your business, and exchanging information.
Don’t stop reading! I’m not just talking about the type of networking meeting where you go and collect a pile of business cards from people trying to flog you services you’ll never need. I know that because I’ve been to a few of those meetings and never need to go to another one. There are other ways to do it, so read on.
1) Start small
Contact another freelancer in your local area and invite them round to your place for coffee, or meet in a café. A good opportunity for a social chat as well as finding out what each other is working on, and a chance to ask for tips or help.
2) Make it slightly bigger, but keep it informal
Invite a couple of freelance contacts for lunch, and suggest that they each bring along another freelancer. Expand your network, share knowledge, and maybe hear some industry gossip.
3) Join a networking group, but make sure it’s right for you
I live in a rural part of Wiltshire, but there are at several networking groups within easy reach. I’m a member of two of them, and one in particular really suits me. It’s held in a local café once a month, its members are mostly self-employed people who work from home, and although they all work in different fields, the group is friendly and welcoming, and a valuable source of contacts and information. There’s no cost for attending meetings other than what you eat and drink in the café, and I always go away with something to think about or follow up on. Can’t find a group you’re comfortable with? Set one up yourself. It could be the only way you get a work Christmas lunch this year!
4) Try netwalking
If the weather’s good, gather a few people together, plan a route (maybe with a café at the end), and prepare some business-related questions/points for discussion as you walk. A third of the way round the route, encourage people to walk with someone new and discuss another question, and then change again for the last part of the route. Over coffee at the end, share anything interesting you’ve learnt.
5) Join a publishing industry group and go to one of their meetings
This is where you’ll pick up more targeted tips and make new contacts for work opportunities. Essential. Try BookMachine, Byte The Book, your local SfEP group or the Society of Young Publishers.
6) Join a group related to the area you publish in
For me that’s ELT (English Language Teaching) and I’m a member of IATEFL and a couple of specialist groups within that. Going to their events, whether small and local, or on a larger scale like an annual conference, gives me a chance to find out about the latest methodologies and technical developments in the classroom, see what all the publishers are putting out, as well as meeting in-house contacts and reminding them that I’m here if they’re looking to resource new projects.
Once you’re there, follow Justine Solomon’s tips from the recent SYP conference.
Of course, there are time and cost implications for all of the above, but I think these should be seen as an investment. If you’re at an event and meet someone who is looking for a new editor or project manager, the cost of a few hours away from your desk and a train ticket will be repaid many times over. Likewise, if you’re looking for an accountant and you hear of a good one through your network, they might save you £££s in the long run. Or the new invoicing app you hear about over coffee that turns your monthly invoicing nightmare into a quick and easy hour. And think how good you’d feel if you managed to introduce a couple of your contacts to each other and they could form a new working relationship. Very satisfying.
If none of those ideas grab you, you can of course continue to network online via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I honestly think that getting out and having some face-to-face contact with others is important – as an excuse to change out of your comfy working trousers if nothing else.
Karen White is a freelance ELT project manager, editor, and trainer. Realising that networking opportunities for ELT freelancers were limited, she organised an Awayday in 2015 with another freelancer. The third ELT Freelancers’ Awayday will be held in January 2017 and will be a chance to network, discuss the issues of the day, and have a good lunch. Full details are here if you’re interested in taking part.