10 Things Freelancers Need to Know About Networking Online If They Want to Find Work

networking-onlineDo you understand how to network effectively through social media?

Sadly, many freelancers do not really know how to network through social media.

The other day, I received an odd tweet from someone I didn’t know. In fact, I wasn’t even following the person who sent the tweet. Maybe something similar has happened to you?

The tweet I received read something like this:

“I’m available to work on writing projects now.”

I hadn’t mentioned needing a writer. In fact, I rarely need to hire other freelancers and I never hire a freelancer that I’m not familiar with already.

You might think this was an isolated instance, but sadly I receive unsolicited social media requests for jobs fairly often. Sometimes, it’s a message through Google+ rather than a tweet.

If you’ve ever wondered about how to build a strong online network, one that will eventually lead to prime job offers, this post is for you. In it, I share ten things freelancers should understand about online networking.

What’s Wrong with Asking for Work Upfront?

The main problem with asking someone to hire you when they don’t know anything about you is this–it’s annoying. You’re essentially making a first impression with someone–and it’s probably not a good one.

Let’s see how I reacted to the request for work above.

Out of curiosity, I decided to find out more about the writer who contacted me. I clicked on their Twitter profile to see what I could find out. While the profile was filled out and did mention that the person was a writer (a plus) there was no link to a website or blog (a definite negative). In fact, not having a website for me to check out was such a showstopper that I never researched that writer any further.

Think about it this way. If you had just met someone in person at a tradeshow or at a professional meeting, would your first words after “hello” be “will you hire me?

How to Make Online Networking Pay Off

Social media marketing can help you to form strong connections that may enrich your life and ultimately lead to work. However, you have to go about it the right way.

Here are some guidelines for better social networking.

  1. Remember that networking through social media is a long-term strategy. If you need work immediately, you’re better off looking for an advertised position. While you are working on the advertised position, keep up with your long-term marketing strategy, including social media networking.
  2. Target who you network with online. If you’re networking for your freelancing business, you’ll want to interact mainly with current or former clients, prospective clients, and other freelancers. Of course, it’s also okay to interact online with your friends and family.
  3. Make sure that your profile links to your site. Before connecting with anyone, I always check to see if they have their own website or blog. If they don’t have one, I rarely interact with them. The website or blog lets me know what their specialty is and helps me to learn more about them.
  4. A blog is better than a static website. I know that there is a school of thought that says a blog is a waste of time, but I don’t agree. I feel that I know someone better when I read their blog. Most social media shares don’t provide the same depth as a blog post.
  5. Share (your own and other people’s) content regularly. But know that simply sharing a post or article with your friends, fans, or followers is not really networking. What you’re doing when you share is establishing an online presence for yourself on a particular social media platform.
  6. Respond to other people’s shares with more than a simple reshare. This means responding to something they’ve shared. If they don’t answer, you haven’t actually networked with them. However, if they answer with more than a simple “thanks,” then you know you’ve connected.
  7. Invite others to interact with you by asking a question. When people answer, be sure to answer back. Once again, you’re looking for a thoughtful discussion and not a simple “thank you.” Accept that most people won’t respond to you.
  8. It takes multiple online interactions to build a relationship. Typically, a single in-depth conversation is not enough, but after several in-depth conversations the odds are much better that your contact will remember you. This is part of what makes social media networking a long-term strategy.
  9. Remember that not everyone is online to hire freelancers. Some people (other freelancers, for example) rarely hire anyone. Unless another freelancer has indicated that they need someone or you know them well, it’s probably a waste of time to contact them and ask for a job.
  10. If someone is broadcasting that they need to hire someone, it’s okay to respond. Although, I typically respond privately and not in the main stream. Also, if someone has hired you in the past (which indicates that you already have a relationship with them) it’s okay to ask politely whether they have any more work. Just don’t overdo it.

The bottom line is this: don’t assume that because someone has circled, friended, or followed you that you’re entitled to ask them for work.

Your Turn

I’ve been offered a lot of work through social media connections, but it took time (in some cases, several years) to build relationships up with those online connections.

What suggestions would you add? Have you gotten work by contacting a stranger directly through social media?