Why Networking Benefits Freelancers (and How Coworking Can Help)

Let’s face it…unless you’re a super gregarious person, networking can be a little like visiting the dentist.  You know you SHOULD do it, but why do it NOW when you can put it off until next year? 

And how important is networking these days?  After all, 31% of people now work remotely 80% or more of their time, a 29% increase since 2012.  And 70% of young professionals think being physically present in an office is no longer necessary.  By all accounts, it would seem that telecommuting is the way of the future, and one day we’ll all be working across the globe from our laptops.


Networking Works

While working remotely is definitely on the rise, it doesn’t outweigh the positive benefits that come with in-person networking and face-to-face meetings.  Chief among them?  Finding new work.  According to Career Horizons president Matt Youngquist, at least 70% of jobs aren’t even published online, meaning you won’t find out about them on a job board.  The only way to know about them is by talking to your network of peers, friends, and family.  This is especially important for freelancers – if you want to have a steady stream of work, making sure you’re networking and meeting new clients is key.

Want to show potential clients that you really care?  Schedule a face-to-face meeting.  A recent survey found that 40% of respondents became new customers due to in-person meetings.  Why are these types of meetings so impactful? 

Well for one, they show that you respect your potential client and value the interaction.  They’re not just an email in your inbox or a message in your LinkedIn account.  And we can actually get a better feel for a person when meeting face-to-face – we can pick up on things like body language and facial expressions to pull deeper meaning from a conversation.  All of this gets lost in translation when we meet virtually or have a conference call.

Networking is also a valuable tool for building new friends and connections who understand the same business struggles that you face.  They can be a shoulder to lean on, offer advice, become collaborators, and even mentor you.  Never underestimate the value of someone who knows what you’re going through!


Why People Network Incorrectly

As we said before, networking is definitely not a cake walk.  It can be hard to get out of your comfort zone to do it in the first place, and most people just don’t approach networking correctly, despite their best intentions.

If you focus on what other people can do for you, stop right there.  Most people get networking wrong by treating everyone as a potential dollar sign.  Network like you’re trying to make new friends.  Get to know people – their goals, hobbies, likes and dislikes – in the same way you’d approach a potential friendship. 

Big conferences aren’t necessarily the best networking opportunity either.  In fact, 97% of conference attendees said they prefer smaller meetings to larger conferences.  Smaller, more intimate settings can be far more conducive to better networking.


How Coworking Spaces Can Help Networking

That’s where coworking comes in.  Smaller setting?  Check.  Lots of professionals who are also remote workers?  Check.  Coworking spaces are ripe for chance encounters, whether it’s a collaboration invite in the hallway or talking shop over coffee in the kitchen.  These meetings can develop into lasting relationships.

Many coworking spaces also host regular events that make for more interaction.  This could be as simple as weekly yoga session or something like a guest speaking engagement.

But when it comes to networking in your coworking space, remember to be respectful.  The main function of a coworking space is a place to work.  Don’t be the overly sales-y person who is too busy hawking their business to notice when people are annoyed.  It’s all about networking when appropriate – strike up conversations where and when it makes sense to do so.  Remember, you’re not out to treat other members like a lead.  You should approach the situation looking for genuine connections and friendships.  If you’re friendly and show that you care about what you do, others will be drawn to you.