Before the pandemic, one of the main ways I built my network was by going to local conferences and events. But now that we can’t gather in large numbers due to the coronavirus, I’ve had to find other ways to meet new business contacts.
Although forming connections online can be a challenge, it’s still possible to generate leads and grow your business during quarantine. Here are a few things that I’ve done to keep expanding my network in the midst of the pandemic and get more freelance writing work.
Be Active on Social Media
Being active on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit has helped me land a few new writing gigs during the pandemic.
Clients often post on social media sites looking for freelancers. Try searching for words like opportunity, writers wanted, and hiring on Twitter and in Facebook groups to find job ads.
Although these ads usually get a lot of responses, if you have a strong portfolio and apply as soon as you see one, there’s a chance you’ll get the job. Don’t rule out responding to posts that are a few weeks or months old, though—the client may not have found the right person yet.
I’ve also been able to use social media to connect with other freelancers by joining groups dedicated to journalism. By commenting in these groups and interacting with people in my industry, I’ve been able to get new clients referred to me.
Connect Over Zoom
Many people are feeling isolated because of the pandemic and are open to meeting up over video chat. I’ve been able to make a few new entrepreneur friends by taking people up on their offer to hang out on Zoom. I usually see the most connection requests in Facebook groups, so head there if you want to chat with other business owners.
I’ve also had some success emailing journalists I admire professionally to see if they’d be willing to have a virtual coffee date. So if there’s someone in your industry you’ve always wanted to chat with, send them a personalized message and ask to arrange a short video call. The worst they can say is no!
Attend Online Workshops and Events
Because many professional associations have made their annual conferences virtual, I’ve been able to attend several that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. The American Society of Journalists and Authors had an online conference this year with networking groups and informative sessions on pitching and marketing. The tickets were only $60, which is much less than I would’ve spent if I had to fly to another city and pay for a hotel room.
See if any of the professional associations you’re a member of are hosting any virtual events or conferences in the next few months. Signing up will enable you to meet new people and soak up lots of knowledge that will help you expand your business.
Invest in Business Coaching
One of the best investments that I’ve made in my business this year has been coaching. The right coach can give you the advice you need to overcome the challenges you’re facing in your business and break through to that next income level.
I’ve also found that coaches are generous with their contacts and willing to recommend you to people in their network. I’ve landed a few new clients over the years from referrals I got from writing coaches I’ve worked with.
Before you choose a coach, book at least a few discovery calls. This will help you find the person who’s the right fit for you, and will also allow you to expand your list of contacts.
Coaches are always beta testing new courses, and sometimes reaching out at the right time can even get you a free spot. I’ve gotten complimentary strategy sessions and access to a free month long group coaching program by networking with coaches and signing up for their email lists.
If you can’t afford to pay for a business coach right now, there are several websites that can help you find a small business mentor at no cost to you, like SCORE and MentorCity.
The pandemic has radically changed the way that we live and work. But if you’re willing to pivot and move your networking activities online, you’ll be able to keep advancing your business during this challenging time.
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.