Want Better Results from Networking? Build Trust

Going to networking events won’t help you get more freelance work—because these events are only the first step in building trusting relationships with the people you meet. And trust is how you build your freelance business through networking.

“If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you,” says Zig Ziglar, a famous motivational speakers and author of See You at the Top and 32 other books.

Business experts Bob Burg and Stephen M.R. Covey agree that trust is key. “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust,” says Burg, a networking and referral expert, in “Know, like and trust: The essence of networking .”

Covey, in his book, The Speed of Trust, says that an intermediary can transfer trust and that “by behaving in ways that build trust with one, you build trust with many.” When a colleague refers freelance work to you or one of your clients refers you to another client, this is a transfer of trust. The new client trusts you—without knowing you—because someone he/she knows trusts you.

Why Trust Matters in Freelance Success

But colleagues, especially other freelancers, won’t send work your way unless they trust you. Here’s how to:

  • Build Trust After a Networking Event
  • Do Professional, Comfortable Follow Up
  • Make the First Contact After a Networking Event
  • Give More Than You Take
  • Develop Your Follow Up Process
  • Create Your Content Library
  • Ask for Help Once You’ve Built Trust

Two Types of Trust

The people you meet through networking need to trust that you:

  • Will behave well if they give you a referral
  • Have the expertise to satisfy the client.

When someone gives you a referral, his/her reputation is on the line. Trust in your behavior is part of knowing and liking you. Meeting people in person at networking events is the quickest and best way for people to trust that you’ll behave well.

If a colleague trusts your behavior, then he/she is more likely to trust your expertise. But it takes more time and stronger relationships to prove your expertise.

Build Trust After a Networking Event

That’s why what you do after a networking event matters as much as the event itself.

Also, we all remember the people we hear from most often and the people we’ve heard from most recently. So if you want colleagues and clients to think of you first for freelance work, you need to stay in touch with them.

Staying in touch, or following up, with freelancers, other colleagues, and prospective clients you meet through networking is easy. And once you get started, follow up should take less than two hours a week.

Also stay in touch with interested clients, current clients you haven’t worked with for a while, and past clients. Interested clients are clients who’ve expressed interest in your services but haven’t hired you yet. All of these clients are likely to hire you or give you more work if they think of you first when they need a freelancer. Like staying in touch with freelance friends and other colleagues, following up with clients should be simple. This should take you less than an hour a week.

Learn more about staying in touch with clients
Are You First in Line When Clients Hire a Freelancer?

Do Professional, Comfortable Follow Up

You must be wondering how you can stay in touch in a way that’s professional and not pushy.

Like networking, staying in touch is about getting to know people, not selling your services. And it’s mostly about helping them without expecting anything in return (giving more than you take). Both of these things build trust.

Start staying in touch with freelancers, other colleagues, and prospective clients right after you meet them a networking event. After that, stay in touch about every 2 or 3 months.

If you’ve met people in the past but haven’t stayed in touch with them, you can start now. Some people may not be as responsive as the people you’ve just met, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

And you can stay in touch with people you’ve met online, for example, through LinkedIn. It’s harder to build trust with people you haven’t met in person, but it’s possible.

Focus your follow up

As you follow up, you and your colleagues will begin to get to know each other better. You’ll figure out which freelancers and other colleagues can become key contacts for you—and you to them because networking always has to benefit both people.

Then spend most of your follow up time and effort on the colleagues who are becoming your key contacts. Other freelancers will probably make up most of your key contacts.

Make the First Contact After a Networking Event  

Soon after the networking event, or when you meet people online, follow up with people you think could be helpful to you (and you to them). Do this by:

  • Inviting each person to join your LinkedIn network and
  • Sending an email to say “nice to meet you.”

Stay in touch with your new contacts and key contacts you already know regularly so that they  think of you first when they have freelance work to share.

Market your business with the right email signature

You’ll be using email for most (maybe all) of your follow up. And if you have a marketing email signature, every email will market your business for you.

A marketing email signature clearly and concisely tells clients and colleagues:

  • What you do
  • Why they should hire you or refer freelance jobs and clients to you (the benefit of what you do)
  • How to get in touch with you.

You can create and start using your marketing email signature in less than 5 minutes.

Learn more about marketing email signatures and see examples
The 5-Minute Marketing Miracle You Need Now: Your Email Signature

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Give More Than You Take

After your first post-event contact, follow up with useful content. An easy way to do this is to email a brief description of useful content that’s available for free online with a link to the post, report, podcast, etc. Types of useful content include:

  • News and updates about your industry or specialty(ies)
  • News and updates from your professional associations
  • Tips on freelancing, running a business, being more productive, etc.

Commenting on LinkedIn posts is another easy way to stay in touch if your freelance friends and other colleagues are active on LinkedIn.

If you know each other from a professional association, then you can comment on news or content from the association. And when you’re going to a networking event like the association’s annual conference, arrange to meet with some of your key contacts if they’ll be there.

Stay in touch with customized or generic content

Some of your follow up will be customized and some will be generic. Customized follow up is specific to the person while generic content is the same for everyone or a group of people.

Commenting on a LinkedIn post is customized follow up. So is sending a freelance friend who does continuing medical education (CME) work information about a free webinar on upcoming changes in CME.

An e-newsletter is generic follow up that you can send to everyone: freelance friends and other colleagues, along with clients, past clients, and interested clients. Most of the content of an e-newsletter is useful, not promotional. But you can choose topics that highlight:

  • Your expertise
  • Work you like to do
  • Types of projects that clients need help with.

Holiday cards are another example of generic follow up.

Develop Your Follow Up Process

Staying in touch with freelance friends and other colleagues is simple when you have a process for doing this:

  1. Develop your list
  2. Schedule time
  3. Create your content library.

Develop your follow up list

When you meet freelance friends and other colleagues you want to stay in touch with, put them in a tracker (a spreadsheet or a database). Create columns or fields for:

  • The person’s name, email address, and LinkedIn profile
  • Where and when you met
  • Date of each contact and a brief note about what you sent the person
  • Whether the person responded
  • The date of the next contact.

Schedule time

Transfer the dates of your next scheduled contacts to your calendar. Make staying in touch simple and efficient by doing your follow up in batches or all at once (depending on how many people are on your list).

Pick a time that’s usually good for you. For example, I like to do follow up on Thursday or Friday afternoons, after I’ve finished a lot of client work. Evenings are good too, because staying in touch doesn’t require the focus I need during the day for client work.

When you’ve done your follow up, mark this on your tracker. If someone doesn’t respond after a few contacts, drop him/her from your list.

Stay in touch with each person on your list about every 2-3 months. You may want to stay in touch more often with people who are already or are becoming key contacts for you.

Create Your Content Library

Having a content library is a simple way to ensure that you’ll have lots of content (blog posts, reports, podcasts, etc.) ready when you need it. Stock your library (a folder on your computer with the content or a list of links to content) with:

  • E-newsletters and other relevant content
  • LinkedIn posts
  • Resources from your professional associations.

Being on email lists is great, because then the content comes right to your inbox and you don’t have to search for it. You can use some of the same content for follow up with freelance friends and colleagues and follow up with clients.

Recommended content about freelancing

Here are some email lists about freelancing I recommend:

For general business and professional topics, try these:

  • Thrive Global, articles on professional and personal topics
  • Smart Briefs: Hundreds of e-newsletters on business, health and health care, and much more (These are great for staying update on what’s happening in specific industries).

E-newsletters from your professional associations and their websites also have  useful content for staying in touch with freelance friends and other colleagues.

Ask for Help Once You’ve Built Trust

Once people trust you, they often start to send referrals your way. But it’s also okay to ask for help if you ask colleagues who trust you and if you do this in the right way.

For example, you can send trusted colleagues a friendly email once or twice a year to mention the type of work you’re looking for. Include a little information about your background and experience and a link to your website (or LinkedIn profile).

And always offer to reciprocate. Say that you’d be glad to keep your eyes and ears open for freelance jobs that may be right for your colleague. Ask about the type of work he/she is looking for so you can follow through.

Learn more about how and when to ask for help
What Happens to Your Freelance Work When You Ask for Help

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Other Content

Bob Burg, Know, like and trust: The essence of networking


Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust