During normal times, networking is a critical part of any career. One 2016 survey by The Adler Group, a staffing firm, found that 85 percent of jobs are filled that way. But during times of crisis—like the one we’re in now—networking takes on even more importance.
Freelancers during coronavirus find themselves navigating uncertainty and upheaval just like everyone else. But the pain can be especially acute for freelancers, who are the targets of easy cuts and who often lack safety nets beyond any they’ve made themselves. For survival’s sake, it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with your current network, reconnect with old colleagues, and forge new connections.
How do you do that when everyone’s social distancing (and rightfully so)? Online, of course. But you have to go about it the right way. Here are our tips to use social media for effective outreach, self-promotion, and more.
Clean up your social media profiles
Most people use social networking to post family photos, follow their favorite celebrities, and catch up with old friends. But if you want to start using your social accounts to connect with other freelancers and professionals, make sure you clean up your online presence a bit. Go back in time and delete embarrassing posts and photos, and exercise discretion when posting anything new. That includes, we’re afraid, airing your political views.
Don’t assume anyone knows you already
If you reach out to a new or existing connection on social media, make sure your profiles are filled out and offer a clear picture of your work expertise. Don’t assume people will know who you are or what you do, even if you’ve met them in person once or twice.
Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to write a short bio. Facebook lets you post your job title and company. All offer space for a photo, so consider investing in a professional headshot.
With every outreach, send a note introducing yourself and why you hope to connect.
Network on Twitter and Facebook too
LinkedIn owns the market for professional networking but don’t discount the opportunities on other sites, especially as people flood all networks to kill time at home.
Facebook, in particular, can be a great way to hear about opportunities as people post openings or changes in their careers that might spell opportunity for you. (I once used Facebook to land a staff role at my college newspaper. One of my friends posted that she was leaving the newspaper and needed a replacement. I immediately reached out, and she connected me with the editor. Before I knew it, I had my first byline in the paper.)
Freelancers can also use Twitter to find work and connect with other freelancers, editors and job posters. You can find jobs and join conversations by searching for tags like #freelance, #freelancing, and #freelancer. Retweet folks in your industry and add your own take, or participate directly in threads.
Always make the connection
Any time you come into contact with a professional you respect—be it over social media, email, in person (when that becomes OK again), or otherwise—make a point of connecting on LinkedIn. Over time, these connections add up and may come in handy when the right opportunity arises.
Day after day, I’m on LinkedIn looking for new talent to join the Contently network. I often find someone and message them about opportunities we have available. I’m pleasantly surprised when freelancers who are not interested or are too busy to take the opportunity still take the time to respond and connect.
The reverse is true for Twitter, where freelancers DM or email me when I post an opportunity. Even if they aren’t the best fit for the job, I make a point to connect with them in case they’re a fit for future opportunities.
Chime in when you have something smart to say
For better or for worse, threads rule social media. If you’re looking to raise your profile online, it helps to know when to participate and when to avoid them altogether.
On LinkedIn, threads typically break out about trending topics and thought leadership posts. If you spot one in your industry and have something intelligent to say, chime in. Tag others in your industry whose take you’d be curious to hear. People will be flattered you looped them in, and you’ll be seen as someone driving the discussion forward in your industry. Better yet, start the conversation yourself. Share an article and tag colleagues asking for their take.
Join groups, groups, groups
Facebook and LinkedIn are overflowing with professional groups. There are several freelancer groups on Facebook. Some of you reading this now are part of them and know how rewarding they can be.
Freelancers like to share work opportunities in those groups. If you fit the description and you’ve never made contact with the person who posted the job, it’s always good to introduce yourself first before diving in.
Thank you for posting the job opportunity. I have experience in [writing about, photographing, videography, etc.] and would like to know what the next steps are. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
You might think that’s too formal for social media, but you can never be too safe on first outreach.
Promote yourself, your colleagues, and organizations you admire
LinkedIn may be the only social media platform where it’s totally normal to promote your professional accomplishments and qualifications. The trick is doing it with tact so it doesn’t sound like boasting. And during these times, being sensitive about what you share.
The list of milestones worth sharing during “normal” times is long: a successful project wrapped, a piece was published, a new client signed, a new gig started. Sharing these events keeps you on your network’s radar and shows that your career is ascending. During coronavirus, we’d add: you’re volunteering services for those affected by coronavirus, you’ve published helpful or important information about the pandemic, an organization you support/admire/work for is taking noble action to stem the crisis, a friend or organization needs help or support.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to strike a balance on LinkedIn between posts about your own career and posts about your colleagues and organizations.
Meet up virtually
Social distancing is the norm during this pandemic, but there are workarounds to build deeper ties off social media. If you’ve found a person or people that you want to connect with, schedule time to meet up virtually. Set up Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime calls for coffee or lunch, or even schedule a phone call—it’s always good to put a face (or a voice) to a name. And before you assume that the networking event you were planning on attending is cancelled, check to see if it’s moved online. You may still have the opportunity to attend from the “social distance” of your own home.
Tabia Robinson is the Community Growth Associate at Contently. She connects freelancers to brand clients through staffing and recruitm ent.
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Photo Credit: z_wei