Networking is scary enough at the best of times, never mind if you’re an introvert. Although I’m not a complete hermit, being in new social situations isn’t my favourite and the thought of having to sell myself at a networking event makes me want to spew.
Unfortunately when you’re a freelancer, networking is kind of compulsory. Luckily, however, I’ve found a few ways to network which aren’t as scary as they might seem. Here are my tried and tested tips on how to network as an introvert – even if you’re not the networking type.
1. Chat to people on Twitter
There’s something about chatting to people online rather than face to face which makes it much easier to strike up conversations. Twitter is my favourite social media platform for discovering new people, making connections with other freelancers or finding potential new clients.
This is a great way to network as an introvert as it doesn’t feel too “networky” – essentially you’re just chatting to people and (hopefully) making new friends. Whether it’s retweeting a blog post you’ve enjoyed or replying to a conversation related to your interests, it only takes two minutes and you could potentially make a great new connection.
2. Organise one-on-one meetings
Walking in to a room full of people is pretty terrifying, but I’m absolutely fine with one-on-one meetings. I feel much more relaxed when I’m not fighting for attention or trying to join in another group’s conversation. If you’ve made a good connection with someone on Twitter, why not arrange lunch or a coffee to meet with them in person?
Twitter is also really handy for sussing someone out before you meet up – silly things like already knowing what a person looks like makes me feel much more confident rather than walking into the coffee shop and frantically trying to work out who you’re supposed to be meeting. I find that chatting with someone one-on-one is a great way to network as an introvert.
3. Networking apps
I recently met up with the guys from Shoal (after finding them on Twitter and then going for a one-on-one meeting – see these tips are actually useful!) who have created an app which allows people to open up their homes or offices to other freelancers. It’s kind of like Couchsurfing – if you’re bored of working at home by yourself, you can find someone else nearby who’s hosting and go along and work together with a small group of people for the day.
Apps like Shoal are great when it comes to networking as an introvert because the app does all the hard work for you, all you need to do is turn up and get chatting to your new work pals. Shoal are also hosting regular events in Edinburgh called Big Shoals (the next one is on 7th April) where you can be productive and do some work during the day, then in the evening drink some beer and get to know people at the after party. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a freelancer or startup in Edinburgh!
4. Make use of friends and family
Don’t overlook the people you already know. Sometimes there’s no need to do lots of networking if you already have lots of great connections. Speaking to your friends and family is an easy, stress-free way to network as an introvert.
Ask your friends and family if they know anyone who might need your services, or if they themselves could potentially use you for a project. This is also a great way to get your foot in the door and build up a portfolio – when I first started freelancing, over half of my clients were referred to me by friends and family. This was a great opportunity to build my confidence and work out my rates before going out and pitching to clients all by myself.
5. Be prepared
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go to a big scary networking event or attend a meeting that’s out of your comfort zone. I’ve found the best way to approach this as an introvert is to be as prepared as possible before the event. Check the website to find out exactly what the event involves, look on social media to find out who’s going, and jot down a few notes about what you might talk about or who you might meet.
If you have and friends or Twitter connections who might also be interested in the event, it’s worth asking them if they’d like to go with you – then at least you’ll have one friendly face there. It’s also a good idea to get there early as striking up conversation is much less daunting with a smaller group, compared to walking into a room full of people and having no idea which group to attach yourself to.
Have you got any tips on how to network as an introvert?