When we as freelance designers think about networking, we generally think about meeting potential clients.
However, today we’re going to talk about networking with people who might not be a client (hey, you never know) but can be absolutely essential in improving the quality of your work and increasing your success.
And by networking, I don’t mean joining AIGA for the membership card.
I mean REALLY networking – feeling comfortable contacting them out of the blue.
I’m talking about your industry peers:
- graphic designers
- web designers/developers
- SEO specialists
- print procurement specialists
- social media marketers
- marketing coordinators
- video production designers
- and many others with whom you have overlapping talents
You might look at fellow freelance designers as “the enemy,” but you’re missing out.
While you’re always going to find at least one bad apple in every bunch, overall we’re a great bunch of people with amazing talents, ideas, and creativity.
Why peer networking is so important
Friendly peers are invaluable. When you need advice and guidance from a real person, you’ll have resources to reach out to.
Case in point: I’ve emailed all sorts of questions to peers all over the world. But more importantly, I’ve been able to use their experiences and advice to make my business smarter, safer, and more efficient.
- What’s a typical referral fee percentage?
- Have you ever run into <insert problem> with cross-browser compatibility?
- I’m tackling a project similar to your specialty and I have no idea how to price it. Can you help?
- What’s your favorite WordPress plug-in for <insert functionality>?
- My contract needs some work. Would you look at mine and tell me where you think the holes are?
- Hey, I’m really happy with where this project is going, but can you take a look at it?
- I’m rebranding myself…can you critique these logos?
- Do you know anything about preparing a document for offset printing?
- I have a high-maintenance client who <insert problem here>. Have you ever dealt with this and how did you do it?
- Do you know a good photographer/Drupal developer/video production company?
- And SO MANY MORE…
Furthermore, by knowing trustworthy people with a wide variety of talents, you automatically have a go-to person who will give you a good price – or steer you in the right direction – on services you need.
Just don’t forget – having a friendly peer means being a friendly peer. So the next time a confidante asks you for advice, respond kindly and truthfully in a timely manner.
How to find great peers
You can start right here on GDB! We’re a thriving community of freelancers who share tips and ideas (and sometimes commiserate!) everyday through blog posts and comments.
Don’t be afraid! Strike up a conversation in the comments or contact someone whose responses intrigue you.
You never know what great relationships might form out of a simple, “Hey, Your comment on GDB was really thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing.”
True story: I met a fellow entrepreneur not ten minutes door-to-door from me right here on GDB.
(A note from Preston: you can also ask these sorts of questions in our GDB Insiders community on facebook. It’s a great place to network with other GDB readers, freelancers, designers, etc.)
Other great resources:
- Join a LinkedIn group
- (eep!) Leave your home and network at a local event
Share your experience!
Do you have a network of peers you can reach out to for advice? How have they improved you or your freelancing business? Leave a comment on this post!