Want to raise your profile and connect with other professionals without using sites like LinkedIn? We’ve got your back! LinkedIn is great, but there are lots of different professional networking options for business owners, self-employed people, and freelancers who want to grow their businesses—and you can find one that’s right for you.
1. Engage in professional groups on Facebook
Most self-employed people will tell you that word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful form of marketing. But you don’t need to sign up for a formal virtual networking event to make new business connections. There’s a Facebook group for almost everything, including different types of businesses and industry professionals—making it a great place for professional social networking.
As a writer, some of my favorites for geeking out (and connecting) with my peers are The Copywriter Club and Microcopy & UX Writing on Facebook. Try searching for “industry keywords + your area” in Facebook’s “Groups” tab. For example, “Podcast editors UK” or “Handmade Germany.”
Tip: Watch out for spammy groups or those with no moderators. These will likely be full of unsolicited adverts and fake profiles. Most reputable groups will ask you to answer a few simple questions when you request to join, so they know you’re genuine.
2. Volunteer your services for a charity
Is there a local non-profit that could use your skills? The text on their website might be read or perhaps they’re struggling to update their social media channels? Find an opportunity to offer up your services for free and you’ll only be giving back to a good cause, you will have another project to add to your portfolio and virtually “meet” lots of new contacts.
I recommend getting in touch with a local charity or a cause that’s important to you. But you can also check out sites like VolunteerMatch (US) or Reach Volunteer (UK), or search for your local volunteering organisation.
3. Be a podcast guest
Back in the day, you had to be a big brand or a well-known pro to get a spot on a popular radio show. But now there’s a podcast for almost every interest and industry. Guesting on your favorite business podcast is a great way to share your expertise, boost your profile, and forge natural connections with like-minded people without meeting them face-to-face. The best bit? During the pandemic, recording interviews remotely has become the norm for most podcasters and social distancing is built-in!
Let your network know you’re looking to guest on a podcast. Or, if you’re a regular listener to the one you’d like to appear on, reach out to the host directly or contact them on social media. If you have a press kit on your website, this is a great resource to direct them to that will help you seal the deal!
Most podcast hosts will give you the chance to promote yourself at the end. So remember to share your website address and social media handles, so listeners can connect with you.
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4. Join Slack groups with likeminded people
What are Slack groups?
Slack is like the WhatsApp of the business world. Everyone from small businesses and freelancers to big corporations use it on a daily basis to keep in message, call, and collaborate. But dig a little deeper, and you can find hundreds of niche communities (Slack groups) where professionals in different industries come together to talk, discuss problems, share job opps, and help one another out.
Why join one?
As a freelancer, the people I’m in Slack groups with are like my extended work-family. We refer work to each other, have “watercooler” chats, support each other through the ups and downs of freelance life, and organise meet-ups are industry conferences. It’s a great community that supports each other to grow as business owners and as people.
What makes Slack groups better than Facebook groups or other online forums? That’s hard to say. I think it’s because there are such a variety of professionals from different areas and backgrounds who use Slack daily. People on there are already in “work mode,” most serious professional groups vet their members, and you don’t get the same spam or ads as on other networks.
How to get started
To join a Slack group, you either need to be invited by an existing member or have the joining link. Slofile.com is a good place to start looking for Slack groups to join. Or just do some Googling (eg. “Slack groups for small business owners in London”). There are communities for everyone from online store owners to developers. While most are free, some groups do charge a joining fee.
5. Consider a coworking space
Missing the social aspect of office life? Running your own business can be lonely. Renting a desk in a coworking space or other affordable workplace can give you a chance to connect with other professionals outside formal networking events.
The space you choose will depend on your priorities. Do you want to meet new clients or get support from your peers? If it’s the first one, find a space where the other tenants complement your skills. Some coworking offices only allow one of each type of professional to join (eg. one copywriter, one graphic designer, one photographer) with the specific intention of sharing work referrals with each other.
Lots of coworking spaces were closed during the pandemic but many are starting to reopen again so you could get a good introductory deal. Search “coworking space + your area” or ask your network for recommendations. And don’t forget to learn how to create a business card to bring with you.
6. Tune-in to Twitter chats
Even with the rise of Facebook and Instagram for Business, Twitter’s 280 character limit means it’s still a popular place for writers, performers, and other creative professionals to connect and hangout. And Twitter Chats offer a structured way to do that.
A Twitter Chat is like an in-person networking event without the soggy sandwiches and awkward intros. But generally, the same rules apply: Rather than being a sales opportunity, they are a chance for likeminded people to get together and discuss topics around a shared interest or industry. Most have a regular timeslot and last an hour. Participants join in using the chat’s hashtag in their Tweets and replies. They’re a great place to “meet” other people in your industry, build relationships, and get noticed by potential customers.
One of my personal favorites is #ContentClubUK run by Fi Shailes from Digital Drum, every Tuesday at 11am GMT. They have a guest host every week and even have their own podcast, so there are lots of opportunities to get involved.
Ready to find and join your first Twitter Chat? Check out this guide from Buffer.