What Happens When You Conquer Fear of Networking
Networking was “super-scary” for Frieda Wiley, PharmD, when she started her freelance medical writing business in 2014. Frieda knew that networking would help her build her business. But like many freelancers, fear was holding her back from getting much out of it.
“Approaching strangers made me extremely nervous,” says Frieda, a freelance medical writer and copywriter who writes clear, concise, compelling content for medical device and pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, associations, universities, and other healthcare-related companies. “I realized that I had to overcome my fear and inhibitions.”
Why You Need to Conquer Fear of Networking
Frieda was right about needing to conquer her fear, because a trusting, strategic network leads to referrals. And referrals are the easiest way to get high-paying clients and build a stable, successful freelance business.
That’s because clients want to do business with freelancers they know and trust—or freelancers that someone they know and trust refers to them. So when clients are looking for a freelancer, they usually go to their network first for referrals.
Also, freelancers can meet clients through networking.
Conquer your fear of networking and other tips
How Frieda Conquered Her Fear of Networking
Frieda started reaching out to other freelancers, including me. She emailed me and asked if we could get together at the annual conference of my main professional association, the American Medical Writers Association. “I was definitely afraid to reach out, especially because I had reached out to a few people without a response. It was encouraging that Lori responded,” she says.
I met Frieda for lunch at the conference. We talked about our businesses, and I answered her questions and gave her some advice. It was helpful—and fun—for both of us.
As Frieda met more successful freelancers, she asked them how they built their networks. She also read self-help books on networking. “At the end of the day, I got some great resources, but the thing that worked the best was just getting out there and trying it,” says Frieda. “I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Frieda’s Networking Tribe
“The main thing is finding your tribe and putting out good energy,” says Frieda. To find her tribe, Frieda joined professional associations and other online groups, including:
- American Medical Writers Association
- Association of Health Care Journalists
- National Association of Science Writers
- American Society of Journalists and Authors
- Freelance Success.
She made many freelance friends through these groups and now focuses her time and effort on the places and people that are most useful to her.
Engaging with Other People
Each year Frieda attends about 3 or 4 conferences and 4 or 5 local events such as workshops for entrepreneurs. She hears about most of these conferences and events from people in her network.
“Even though technology has brought more people together from far away because you can pick up a telephone, do a video chat, instant message, or interact on social media, technology can never replace the energetics of the human moment,” says Frieda.
“Human beings are wired to be social and engage with others. For that reason, face-to-face interaction often makes it easier to build relationships with people. It also seems that people are more likely to remember you when they meet you in person.”
People definitely remember you more when they meet you in person. And meeting people in person, even if you rarely or never see them again, is the best way to begin to build strong, trusting relationships.
Make in-person networking work for you
Conquering Fear Leads to New Clients
“Networking was super-scary at first, but over time, my confidence grew, and it got easier,” says Frieda. And the results made conquering her fear worth it.
Frieda has met both clients and other freelancers who referred new clients to her through networking.
“In-person networking has helped me to connect with potential clients who are otherwise difficult to reach,” she says. Since clients rarely need a freelancer when we first meet them, Frieda keeps in touch with the clients she meets. “You have to do something to stay front-of-mind,” she says. Follow up with clients and other freelancers is where most of the real results of networking come from.
Some of Frieda’s favorite clients were referrals from other freelancers. “People are more responsive to people they know or to whom they have been referred. You enjoy the benefits of pre-established rapport,” she says.
Helping Other Freelancers
Frieda has also given referrals to other freelancers. For example, after writing a magazine column for 6 years, she was ready to move on to other projects. So last year, Frieda referred a writer in her network to the magazine, which hired her. “Although she’s been a freelance science writer for nearly 20 years, she hadn’t had much luck with medical writing or medical journalism. I feel honored that I was able to help her get a start,” she says.
Conquering Fear Provides Support, Advice, and Growth
Getting great clients was only one benefit of networking for Frieda. Through her network of other freelancers, she has found a support system and people who could help her troubleshoot problems and celebrate her successes. “You make each other stronger by growing together as professionals and business owners,” she says. Frieda also learned about new opportunities and met two of her best friends through networking.
“Be open to networking, new people, new ideas, and growth,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try something new or attend an event that looks interesting. You never know who you’ll meet there! Sometimes, all it takes is meeting one person who can then introduce you to so many more.”
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. “Approach networking with a sense of fun and adventure,” says Frieda.