HOW TO NETWORK WHEN
YOU DON'T LIKE NETWORKING
Everything I know about myself tells me I shouldn’t be a freelancer.
I don’t like driving, parking in unknown areas, selling myself or being financially unstable. I know, it’s like some kind of cruel joke. Luckily my love of freedom to work the way I want far outweighs the stuff that scares me.
One thing I haven’t quite made peace with is networking.
Introverts in the creative industry are nothing new, we’ve always been there; it’s just we’re often cowering in the corner. I’ve read around 800 articles on how to tackle networking as an introvert and the crux of them all is to basically crack on and do it.
So, I did, I went to an event. Well, an event of sorts. It was actually a one-day yoga retreat in London. I didn’t ask anyone to join me, it was just me and a group of strangers. It meant I had to make at least one connection, or wistfully hope that someone would take pity on me for standing by myself.
I secretly prayed that everyone would be too solitary/focused/snooty to worry about conversation. But no, it couldn’t have been further from that. Most of the people there were looking for some kind of connection too, whether it was with others, themselves or maybe a bit of both.
I spoke to a number of women that day, all warm and welcoming. It felt like catching up with old friends. I lucked out on meeting many who had creative backgrounds and so didn’t even have to explain what being a copywriter actually meant, winner!
Given the solitary tendencies often found in writers, I was surprised to soon find myself initiating small talk, offering compliments and even gave out a few business cards.
I shared a cab ride home with a fellow writer and confessed that the idea of being at an event like that and having to approach people (while simultaneously trying not to hyperventilate) is not really my idea of a good time. She was surprised, as I’d seemed so confident. Who knew?
Maybe starting with an event that involved a lot of what I enjoy (food, yoga, walking, food) took the edge off that first attempt. Maybe next time I won’t be fed and I’ll still manage to have a good time.
It’s worth remembering to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Especially as a freelancer, where there’s no mandatory office events (forced fun) or team building you have to attend.
It’s all too easy when you’re working from home, or with headphones on in a coffee shop, to have minimal human interaction. It’s also easy to forget how much even the most introverted among us need that connection.
Maybe it’s ok to leave the headphones at home once in a while.