How to Make Business Contacts in a New City
This is a guest post from the talented Laura Talley.
One of the oft-touted benefits to a freelance career is the ability to work anywhere, but the truth is a little more complicated. This is true if you are writing books and magazine articles, but those of us in the many other fields of freelance careers rely on contacts and referrals for work. As a writer, I have had clients from Florida to Canada – many people prefer to work with someone local and available for meetings.
New to a city or starting a freelance career from scratch? Here are 6 ways to make contacts wherever you are.
SEO your blog or website
Add keywords and write articles relating to your new city. I started my blog and website in the Memphis area and moved to Central Arkansas soon thereafter. It took me a few hours to change the tags from Memphis to Little Rock, but within a week, I was on the first page for my niche.
If you are like me and your eyes glaze over at the mention of code, get the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin (which comes with a great guide to accompany it).
Do your best work wherever you are.
Whether you are writing a blog post for yourself or designing a logo for a client, a good portfolio (or landing pages like Heidi Turner’s) when you move to a new city is crucial for success. People will want to see samples. Just getting started? Make a few mockups. Most people don’t care if you’ve designed for a Fortune 500 company or wrote articles for your neighborhood; they just want to know that you can do the work requested.
It’s not news that with the advent of the Internet, many newspapers are struggling. This is difficult for journalists, but it’s good news for freelancers. Within a week of arriving to my current city, I sent an email to the editor of the local paper. He responded within a few hours. He had to let go some of his full time staff and was desperate for some decent writers to fill in the gaps. I don’t have a journalism degree; the best I can say is I took a journalism class in high school. Not very impressive! Writing for newspapers isn’t lucrative or my area of expertise, but it is great for making contacts and meeting people. I accepted a lower hourly rate because the contacts I gained were so valuable. Within 48 hours of that email, I had an in with a PR department of the local university. The more you write, the more people you meet and the more relationships you build.
If you aren’t a writer, consider writing a press release about what you do and sending it to the local paper. This is a good, low cost way to introduce yourself and your business to the community.
One thing: in my signature line I had a link to my blog. This automatically provided clips for him to view so he didn’t have to wonder whether or not I could write. That helped me get the job.
Letters and Email
Email or write letters to potential clients. Don’t make them long or all about you; make them about what problems you can help the company solve. A letter that reads, “Hi, my name is Jane Smith and I have 97 years of freelance experience, including writing a 900 page novel and 43 best-selling books” will cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over. Make your letter about them.
Word of warning: Do not spam! Send a short, personalized letter of introduction, not a generalized ad about your business. I only sent email to network with other freelancers, not major clients, though some people do that without issue. My letter went something like, “Hi, my name is Laura Talley. I am a freelance copywriter and recently moved here. If you find yourself swamped and need a freelancer to help out, let me know! I am more than willing to help out.” I included my contact information and links to my website in the signature. Then, if they were interested, they could easily click on the link or ask me questions about my experience. People are almost always interested in networking. Or, successful people are anyways.
Even if you are starting from scratch, you still have contacts. Why did you move? Was it for your spouse’s job? To be closer to family? Do any of your clients in the previous city have friends or colleagues in your new city? Use your existing network, even if you don’t have many or think they will know anyone who has work for you.
I advertise myself to lawyers in part because my husband is a lawyer. This familiarized me with the legal field and helped me see where lawyers go wrong with their marketing and copy.
Chamber of Commerce
Join your local Chamber of Commerce and attend events. This is a phenomenal way to find business contacts in your new city. Shake hands, give your elevator speech, pass out cards, and always position yourself as a solution to a problem. This helps keep the focus on the potential client instead of grandstanding your past successes (or lack of them if you’re new).
With a bit of grit and lots of determination, you can find yourself thriving in a new city. Don’t get too discouraged and don’t give up. Recognize you will have to spend a large chunk of your time marketing at first, but it won’t last forever. There has never been a better time to freelance, so success will come with time.
Laura Talley a freelance ghostwriter, speechwriter, and copywriter. She is the founder of Pagat Writing Services and lives in Arkansas with her husband, daughter, and two cats.
Photo Cred: Flickr User Victor1558.