10 Must-Know Facts About Networking (And Why Coworking Does It Better)

networking and coworking

For freelancers and small business owners, networking is absolutely essential. Getting to know people–what they do and what they need–is the fastest way to build connections, and by extension your potential customer base.

The only problem traditional networking SUCKS. Business card exchanges, 5 second elevator speeches, feeling like you’re trapped at a used car salesman’s annual conference–all of this makes me want to gag.

Unfortunately, nothing is more effective at building your professional reputation and creating customers like face-to-face interaction. The good news is, thanks to a wealth of communication technologies, traditional networking events aren’t the only way to get to know someone.

The infographic below breaks down some interesting statistics about the impact of face-to-face networking, how the mobile workforce is changing the look of networking, and the types of situations that demand a handshake vs. those that can be accomplished over the phone or on a video chat.

But before you start scrolling through all that visual goodness, just remember: coworking is the ultimate networking event. Every time you come into Cohere, or visit another of the thousands of coworking spaces around the world, you’re expanding your collection of contacts, colleagues, and friends. Better yet, you’re not doing it in a contrived, forced, squint-at-their-nametag-and-pretend-to-be-interested kind of way. You’re doing it in a totally casual, genuine way.

Coworkers get to know each other as friends and office mates, with no hidden agendas. We ask about each other’s projects, clients, and experiences, and as we grow closer as community, there are often reasons to refer work or collaborate. It’s 21st century networking that’s effortless and efficient. And doesn’t make me want to gag. Wins all around.

Face to Face Networking
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

Did you like that? Here are more coworking resources that don’t suck.

Image via opensourceway

Local Business Spotlight: KDragonfly, An Agile Talent Network

kdragonfly logo

 

Coworking is about people. Yes, it’s also about productivity, and community and collaboration. But without people, it’s just a space with desks and wifi. When you add people, connections become possible. And it’s these connections that make independent professionals so powerful and successful.

We do a pretty good job of forging our own connections at Cohere, but if there’s one thing I swear by, it’s using an expert whenever there’s one available. I recently had the pleasure of stumbling upon a local, woman-owned company in our area that specializes in putting people and projects together. Called KDragonfly, this people-centered effort believes strongly that the way we work is changing, and they want to help Northern Colorado professionals lead the charge.

If you’re looking to land more gigs, or collaborate with local independent professionals outside the Cohere family, this could be the resource you’ve been waiting for!

Interested? Here’s what you need to know:

Q. What makes Kdragonfly different from other Contracting websites?

A. Kdragonfly recognizes the importance of 1099 Compliance and has built Vetting into our Guru Profile process. In addition, Kdragonfly personally vets any Guru Member who signs up for the Best Package. Look for the shaded dragonflies. Kdragonfly is powered by people. Gig Managers and Guru Coaches assist Gurus and Employers with customized, solutions.

Q. What if I just need help getting set up as a contract worker, aka freelancer?

A. The Kdragonfly Contractor’s Tool Kit can help get your business set up and provide tips and tools to spur ongoing success. The Kdragonfly Contractor’s Tool Kit is included with the Guru Better and Best packages but can also be purchased as a stand alone download for $49. Included in the Tool Kit are business forms and templates to help you set up your business and perform on a 1099 Contract basis. The Tool Kit also offers information on invoicing, insurance, tax filings, and business planning to help with business sustainment.

Q. How much does it cost to search for local professionals or post a gig?

A. Kdragonfly packages start at $149 a month, but for a LIMITED TIME you can take advantage of their Launch Package for absolutely no charge. Test drive the service until 5/1/2013 with the ability to post 3 gigs, unlimited guru search capability, and the ability to contact gurus directly for FREE!

Got more questions? Contact KDragonfly at info@kdragonfly.com, 970.325.5080, or follow on Facebook.

4 Enlightening Events For Indy Professionals In 2012

Events For Independent Professionals

Happy New Year Coworking Community!

This is a wonderful time when the new year stretches out before us like an untouched canvas. The possibilities of what can be accomplished over the next 12 months seem endless at this moment.

As location-independent professionals, January is a great time to set goals, plan strategies, and identify the opportunities for connection and collaboration that will expand our own networks as well as enrich the larger community.

Even if you’re a regular at your local coworking space, it can be easy to become comfortable with your limited circle of friends and colleagues. But as a freelancer or business owner, it’s essential that you find new ways to challenge yourself, and new people who will expand your mind. Attending events, both inside and outside your chosen industry, is a great way to continue your education while also increasing your friends and followers.

If you’re looking for a few key events to attend this year, here’s a short list of favorites to get you started:

Worldwide #Jellyweek 2012

A “Jelly” is like coworking, only without a dedicated space, time or set of attendees. Often catalysts use the Jelly format to explore their community’s interest in coworking before opening a permanent space. International Jelly Week is a decentralized global event during which independent professionals will come together (in a person’s home, a coffee shop, a public space or an office) to work and network for the day. Topics of discussion include: What important needs can be fulfilled by coworking? How can coworking help solve local and global problems? How can coworkers use the global coworking infrastructure to foster their businesses and projects? Which people and networks aren’t yet connected to the idea of coworking, but should be involved? How can business-oriented networks and NGOs use the coworking infrastructure for their global community building and actions? Learm more at jellyweek.org and on Facebook.

2nd Annual Global Coworking Unconference – Austin, Texas – March 8, 2012

The premier event for coworkers and coworking space owners returns for its second year…bigger and better than ever! This year, the Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC or “juicy” for short) moves to a bigger location and will feature two tracks: an “unconference” track with exceptional peer-to-peer breakouts (great for seasoned coworking space owners) and a more structured conference track (perfect for newer owners and folks who just want to learn more about the movement.) Anyone can jump back and forth between the two tracks throughout the day. The larger keynotes and breaks will bring everyone back together in one large group, making it a cohesive experience for all. Learn more and register here.

International Freelancers Day 2012

International Freelancers Day is the largest FREE online conference exclusively for self-employed service professionals. You’ll learn from some of the world’s most respected professionals and thought leaders in the areas of freelancing, marketing, social media and personal development. They’ll reveal proven and actionable business-building ideas, insights, tactics and strategies that will help take your “business of one” to the next level. International Freelancer’s Day 2011 took place in September and was a huge success. Watch this website for an announcement of this year’s conference.

HOW Design Live 2012 – Boston, Mass., June 21 – 25

Registration is now open for HOW Design Live—not one but four high-energy creative conferences rolled into one. Individual tracks focus on Designers, Project Managers, Creative Freelancers, and Packaging Specialists. Choose one—or all—of the conferences detailed below and produce your most inspired and professionally rewarding creative work ever.

Check out the main web site, HOWDesignLive.com, now updated with full conference information on sessions, workshops, tours, speakers, and networking events. Sign up by March 30 and take advantage of Early-Bird Savings!

Do you know of a stellar event that independent professionals would be crazy to miss? Share it in a comment!

 

Image Credit: Flickr – opensourceway

3 Free Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

It’s back to school time, and all the little kiddos are filling up their backpacks and messenger bags with the tools of the trade: pencils, notebooks, graphing calculators, etc.

Which got me to thinking: what tools should freelancers have in their arsenal to make it easier to attract new clients and run their business like a business?

After a little poking around I found these completely free, online tools that can help you get better results from what you’re already doing in an organized fashion:

1. FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator: We’ve talked a lot about raising your rates, and sticking to your guns when overly-thrifty clients challenge them. But how exactly do you decide on an hourly rate that will truly help cover your expenses now and in the future? Well the clever folks over at FreelanceSwitch created just the tool to help you do that: In just 5-20 minutes, you’ll have a guideline for the necessary hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.

2. BranchOut: There are dozens of referral sites, professional directories, and networking communities available online. At this point, however, most of the people you know or want to know are already using Facebook, so why start from scratch? BranchOut is an application that effortlessly unlocks massive amounts of career data about your friends and friends of friends that was just impossible to get to before.

3. SimplifyThis.com – Tired of entering appointments into Google calendar, calculating billable hours in a spreadsheet, and then issuing invoices with a third tool? SimplifyThis (what a great name, huh?) is both an appointment book for keeping track of your meetings, and any of those that might be billable, as well as a full invoicing service with payment gateway integrations.

Share your favorite free tools for staying organized (and sane) in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr –  L. Marie

What Freelancers Should Know About Google Plus

Hoping that the third time’s the charm (remember Buzz and Wave?) the company behind the world’s top search engine recently launched a new social networking platform: Google+.

If you’ve been on any of the other well-established social media sites in the past week, chances are you’ve heard a peep or two about it.

Let’s be serious, the notion that the web’s best search service has launched a social network that could combine the intuition of Facebook and the speed of Twitter with possibilities for seamless integration into any existing Google tool is enough to make nerds quiver with excitement.

However, the idea of learning how to use a new social media tool correctly and efficiently hardly brings on the same jovial feelings. Let’s face it, until you know what you’re doing, using social media can be a time suck as well as a frustrating endeavor.

As freelancers with limited time, the big question is: Should we bother?

Here are some thoughts gleaned from freelancing experts and social media “gurus” around the web:

1. Ease into it: Go ahead and create a personal profile (if you can get an invite) and play around in your spare time, but don’t worry about migrating your business profile just yet. Chances are, you’ve had at least a few contacts “add you to their circles” and if you’ve got a few minutes, it’s worth poking around in the tool. Hell, if you’ve got gmail, that only takes one click. But for now, the “business experience” is still under development and Google is actually asking businesses and freelancers to avoid using “consumer profiles” for business purposes. When it’s ready, Google+ will have “rich analytics” and will be easy to integrate with Google Adwords and other goodies.

2. Get a jump on success: If your business is social media marketing, SEO, or content marketing, waiting too long to check out what Google+ has to offer could hurt you. This is the new frontier, and just like with Facebook and Twitter a few years ago, the people who figure out new and creative ways to engage online communities with this tool today will be the experts of tomorrow. Watch the platform carefully, look for avenues of opportunity nobody else is taking full advantage of, and move in with your own particular sales pitch.

3. Savvy sharing: Privacy and segmented sharing (two things that Twitter and Facebook have trouble with) are both prominent features of Google+. By creating circles of contacts, you make it possible to share links, ideas, pictures and more with only those that will appreciate it most (or judge you least). This has big implications for businesses and freelancers who are always looking for more efficient ways to communicate with their current clients as well as potential customers.

4. Impact your page rank: It’s also worth knowing that Google+ users themselves now have the opportunity to “vote” on the value of content and ultimately impact search engine rankings. This has the potential to level the page rank playing field, as simple blog post with 3,000 votes on Google+ may very well beat out a similar story with only 300 votes on a  major website. In the future, this may make SEO copywriting obsolete.

For more on Google+ and all it’s shiny possibilities, listen to Google PR Strategist David Allen talk about about an “optimized business experience” for Google+ in the video below.

And if it’s really keeping you awake at night, here are some additional resources:

Sources: WritingThoughts | PGC.org | Freelance-Zone

Two Quick Fixes for the Worst Networking Events

Two Quick Fixes for the Worst Networking Events

I’ve attended my fair share of networking events in the last year, and I just want to go on the record as saying:

Most networking events are a waste of my time and yours.

I’ve been to networking events for web people, sustainable people, people with “integrity,” early risers, late nighters, coffee drinkers, tea enthusiasts, women, pet lovers, commerce lunchers, bar hoppers and more.

Here are a few examples of why those events are falling short.

Treating people like children

I got an email alerting me to a new “networking” function today. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I went to the website to see what it was all about. One of the activities listed on an agenda was to draw names out of a hat to get a lunch date. Now, keep in mind that this is purportedly a group of professionals who want to get to know one another better. The last time I had to pick a team out of a hat, I was in 4th grade. This activity totally devalues the most important part of the coffee meeting: the 2 people in it! I’d much rather have one meaningful conversation with someone I care about or WANT to care about than five quicky-converations.

QUICK FIX: Look for events that don’t have an agenda but rather a simple theme. For instance, in our Business of Freelance/Pancake Eating mornings, we share a meal together and answer a question that I prepare in advance (in my car, on my way to breakfast). Last month we shared what inspires us. That’s it…no names in hats. Our group grew from 4 pancake eaters to 14 in just a few months. And with no gimmicks.

Exclusivity falsified as integrity

I once went to a networking function called “integrity networking.” As Cohere member Skippy would later point out, “you should probably avoid groups that claim to be ethical right in their title—if they have to overtly say they are ethical, then they probably aren’t.” At the event, everyone had their chance to give an elevator speech, an activity that makes me want to turn to liquid and slide through the floorboards. After I sat through elevator speech Round 2 (in the same meeting), I was handed an application and asked to pay more than a hundred dollars for the privilege of hanging out with Fort Collins’ finest integritarians. Yikes. I’d much rather find authenticity and integrity on a person-by-person basis than go to an event (falsely) promoting integrity.

QUICK FIX: Don’t pay a dime for a networking group. Your money is better spent bringing a 6-pack of beer to our monthly NoCoFat meetup (combined with Articulate City this week!). We keep Cohere open late, member Kevin brings his laptop speakers, and we drink beer, eat chips and talk. Just talk. No funny stuff. There’s no fee to get in, no application and no exchanging of meaningless business cards.

What’s been your experience with networking events? Which ones do you love?

Image Credit: Flickr – Official GDC

How To Use Your Niche Statement To Propel Your Business

What To Do With Your Niche Statement

Figuring out your niche is an essential task for freelancers, especially if you want to attract a steady stream of paying clients. Researching your niche, determining your unique offerings, and then actually writing a succinct sentence that encapsulates your findings without confusing or boring people is no small feat.

(If you need help getting started, check out Monday’s post about why nicheing-out matters).

One reason some people feel less-than-motivated to create a niche statement is that they don’t really know how to use it once they’ve got it (especially true for people who find clients online), so here are some productive ways to use your niche statement once you’ve got it nailed down.

Networks and Directories

Finding a niche means getting right to the heart of what it is you do, and why you do it the best. The best place to put the niche statement is right where clients and customers will be looking for it–on a niche networking site or directory. No matter what you do, chances are there is a social media network designed to group you together with like-minded professionals and make your collective talents easy for the public to find.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s out there:

The Web Design Network
Real Design Network
The Designer’s Network
Fastpitch Networking
Freelance Writer’s Directory
Freelance Writers/Designers Directory
Direct Freelance
Web Designers Directory
Health Professionals Directory
Non-Profit Consultant Directory

Check out LOTS more here!

Your Company Facebook Page

If you’re at the stage where you’re ready to separate your personal profile from your professional page, then your nice statement needs to appear prominently on the info tab. People don’t want to read your entire history and mission statement on Facebook. The niche statement gives them just enough so that they’ll “Like” you and click through to your actual site to learn more.

LinkedIn, BranchOut, Elance.com, Guru.com, etc…

(FYI: BranchOut is a Facebook app that’s very similar to LinkedIn). Putting your new niche statement on your profile acts like a tiny 24-hour billboard, and ensures that your messaging is consistent no matter how people find you. If you’ve already got a pretty solid profile on a couple of professional networking sites, think about delving deeper and using your niche statement as a way of introducing yourself to niche groups or even individuals that you don’t know personally, but would like to have as a professional contact.

Bios Galore

No matter what kind of site you’re subscribing to or listing yourself on, everyone wants a bio these days. Use your niche statement on your own website, your Twitter page, Cohere bio, and anywhere else you’re given two lines to talk about yourself and what you do.

In what other places/situations can you see your nice statement coming in handy? (Printed materials don’t count ;)

Image Credit: MoneyTalksOnline.com

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