Networking

This unit aims to equip giggers with the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to thrive in the dynamic gig economy through the power of remote networking. As the gig economy expands, the unit seeks to help individuals understand the concept of remote networking and its relevance to gig work, emphasizing effective strategies for building and maintaining a professional network when working remotely and the role of networking in creating new business opportunities. By the end of this unit, learners should possess a solid foundation of knowledge on how networking can be a catalyst for success in the gig economy.

Learners are encouraged to cultivate the right attitudes for success in gig work, fostering a mindset that values networking in gig work and business growth, encouraging continuous learning and adaptation and promoting a positive and open attitude towards building professional relationships and collaborations, with empathy and a genuine interest in others, as key components of successful networking.

Learning Objectives

  • Understanding the concept of remote networking and its relevance to gig work.
  • Knowledge of effective strategies for building and maintaining a professional network when working remotely.Awareness of the role of networking in creating new business opportunities.
  • Knowledge of the benefits of networking in the gig economy.

What is Networking?

Networking is the process of establishing and nurturing relationships, often for personal or professional purposes, with individuals, organisations, or groups to exchange information, resources, support, and opportunities.

Networking is a vital and dynamic process that has transformed the way individuals and businesses connect, collaborate, and thrive in the digital age. In the gig economy, where freelance, contract, and independent work arrangements are prevalent, networking takes on a multifaceted role, extending far beyond the traditional handshake and business card exchange. It’s about building and nurturing a web of professional relationships, both online and offline, that can enhance career opportunities, foster collaborations, and create a sense of community.

One of the key aspects of networking in the gig economy is the reliance on digital tools and platforms. Gig workers often leverage social media, professional networking sites, and virtual communication tools to connect with clients, peers, and potential collaborators. These digital platforms enable them to cast a wider net, reaching a global audience and diversifying their network in ways that were previously unimaginable. Online forums, webinars, and virtual events have become essential arenas for gig workers to showcase their skills, exchange ideas, and form partnerships.

The nature of gig work, which often involves short-term projects and varying clients, places an increased emphasis on the agility and adaptability of one’s network. Gig workers are expected to continuously expand and refine their network to stay competitive. In this context, networking becomes an ongoing process of relationship building, with a focus on creating a supportive ecosystem of clients, fellow gig workers, and mentors. Success in the gig economy often depends not only on what you know but on who you know and how effectively you can leverage those connections.

Networking in this gig economy requires resourcefulness, flexibility and agility.

Furthermore, networking in the gig economy is not solely about transactional relationships; it’s about nurturing meaningful connections. Building trust, establishing one’s personal brand, and fostering a sense of authenticity in interactions are critical aspects of networking in this environment. The gig economy thrives on reputation and referrals, and these are often based on the quality of work and the strength of personal relationships. In this way, networking serves as a foundation for long-term success and stability in an ever-evolving landscape, where the strength of your network can be a determining factor in your ability to secure gigs, grow professionally, and navigate the intricacies of the modern world of work.

Types of Networks

When it comes to networking for professional growth giggers need to have a grasp of the networks that are related to their industry and the services they offer. Most networks have a unique purpose and focus and professional networking involves connecting with individuals in your industry or field to build career-related relationships and opportunities. Social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter facilitate online connections and interactions among individuals for personal and social purposes. Additionally, there are specialised networks for sharing knowledge, such as those found on platforms like Wikipedia, and for file sharing, like BitTorrent. 

In the business world, supply chain networks link manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors to streamline operations, while financial networks are essential for secure transactions and money transfers. These diverse network types are vital for creating and leveraging connections, enabling communication, collaboration, and the sharing of resources and information within specific contexts.

Let’s look at the three main types of networks:

Operational Networks

Operational networks are primarily individuals who have a direct connection to your professional life. These connections often include current or former colleagues, people you’ve met through professional associations, or individuals with expertise in your field of work. Operational networks are vital for sharing industry-specific knowledge, best practices, and information on job opportunities. These connections can help you stay updated on the latest trends, collaborate on projects, and provide insights based on their practical experiences. They are crucial for your day-to-day work and professional development.

Strategic Networks

In contrast to operational networks, strategic networks extend beyond your immediate industry or field. These connections include thought leaders, visionaries, and individuals who bring unique perspectives to the table. While they may not directly work within your specific sector, they offer valuable insights and ideas that can help you think more broadly and innovatively. Strategic networks are beneficial for expanding your horizons, gaining a fresh outlook on your work, and exploring opportunities in new and unexpected areas. These connections can serve as sources of inspiration and innovation, guiding you beyond routine career considerations.

Personal Networks

Personal networks encompass a wide range of connections, from friends and family to school alumni and online acquaintances established through social media platforms. These connections are multi-faceted, serving both personal and professional purposes. On a personal level, they provide emotional support, companionship, and a sense of belonging. Professionally, they can offer career-related opportunities, introductions, and advice. Personal networks are often your first point of contact when you need assistance or when you want to expand your professional circle. They offer a mix of personal and professional connections, making them versatile and invaluable for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Friends and trusted relationships built and sustained over years and decades.  I don’t network with the goal of building contacts (and I am not very good at it)!  I network because I like meeting people and focus on depth.  Networking is hugely important.  One can’t grow beyond a point by staying in their cocoon.  All the more important in this gig economy, where full-time jobs will give way to part time and project-based roles.  Having a network allows access to a far richer set of opportunities and talent.

Senior Vice-President, International Markets, Harvard Business Publishing, Vinay Hebbar

Networking Tips for Giggers

Networking is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. To network effectively, start by identifying your goals, whether it’s seeking job opportunities, mentorship, or expanding your knowledge. Establish a professional online presence on platforms like LinkedIn, complete with a well-written bio and photo. Share your expertise through posts, articles, and comments, and connect with professionals in your field. 

You can also attend industry-related events, conferences, seminars, and workshops, both in-person and virtually, to engage in discussions, ask questions, and exchange contact information. Join professional organisations for networking opportunities, educational resources, and industry updates. 

Many gig workers now leverage social media by following and engaging with relevant professionals and organisations, and use industry-specific hashtags to find meaningful connections. Inform your existing network about your networking goals, and ask for introductions or recommendations. Participate in local or online meetups and workshops, and be willing to offer help and support to others. 

Lastly, always follow up and stay in touch with your contacts, and be genuine and authentic in your interactions. Active listening, record-keeping, and continuous improvement are key elements of successful networking. Remember that networking is an ongoing process, and the relationships you build can become valuable assets in both your personal and professional life.

As a gig worker, you’ll need to grow and maintain each of these networks. But what does networking for giggers look like?

Here are 10 tips to help you build and grow your freelance network:

  1. Work it like a Job: Successful networking starts with getting yourself in the right mindset. You know you have to do it, so make sure that you devote a certain amount of time every day to building connections, either online or face-to-face. Then hold yourself to that schedule, keeping track of what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Network close to home: There’s no need, at first, to jump way outside your comfort zone as you build your networking skills. Focus first on making sure your friends and family members know exactly what you do and what kinds of jobs you can handle. Encourage them to speak about this to their colleagues and among their networks. A lot of business can come your way through this simple step.
  3. Stay connected to past clients: If you completed several jobs for a particular group or company and had a positive working relationship, they obviously liked what you were doing. You can get in touch with them and see if they have recommendations for other potential clients or have a new project of their own.
  4. Give to receive: Some people think networking is only about getting things for yourself. But that’s not the whole point. While building your network, help your connections, even if they can’t help you right now. When you offer support, you’re creating a group of people who might help you in the future.
  5. Use Social Media: Even before the pandemic, online networking was a great way to connect with others. Don’t ignore these opportunities. You can find groups of freelancers online who are like you. Join conversations, learn from others, and share your own experiences. LinkedIn is a good tool for networking. Find and use LinkedIn Groups in your field and keep your profile updated. Look on other websites like Reddit for forums where professionals in your field talk.
  6. Register for Trade Shows and Conferences: Sometimes, going to different places can help you meet new people. Consider going to trade shows (either in-person or online). If you focus on a certain industry, you can meet important people who might connect you to clients. Even if you don’t get lots of new business, you’ll learn more about that industry.
  7. Attend Social Events: Almost any social gathering can be a chance to network. Parties, gatherings, and events that bring people together are opportunities for freelancers to meet new people. It’s also good for your work-life balance if you usually work alone.
  8. Find Co-working Spaces: Joining a co-working space near you is a great way to meet other freelancers. Co-working spaces have different people who work there and want to connect. It’s a good place to meet other freelancers.
  9. Volunteer in your community: Connecting with people who share your interests is a great way to network. Volunteering in your community or online can help you meet people and gain experience, especially if you’re just starting out in your career.
  10. Connect With Other Gig workers: Learning about how other giggers work is useful. You can compare prices, strategies, and share stories about your jobs.

Scenarios

In a bustling city, a networking event buzzed with professionals from various industries. Sarah, a freelance graphic designer in search of new clients, had her eyes on Mark, a marketing manager for a growing startup. As they both sipped their drinks near the refreshments table, Sarah noticed an opportunity to initiate a meaningful conversation.

Approaching Mark with a friendly smile, Sarah introduced herself and offered a firm handshake. She knew that first impressions counted, so she dressed professionally yet stylishly, reflecting her creative spirit. Mark, on the other hand, was intrigued by Sarah’s confidence and approachability.

Sarah began with a concise and engaging elevator pitch. She said, “Hi Mark, I’m Sarah, a freelance graphic designer. I specialize in creating eye-catching visuals that tell your brand’s story. With your startup’s expansion, I believe I can help you create a strong visual identity that resonates with your target audience, helping you stand out in a competitive market.”

Mark appreciated Sarah’s direct approach and was impressed by her clear value proposition. He replied, “Hi Sarah, I’m Mark. We’re definitely looking to revamp our branding as we grow. I’m interested in unique and creative solutions, so I’d love to hear more about your work.”

As they continued to chat, Sarah maintained a genuine interest in Mark’s business and needs. She asked insightful questions about the startup’s goals, target audience, and any specific design preferences. Mark was pleased to see Sarah’s eagerness to understand his company’s vision.

Sarah and Mark’s conversation flowed naturally, with Sarah showcasing her knowledge and passion for graphic design. She also shared a few success stories from her portfolio, demonstrating her expertise. Mark was increasingly convinced that Sarah was the right fit for his project.

Before parting ways, Sarah made sure to exchange contact information and handed Mark a well-designed business card that reflected her creativity. Mark appreciated the professionalism and thoroughness of their meeting.

As Sarah left the networking event, she felt confident about the connection she had made. Mark, too, was excited to explore the possibility of working with a talented freelance graphic designer who had made a memorable first impression. This chance encounter had the potential to lead to a fruitful collaboration in the world of gig work.

Role Play

Networking Event Encounter
Characters:
Sarah: Freelance Graphic Designer (Gigger)
Mark: Marketing Manager (Potential Client)
Setting: A bustling networking event

Scene: Sarah and Mark are standing near the refreshments table, chatting at a networking event.

Sarah: (approaching Mark with a friendly smile) Hi there, I’m Sarah. I couldn’t help but notice your name tag. Are you with XYZ Startup?

Mark: (returning the smile, extending a hand) Yes, I am. I’m Mark, the marketing manager. Nice to meet you, Sarah.

Sarah: (shaking hands) Likewise, Mark. I’m a freelance graphic designer, and I specialize in creating visually stunning brand identities. With your startup’s growth, I think we could work together to create a unique visual identity that’ll help you stand out in your industry.

Mark: (intrigued) That sounds interesting. Tell me more, Sarah.

Sarah: (delivering her elevator pitch) Well, I’ve had the pleasure of working with various startups, and I believe that the right design can not only capture attention but also convey your brand’s story effectively. I’m passionate about creating designs that resonate with your target audience. With your expansion plans, I’m confident I can help you achieve your branding goals.

Mark: (impressed by the pitch) I like your approach, Sarah. We’ve been discussing a brand revamp, and we’re looking for unique and creative solutions. Can you share some examples of your work?

Sarah: (enthusiastically) Absolutely! (She takes out her phone and shows Mark her portfolio.) Here are a few projects I’ve worked on recently. Each one was tailored to the client’s specific needs and brand identity.

Mark: (engaging in the conversation) These look impressive, Sarah. Can you tell me more about your process and how you adapt your designs to suit different businesses?

Sarah: (showing genuine interest) Of course, Mark. (She proceeds to explain her design process and discuss how she tailors designs to suit individual clients.) It’s all about understanding your unique brand and audience.

Mark: (impressed with Sarah’s knowledge) I appreciate your insight, Sarah. We’re definitely looking for someone who can grasp our vision and bring it to life.

Sarah: (maintaining professionalism) I’d love to learn more about your startup and your goals. Could we exchange contact information and continue this conversation later?

Mark: (appreciating the professionalism) That sounds like a great idea. Here’s my card.

Sarah: (handing Mark her business card) Thank you, Mark. I look forward to the possibility of working together.

Mark: (feeling positive) Likewise, Sarah. Let’s keep in touch.

(They exchange contact information, ending the conversation on a high note as they go their separate ways, both feeling that this chance encounter might lead to a promising collaboration.)

Assessment

  1. Networking is exclusively about building in-person relationships and does not involve online connections.
  2. Networking in the gig economy is essential for finding new job opportunities and enhancing your reputation.
  3. Building a positive reputation in the gig economy has no impact on your earning potential.
  4. Gig workers should rely solely on one client or gig to reduce business risks.
  5. Operational networks primarily consist of connections outside your industry or field.
  6. Personal networks in professional networking are limited to friends and family.
  7. Which of the following is not a reason why gig workers should network?
  8. What is a key benefit of developing a positive reputation in the gig economy?
  9. What type of network includes thought leaders and individuals with unique perspectives?
  10. What is one of the key elements of successful networking mentioned in the content?
  11. Which type of network is crucial for sharing industry-specific knowledge, best practices, and information on job opportunities?
  12. What do gig workers often rely on to connect with clients, peers, and potential collaborators?