A shark or a dolphin? What would you rather be?

Published on 2015-09-14 by Marcin Niewęgłowski.

freelancer and clients contacts Photograph by dbking via www.flickr.com

A freelancer, just like any other guy, needs some human interaction once in a while. Surely, he can not be associated with all those negative features as being closed, not willing to go outside and dealing with everything by means of the soulless Internet. In order to gain new deals or partners these people need to enlarge their contact list in the online world.

It is said that there are two strategies of running the business. They also apply to freelancers. The first states that you have to be a very competitive predator, a shark who makes his target “over dead bodies”. According to this philosophy the danger might be waiting behind every corner – competitors, so you need to stay alert. This approach makes business look as an ocean full of brutal fighting. A completely opposite point of view is represented by dolphin's strategy.

Instead of competition it focuses on cooperation, working together. According to this philosophy people should be treated as allies, not opponents or even enemies. Dolphin's strategy persuades that you will win the most by joining forces and mutual back up. Therefore, the essential element of such work is networking. Meeting new people and stating up new relations. It is twice that important for a small company, as thanks to networking, it can survive recession. And in a matter of fact, freelancers are representatives of small business, micro-business. We can say, that networking is a “must have” for freelancers.

Freelancers often operate in unsecured environment. They loose their financial flow due to the lack of new jobs or due to late payments. And thanks to well developed net of contacts they can make up for all business breaks. Of course, the networking has the life of its own, it is not something ephemeral but it has iron rules of engagement game rules.

business meeting Photograph by Stewart Butterfield via www.flickr.com

First of all, before you take part in any networking appointment set determine your objectives, targets and aims. Decide what people you wish to meet, what is the way you want to talk to them. Of course, before you get there you may find it helpful to do a small research about these people. If you know who is going to be there, of course. Such events are definitely not occasions to meet your old pals at a bar. Networking is about building relations f2f. Therefore, when you plan going for one, don't expect having a nightclub fun. Such group meetings make it impossible to meet new people, as everyone sticks to their own herd.

During all networking meetings one of the most important things is the way you start your conversation with people who you do not know yet. It is worth to be curious, to listen to people and to look for footholds. It will let you express yourself on one hand and ask questions on another. The answers may take the conversation to new, rich level. It is also helpful to think how you can help people, not only how they can help you. During any conversation it is crucial to maintain the visual contact. The lack of it may mean for your interlocutor that their opinions and the whole meeting is not interesting for you. Instead of looking around or checking your smartphone every 5 minutes it is better to apologize and leave if you can see that the meeting will not lead neither of you anywhere.

Networking, as the essence of dolphin's strategy goes for quality relations. Such relation is this one when you meet your cooperator after few weeks or months and you remember much more than the names of each other. You can also remember what you were talking about. It won't happen if those people do not show any interest towards each other and do not find out anything about the other person just by casual, pleasant conversation.

Networking as the essence of quality relations Photograph by Office Now via www.flickr.com

When maintaining relations, business cards play a role as well. However, it is important to manage and distribute them in a rational way. Regardless if it is a networking meeting or any other appointment you should choose right moments to do so. It is not advised to approach any person, exchange few opinions and then hand in the business card. Something like that is considered similar to sending spam via e-mail. A network meeting is neither the the right time nor place to behave like a restaurant promotional tickets' delivery man. A business card is there to be sent after the meeting to the e-mail address of the person we want to be in touch with and thank for the opportunity to talk you just have had. When you do so, you can also suggests considering any potential plans for future cooperation.

What about the personality? Will any features also make some of freelancers deal better with a networking appointment? Not necessarily. It has been thought that extroverts are those who can start new relations almost instantly. It is like their in-born feature. However, these are introverts who are much better when it comes to getting to know the other person. Extroverts may be to talkative (they may talk too much even about themselves), wheres introverts are more focused on listening, which makes relations more solid.

So, is it worth being a freelancer-shark or a freelancer-dolphin? Shall we paraphrase the old saying of “cooperation is the key to development, but when there is none, there is only ruin.” We can also say that smart businessmen collaborate but only stupid compete. And now, instead of the “businessmen” word let's say “freelancers”. It is also worth remembering that by choosing the shark's strategy, sooner or later, we can become the pray.