Technology has changed much in the way that we work over the past couple of decades. Among other things, it has allowed for the growth of a vast freelance economy. Some 12 million freelancers use Upwork alone, which boasts five million registered clients and a posted jobs value of $1 billion.
The rapidly evolving pace of modern technology has also had an enormous impact on a wide range of professions. Translation technology, for example, has provided professional translators with the tools they need to enhance their efficiency in a range of ways. Essentially, they can translate faster and more efficiently by using digital enhancements (though while still steering clear of machine translation – technology has yet come far enough to make that reliable!).
Social media, online professional networks and messaging apps have also changed the way that we communicate – both personally and as part of our working lives. Does that mean that it’s time for freelancers to forget everything they previously knew about networking? Not necessarily…
Networking has certainly been enhanced by technology. Freelancers can now reach out to potential clients from the comfort of their home with just a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a smartphone. The LinkedIn website and app are particularly useful in this respect, making it easy for freelancers to reach out and make connections. To stick with the above example, those working in the translation sector can now network with everyone from boutique agencies to major translation companies that employ translators around the world. The same is true for almost anyone offering language, writing, creative or tech-based skills on a freelance basis.
While there’s little doubt that technology has revolutionised the way that we network and in some respects levelled the playing field (who you know still counts for a great deal – it’s just easier to get to know the people you need to now!), that doesn’t mean that it’s time to drop more traditional tactics. There’s still a place in many freelancers’ lives for face to face networking at business briefings and conferences. Many freelancers also still find cold calling an effective way to introduce themselves to potential clients. However, these traditional networking methods now form part of a wider strategy, in which digital networking is playing an increasingly important role.
The time that digital networking saves is one key reason for this. Once you’ve written a basic introductory email, you just need to adapt and personalise it for each individual you send it to. The bulk of the work goes into the initial copy, after which it can be fired out fairly rapidly. Cold calling, by way of comparison, takes far longer and involves a great deal more repetition.
Just as technology continues to advance, so too will the way that we network. Becoming an ‘influencer’ in your chosen field is gaining traction in terms of the way in which new contacts will judge you and freelancers need to think this through. If you reach out to new contacts and they Google you, will they find a professional website detailing your services, a series of well thought out, highly rated articles on sites like Medium or just a Facebook page flaunting your latest holiday snaps (or, worse, packed with links to cat videos)?
Tech-savvy freelancers undoubtedly have the edge when it comes to modern networking – we just need to make sure we keep up as technology continues to change the face of how we approach this!
Louise Taylor is the content writer of the Tomedes Blog.