Whether you like networking or not, for freelance instructional designers (IDs), the benefits of networking are undeniable. Many IDs attest to the job opportunities it affords and the countless resources that they have access to as a result of networking. As a freelancer without effective networking, it is highly likely that you’ll have limited work pipelines, or your projects will soon dry out.
The best way that freelancing ID can avoid a situation where you’re constantly scouring for work, is through effective networking.
What Is Networking?
Networking is the exchange of information or services between individuals, groups, or institutions. These “contacts” may be existing ones, or they may be newer ones that you cultivate through various strategies that we’ll explain shortly.
Networking is unique in that it has the potential to broaden your knowledge base and build relationships with instructional design industry professionals. Sharing new ideas, capitalizing on new business ventures, and discussing professional advancement are just a few benefits of networking.
How Do IDs Establish Networks?
There are various ways you can start to network with others. This can be accomplished at social gatherings or business functions. The key is to share information with other ID professionals and prospective clients and start creating meaningful connections. If you are an introvert, you may try the online route by connecting with others on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Fostering these relationships broaden your horizon since you get the opportunity to meet diverse individuals.
What Resources do You Need for Effective Networking?
As an ID, networking is about telling others who you are, and showing them what you have done in the past, and what you can do for them in the future. At a minimum, here’s what you’ll need for a satisfying networking experience:
- Cover story (your sales pitch)
- Resume (your education, training, and track record)
- References (or an offer to provide them is requested)
- Portfolio (samples – properly classified and categorized)
- Your work approach (types of tools you use; methodology you follow; availability)
It is important to understand that the most successful networking occurs through personalized connections – and that means personalizing your resources. For instance, when socializing with, or reaching out to a network of healthcare industry contacts, if possible, make sure you layout your portfolio samples and references in a way that those industry experts might relate to your work. It might not, therefore, be an appropriate or effective networking approach to display industrial courses at such a networking event.
Strategies to Increase Your Network
Strengthen existing business relationships by:
- Making the most of the connections that are already in place
- Being visible and getting noticed in your field
- Building professional affiliations with other business vendors
- Taking advantage of opportunities to gain insightful advice from like-minded business owners
- Acknowledging the potential gaining future consumers through effective communication
- Take the time to market your business on numerous platforms
- Post quality content, showcasing your training material
- Try different social media platforms such as:
Design a Marketing Page
- Design a page that illustrates all the different eLearning products
- Provide a short-detailed description of each course product
- Ensure that this page is distributed among your social media outlets, personal website if any, and other network platforms.
Other ID Networking Opportunities
If you work on job portals like Upwork.com or FreeLancer.com or are a member of professional associations like Instructional Design Central.com or Learning Guild.com, you have opportunities to network, not only with organizations that post instructional design jobs but with your industry peers on those sites. You may even network by contributing guest posts and subject-matter blogs on some of these platforms.
The Overall Significance of Networking
The time you take to prioritize building relationships within your networking community will lead to effectively creating avenues to market your eLearning products and ID skills. Networking done well not only offers work opportunities through direct clients, but many peer freelancing instructional designers may also get visibility to your skills and services and offer sub-contracting opportunities to you.
The key to effective eLearning delivery is to not spend an overwhelming amount of funds but to grow the logistics of developing and managing a network community. With eLearning networking, the best structure is to maintain regular connections to maximize your business.