50 easy ways to re-connect for defensive entrepreneurship and
Where did my most recent client work come from? Let’s see: Referral from the husband of an author I once published. Referral from someone I did a couple favors for two years ago. Referral from a neighbor. Former client. Author I once published. Minor Twitter relationship. Medium article. Google search.
In other words, the work showed up at unpredictable times from unpredictable sources. Yet, big yet: It did show up and in a sufficient quantity for me to make a living.
This is how it is when you have a sustainable freelance business. I’ve re-built one three times and it’s almost always the same. Sure, it’s essential to spend time on marketing, sales, and business development. But in the end, much of the work comes from relationships and reputation that have been built slowly over time.
You may never know for sure who or what is going to trigger the work, but one thing’s for sure, building up social capital over time — friendly and supportive connections at a range of depths and intensities — is smart. It’s an element of defensive entrepreneurship, building in cushions before you need them. It’s also about building relationships for the life you want. Make your relationship-building work about connecting with people you like, respect, and enjoy. Success in business, and in life, comes from all relationships, personal and professional; strong and weak ties; acquaintances, allies, co-workers, best buds, family members, soul mates.
The 50 things below are all things I have done, have seen others do, or have been on the delightful receiving end of. Collectively, they and similar gestures of connection build up over time and help cultivate important layers and networks of different types of relationships. If at first these things don’t come naturally to you or slip out of mind, schedule them. Put them on calendars. Create reminders on your phone. Make it as easy as possible for you to develop a habit of reaching out.
Realize that whether you lived alone during the pandemic, with a roommate, or with your family, it may be time to get out of the house, see new faces, and socialize your heart out.
Ditch the concept of networking if you like and think instead about outreach. Reaching out. Connecting with others on anything that’s natural for the situation and going from there. There doesn’t have to be an agenda larger than this.
Make a long-term plan to stay in touch with all desired contacts in a way that makes sense. Once a month for this group, quarterly for this one, annually for this one. This also aids in consciously deciding who not to keep in touch with.
Start by doing one person a favor, then join the favors economy.
Offer help and ask for help but give more than you take. Give without expectation of reciprocity. Read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success about the finer points and fascinating research on these things.
Think in terms of five-minute bites of help. Connections. Suggestions. Templates. Articles. Encouragement. It’s often not inconvenient or a burden to help others and is usually the opposite — a mood booster.
But seriously, do ask others for help. Studies show that people tend to like you more after they’ve done you a favor. Perhaps they think, I’ve done you a favor, you must be worth it! Amanda Palmer has an excellent autobiography focused on this topic: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.
Let this sink in: There is a strong correlation between relationships, socializing, and happiness. Reach out for yourself and your own mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being. Follow all the reporting the Greater Good Science Center does on this connection.
Call one person every day just to say hi and see what’s new.
Email or text two people every day from your contacts list just to say hi and see what’s new.
Form a support group, cheering squad, or mastermind crew to provide mutual encouragement, connections, ideas, and feedback with likeminded others.
Join a professional organization or two. Show up to their meetings, introduce yourself, participate. Volunteer for organizational tasks and committees. Make friends, have fun.
Join a community organization or two. Show up to their meetings, introduce yourself, participate. Volunteer for organizational tasks and committees. Make friends, have fun.
Join a club or two. A book club. A sports league. Show up to their meetings, introduce yourself, participate. Volunteer for organizational tasks and committees. Make friends, have fun.
Take photos at meetings and events and post on social media. Tag people, share links, say something complimentary.
When you snap a great photo of someone, send it to them with a compliment.
Compliment others in general. Remember, if you’re unfamiliar with even basic social practices, personal or professional, it’s okay to turn to the lifeline of Google. Here are 119 of the best compliments to give and 40 especially for those over 40.
Show others appreciation in general. And other positive emotions and affect: Respect, admiration, regard, interest, enthusiasm.
Strike up conversations anywhere and everywhere you’re moved. If you’re not naturally moved in this direction, give it a try. Start with a basic question, comment, or compliment.
Ask about others. Not just about their work, but what’s big at work, what they care about, their hobbies, their kids, the last book they read, the shows they watch. All are safe jumping off points for easing into knowing people better.
Volunteer information about yourself to open up conversations and let people know you better. Talking about yourself is not always about hogging the attention and making it all about you. It’s sometimes about pulling your chit-chat weight and sharing.
Embrace the concept of slow business, which puts people, relationships, customer service, and time for little niceties front and center.
Never eat alone. Invite friends or contacts from different areas of your life for coffee, drinks, meals. Read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone for more suggestions around this idea.
Throw dinner parties, backyard BBQs, cocktail hours to get old friends together.
Throw parties where each guest brings a friend the others most likely don’t know. Yet. Let the synergy take over on its own.
Throw parties, salons, soirées with people from different areas of your life for sparkling conversation and fortuitous introductions.
It’s beyond easy. Wish people happy birthday on Facebook and LinkedIn. I never met anyone who doesn’t like or outright love this aspect of social media.
For the right people and extra impact, stick a birthday card in the mail.
Keep a stash of fun postcards on hand so that you can regularly drop people a few lines when you think of them.
Send thank you notes. Liberally. Through the mail.
Send clients gifts through the mail, some updated version of the annual calendar from your dentist or auto mechanic.
Another gimme: Like people’s social media posts. No need to be insincere, find ones to like and ones from people you like.
Comment on people’s social media posts. Be useful, be interesting, be funny, be yourself. But (usually) be brief.
Participate in Facebook in LinkedIn groups that interest you and are filled with people you enjoy.
Share other people’s social media posts with an intro of your own.
Share other people’s good news.
Give referrals and recommendations. Provide product reviews, Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Amazon reviews for people you know and their enterprises.
Help others find jobs, work, gigs, assignments, projects. Find or create situations in which you can regularly get work for others (as freelancers/contractors) and send work to others (as vendors/small businesses).
Don’t just connect with others, learn how to connect others in ways that serve them. Introduce people you know who don’t yet know each other but would enjoy or benefit from the new connection.
Podcaster Jordan Harbinger has a free 12-mission networking course that can go a long way in priming your mindset and boosting your confidence and skills for outreach efforts.
Follow David J. P. Fisher and read any or all of his 10 books on networking and selling, human-to-human, in the 21st century.
Check in on others more than once when you know they’re going through hard times: job losses, injuries, tough diagnoses (their own or family member’s), grieving, etc. If you know them well enough or if it’s appropriate, you can take things to a deeper level by asking them how are they really?
Have an annual donation budget and donate to other people’s causes.
Buy the Girl Scout cookies and popcorn tins from co-workers’ and neighbors’ kids.
If they’re not your thing, regift those Girl Scout cookies and popcorn tins to someone else in your network.
Before you travel, ask your LinkedIn, Facebook, or in-person friends if they have friends or business associates at your destination who they think you’d like to meet. Ask for an intro. Scheduling at least one such meeting adds an extra personal dimension to your trip and extends your network in new ways.
Organize a weekly or monthly happy hour open to all contacts and their contacts and see it grow in size and impact over time.
Organize anything fun and invite others to join in. We all need more fun and could be more fun (speaking for myself here). My cousin’s son is playing hockey in my city in a couple weeks, and I threw out an open invite on Facebook. All of a sudden, we are now a cheering squad of 26, also gathering for a potluck dinner and drinks before the game.
Tell people what you need and want in the way of work. You can work your business needs, pitches, hints into almost any conversation in almost any crowd, just use sparingly and not to the exclusion of all other topics.
Realize that connecting with people, asking and answering questions and requests, giving and taking, sharing good times and hard times, meeting new people and re-connecting with old friends should be ongoing, daily activities intricately interwoven into the things we are already doing. This is how the seeds are planted, the spores dispersed, and the relationships cultivated for social capital reserves and sustainable business.