Just about every town has some sort of local organization dedicated to promoting business, like a Chamber of Commerce. These organizations routinely put on events with the goal of helping local business owners connect and network. The idea is that by promoting local businesses to work with each other, the local economy will grow.
That’s good news for you. After all, you’re a local business owner.
The Chamber of Commerce, the Boosters and Other Established Groups
You may find that there are several established groups in your area — organizations that have been dedicated to local business for a while. They tend to host some fairly specific kinds of events:
- Reception and networking events, often geared to specific types of businesses
- Community involvement
- Educational events
- Business fairs
To be perfectly honest, a freelance writer may not be so interested in many of these events — although the networking opportunities can give you a head start in working with both small and large businesses in your city. Just those events can be worth the price of membership.
The exact cost of membership in a local Chamber of Commerce can vary significantly — but many groups offer a reduced price for smaller businesses and freelancers. You often get a listing in the organization’s directory for the cost of joining, along with benefits like discounts at member businesses. If the cost of membership is an issue, though, you may be able to still attend networking events as a non-member (for an extra fee).
Making the best use of those networking events is important: you’ll get a chance to speak with a huge number of people in one room: being able to offer up a solid elevator pitch and hand out a business card that makes it clear exactly what you do are crucial. From there, you’ll be able to follow up at length after the event. You won’t have to cold call any of the prospects you’ve met — they’ll hopefully be interested in your services already. And you’ve got an edge on other freelance writers competing for the project: you’re local and you’ve already met your prospective client in person.
Meetups and Informal Organizations
The Chamber of Commerce is rarely the only game in town when it comes to marketing — and it doesn’t always cater to every demographic. Especially among younger business owners, you may find a more informal approach to networking. A group may get together at a local coffee shop every so often or they may schedule a Meetup to just get business owners together without having to have a full-fledged organization together.
Finding these informal events can be somewhat difficult — for many, it’s just a question of word-of-mouth. However, tools like Meetup make it easier to find them: Meetup allows individuals to arrange a meeting fairly easily. You can browse through events in your area and attend those that interest you. Many meetups are free, although they’re often held in restaurants and other venues where you may need to buy something for the pleasure of attending.
Using meetups as a networking opportunity requires the same level of preparedness as attending more formal events, although you’ll likely find a different demographic at meetups.
What local groups do you take part in? Are there any events that have been particularly useful for you?
Just joining us? Check out where we started with Setting Your Goals!