Network like a Pro: How to Make a Flawless First Impression
If you make your living doing freelance work, you understand the perks and drawbacks of such a lifestyle. You save money on gas and time spent on long commutes, and you can largely set your own schedule. But you are also responsible for finding new clients to keep business humming, which can be one of the toughest challenges. To maintain your work-from-home contract career, new business is a must.
So what’s one of the best ways to gain new contacts? Network like a pro! Here are three tips for making a strong first impression and upping the odds you’ll walk away from a networking event with new business.
Accessorize With Taste
Your appearance is what people notice first. While you may have a free-spirited sense of style at home, rein it in for cocktail hour with your peers. A flowing gypsy skirt and arms full of bangles may suit you well normally, but this laid-back look will paint you as flighty before you’ve even said hello. Instead, opt for subtle fashions and clean accessories. Think stud earrings, a delicate silver necklace and a sophisticated tote from a high-end brand.
Aim for Elegance, Not Attention
A tight-fitting outfit that hugs all your curves may get you some lasting glances at a nightclub, but it’ll just make people take you less seriously in a professional setting. You can (and should) still show a sense of style without looking like you want attention. Plunging necklines and short hemlines are a no-no, even if the event is set in the evening at a posh bar.
If you’re jonesing to wear black, your signature color, add some class and style with a jumpsuit. Something like this Dolman Jumpsuit by Feel the Piece is professional but youthful. Not feeling the jumpsuit? A dress is always a stellar choice. You can layer a Chevron Sheath Dress by The Limited with a well-tailored blazer and pumps for a fancier event or pair it with a soft cardigan and ballet flats for something more casual. You’ll exude taste and charm, without sacrificing modesty.
The most appealing part of your outfit? Your confidence. Throw your shoulders back, put a (genuine) smile on your face and be proud of the reputation you’re building.
Articulate Who You Are
Enough about your apparel; it’s time to talk about the other elements of nailing a first impression. You’d be surprised by how many common-sense rules many women forget when they enter a business setting. Give a strong handshake and make direct eye contact. Don’t forget to hand over a business card before saying goodbye to a new acquaintance. Another good tip is regarding something you may not usually think twice about, which is how you introduce yourself. Typically you say hi and state your name, right?
It’s been found that females often only say their first name, and do so in a long, drawn-out or even singsong manner. “Hi, I’m Liiiiiiila. This makes you seem juvenile and less intelligent. Instead, you should confidently state your first and last name. “Hi, I’m Lila Everson.” This will make you appear powerful and in control, and leave a more lasting impression on your new colleagues. And last, but not least, know how to communicate what you do. If someone asks about your business, be ready to concisely say, I facilitate relationships between children’s shoe-makers and department store buyers. Hemming and hawing is unpolished and unprofessional, and trying to be too clever with a response almost always backfires.
As you prepare for your next networking event, view it as a job interview. In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what it is. Be deliberate about the outfit and accessories you choose, work to project an air of confident approachability and remember the best practices of networking like stating your first and last name, keeping eye contact and quickly sharing the basis of your business. Network like a pro! You’ll not only feel much more assertive going into the event, but you’ll also impress your peers and increase your chances of gaining valuable contacts and new business.