I’ve always been a big fan of people, but when I was younger I was also a lot more shy then I am now. I was one of those quiet, gentle nerds in high school who was intimidated by boys, and other groups of people who usually teased me about my interests, clothes and inept social skills.
I was the same way in college, very inward and made nervous by large crowds or groups of people hanging out. I always worried about being judged or sticking out like a sore thumb. However becoming a networker in large part allowed me to gradual get better at being around groups of other human beings that I did not know, and assuming the best instead of the worst.
Unfortunately a lot of people see networking for work in freelance as a very scary thing, but it really isn’t. All that networking is is hanging out with other people who like the same stuff that you do and being nice and friendly. That’s really it. And if you approach networking that way, you will not only gain work, but colleagues and friends to boot. I have made some of my best friends through consistently attending networking events, and I have met many clients as well.
The hardest part for me still in going to networking events is being consistent about it. Even now I still chicken out on occasion because being in a room full of potential strangers and saying words to them still scares me. But forcing yourself to do something scary like that will eventually become a habit if you do it enough, and the payoff in your career and personal life are very worth it.
The only essential part of networking is that you need to have an attitude of giving, not “what can so and so do for me”. This is very important and also a very personal choice. People sense when you’re only talking to them in order to “get something out of” the interaction, instead of just being genuine, helpful and friendly. Everyone wants to be friends with or work with someone with a genuinely pleasant, and helpful attitude. But no one really wants to be around a selfish, negative or manipulative person for very long. Believe me, if you’re like that, you aren’t fooling anyone, and most people probably will not point it out to you unless they’re a good close friend, and you ask them.
So get out there, be nice, and just try and see networking as a bunch of people hanging out who happen to be interested in the same things you are. That’s all there is to it!