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Hi! I'm not an expert at this so I don't have expert advice, but I have been self-employed as a freelancer, contractor, and consultant for almost seven years now, so I can share how I have been able to network.

I'm naturally an introvert, and also shy, both of these add difficulty to me getting out face-to-face with people, shaking hands, doing small talk, and handing out business cards. It's an EXCELLENT way to meet people, but doesn't come naturally for me. Here are some ways you can still introduce yourself to others without the same challenges:

1) Go to meetup.com events in your city

These are filled with people in the exact same situation as you, so they will be awkward, forgiving, and grateful if you can speak to them, accept their card, and share a bit about what you do.

Not much has come out of these events as far as work, but it's the easiest, lowest-risk, fastest way to practice meeting people. Ack!

2) Give a talk or lead a workshop

It doesn't have to be the size of a conference, but even if you're bad at public speaking and getting in front of a crowd, think of it like this: you can 'meet' or at leas introduce yourself to 10, 30, 100, even more people at the same time! That makes talking to them MUCH easier afterward, and it really gets your name out there.

When I look around at successful consultants, I see a pattern of them regularly getting in front of hundreds or thousands of people and introducing themselves to all of them at once. When you're at that scale, you wouldn't even have time to meet & greet them all individually.

3) Write blogs or make youtube videos

This takes the pressure off you even more, since it's not realtime you can finesse and polish it to your hearts content, and revisit and touch it up later. By putting content online you can become known as an expert in a certain problem area - somebody people with certain problems can talk to to find solutions or results! This is a natural way to establish yourself as an expert in something

4) Job boards

While I would avoid any kind of online 'labour prison' where you sign in, clients and workers meet through the platform, ALL communication, work, and pay must go through the platform, and some even price your work for you, or require you to install spyware on your own computer while you're doing work. Just COMPLETELY AVOID these.

Instead, look for industry-related job listings that cost $$$ money (preferably over $100) to post a listing. The more it costs to post a job listing, the more serious you know they are about spending money on YOU. If they're the kind of employer who only wants free listingsā€¦I bet they also hope for free labour too and will only pay what they absolutely must, at the latest date they can.

Reach out to the listings that fit you, especially if it sounds like you might have an opportunity to speak directly to the business owner. I've found that when you make an acquaintance with somebody who controls a business, you don't have to sell yourself to them, they often can see where they can use you, and have the influence within the company to put you anywhere they want. Don't think about it as applying for the jobs in the listings as much as 'meeting employers of people like you' and every acquaintance you make is a win.

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