Contacts are the lifeblood of every freelancer, whether you're looking for more work or in need of some support from someone who's going through the same challenges. If you are new to the industry or your address book is looking a little sparse, it may be time to start to building our your network. Easier said than done, building your contact list takes time and perseverance. Knowing where to look, how to approach and managing your list will save you a lot of hassle. Here are our top 5 tips on building a useful contact list. 

1. Take that first virtual step
Networking starts with meeting the right people and with so many online platforms connecting us all, your next contact is only a click away. Try interacting on Twitter by using the advanced search function to filter the type of person you’re looking. Take location and keywords into account. Linkedin is a great place to source business contacts. Ask existing LinkedIn contacts to introduce you to others using the intro feature. On Facebook, 'friends of friends' search can be useful and on Instagram, liking and commenting on other's work is a good conversation starter. 

Dating apps are even getting in on the act. Bumble has a business option (Bumble Biz) and it's a quick way to meet others in your area. Other apps that specialise in networking include Shapr and Bizaboo. Shameless plug alert - Freelancer Club has connected thousands of freelancers with businesses and freelancers with other freelancers. If you collaborate to produce portfolio work, post a project for free to meet with others. It's not just a great way to produce new work but it's the easiest way to meet new people. Having others who understand the pressures of freelancing makes all the difference. 

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2. Press the Flesh
Should you feel that meeting people online is a little impersonal then why not get out there and shakes some human hands. Networking events happen most nights across the UK and they are a great way to meet like-minded freelancers and contacts. In addition to Freelancer Club Events, there are tons of meet ups where you can swap a business card or two. Search Facebook for ‘meet ups’ in your area or check out Eventbrite or Meetup to start you off.
3. Spring Cleaning
Whether you’re kicking it old school with a pen and paper or using the latest organiser app, it’s useless meeting people if you're never contact them again. Digital documenting has never been easier. Try LinkedIn to keep your business contacts in one place or set up a spreadsheet using Google Sheets. If you take someone's business card at an event, insert their details into your system the next day. A tidy, organised contact list is one you're more likely to use. 

4. Follow Up
Now that your contact list is full to the brim, you’ve organised a list of names, numbers, profile pictures and portfolio links in alphabetical order… what next? It’s time to reach out and meet somebody.
Depending on who the person is or what you are looking to achieve will determine how best to approach a contact. Another freelancer who you may like to arrange a shoot with, for example, is fine to in-mail, text, ping, poke, Tweet, Facebook message or call just to get the ball rolling. Potential clients or business contacts should be approached more formally. A well written email is traditional and if you’re not getting any love back, check out their Twitter account to see how active they are. Should they be Tweeting like the morning songbird then drop them a Direct Message to say that you sent an email and did they get it. Should they not be proactive online, a call asking if they received the email is acceptable.

When do connect with someone via an event, online or otherwise, send a message the next day and open with something like 'Great to meet you at last nights event.'  Common ground is a great way to get the conversation started. If you're approaching someone for the first time, comment on sometihng they've done like an article they wrote or a post they promoted.  
5. Reminders are good… from time to time
Once you are up and running and work is flowing in, it’s easy to forget about the contacts that helped you get there. Take an hour every couple of weeks to reach out to your database and let them know what you’re up to. A blog article, a new website, or fresh work from a job are all good reasons to get in touch. Some contacts will be happy to join a mailing list, others may perfer not to be contacted. Learn how your network like to be contacted and work with them. 

When a job comes in that you can’t do, throw it back out to your contact list and you’ll find what goes around comes around. Now that you're armed with the skills, it's time to get out there and build your contact list