People are important to any business because it is people who employ you. Building relationships in business is absolutely essential to success. Without relationships you have no business.
If you live alone on a desert island then you have no need to cultivate your business relationships; you would have no need to build business contacts. Businesses need people and you need to cultivate every person your business touches.
Building Relationships in Business as a Freelancer
If you are working for yourself in any capacity then your livelihood depends on your contacts and how you nurture them. As a freelancer You are your Business, so you need to cultivate everyone of your personal contacts so they become business contacts as well. The problem is that finding time to talk to people is next to impossible and this is one job you cannot outsource; you have to do it yourself.
Different Kinds of Contacts
People from Way Back When
You will have contacts from your early days, people who taught you what you know today. You need to touch base with these guys once in a while. That way they remember you and think of you if a new opportunity comes up. These are low maintenance business relationships but they still need some maintenance or they will die.
People from Last Month
Building relationships in business requires constant effort. You need to work hard to convert recent acquaintances into long-term business relationships. This is the most intense part of the relationship building process. I am talking about people who have left blog comments, contacted you on G+ or who you helped in any way recently.
There are so many people in this category that you really need to look at contact management software to make sure you follow up every one. At the very least you should copy their email address or contact details into a spreadsheet and record every time you contact each person.
Clients and customers fall into this category of business contacts. Most people are pleased you bothered to contact them and are more likely to come back to you again.
How to Do It
You can sign up for a Google Apps account at $40 a year and use some of the apps that your account makes available. These will import from email lists and spreadsheets, so they make life easy.
You can pay $30 – $60 a month for a hosted CRM program with all the bells and whistles you could ever use.
If you want a cost-free way of tracking your relationship building then use a spreadsheet with columns for each contact made or a simple database program. You will have to do a bit more work, but there is no ongoing or even initial set-up cost except time.
Your column headings could be:
- Phone number
- Linked In profile
- Twitter profile
- Known from
- Contact 1
- Contact 2
- Contact 3
Once you have your spreadsheet set up maintaining it is simple. You can see at a glance the people you have not spoken to in a while and set aside time to have those conversations that your business relationship needs in order to grow.
Contacts as Currency
Over the years you have acquired numerous contacts, now is the time to make fresh contact with each one. These people are on your email list or wherever because they thought highly of you in the past. All it takes is a couple of emails, Internet chats or even a Google Hangout and your old relationship will be rejuvenated. It is worth the effort because you already have a great reputation with these people.
Time – Knowledge – Reputation – Contacts – Money
You have invested your Time in building your Knowledge. You have used your Knowledge to grow your Reputation. As your Reputation grew so did your list of Contacts. Your Contacts are the key to making Money in any business; they will help you, partner with you, even offer you work to do. Your Contacts are the people who will spread the word about your business, so the time you spend cultivating your relationships is multiplied as each one leads to more Contacts.
The money comes automatically as long as you build your reputation and mind your contact list.