How to Network and Share Information Without Worrying

Freelancers often worry about how they should prioritize networking and information sharing.

It’s crucial for the self-employed to protect themselves from undue requests and determine when and how they should charge for their time and experience.

When you’re unconventionally employed, networking is paradoxically both more beneficial and also more costly. You need to network to build up your pipeline (pipeline management: an upcoming newsletter topic!), but it also takes time away from your business and could lead you to give away for free what you should charge.

It’s a tough one. But here are some rules and thoughts to consider.

Networking is part of your job. It may be unpaid, but you’re not going to have a healthy pipeline without it. If you treat it as a burden, you won’t put the requisite amount of work into it and get the same amount of joy out of it.

Be protective of your IP, but don’t stress about it. In reality, it’s highly unlikely that you could, in one meeting, give someone so much of your intel that they don’t need to hire you, so don’t overly censor yourself. But prioritize discussing how you handle similar situations instead of directly addressing their situations, so the advice is less directly actionable.

Don’t take meetings unless you see how you’re benefiting. If you dread going to any particular meeting or can’t visualize what you’d get out of it, well, I have a radical theory for how you should handle it: DON’T GO! Do something beneficial with your time instead.

Practice radical transparency with friends. As more people confront unconventional employment, it’s increasingly likely that your circle of friends will include people who want to pick your brain. If you have a friend who works for someone who should be paying for your expertise, you need to be upfront with them if they want a great idea for their company and their careers. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll hone your speech. Here are some examples of what you can say:

1. Hey, look, I’m happy to share what I know, but do you think there’s a chance your company could hire me for my expertise? Otherwise, I don’t feel comfortable providing information for free when I’ve charged similar companies for my work.

2. Look, I have to be honest with you. I want to help you, but if you were anyone else, I would be charging for this information. Is there some way we can work out something mutually beneficial?

3. I’m happy to tell you what I know, but I’d also like to pick your brain on X, Y, and Z, if you’re okay with that.

Look at your behavior as well You may well be asking people in similar situations for free advice when you should be paying for it. If you feel you are going to a meeting where you’ll benefit with wisdom or leads, make sure you provide something of value to that other person. We all have to be protective of each other’s time.

Do you have any tips for how to best deal with networking and IP protection? Contact us here with your thoughts.