Do you clam up and get nervous when talking to strangers, or are you quite confident in approaching people you have never met? Whether you are shy or assured, networking is a must for any serious freelancer.

The events offer fantastic opportunities for self-employed people to interact with industry experts, clients and other contractors. You can build up your contacts to secure work, gauge how other professionals are doing, interchange advice, and boost your profile.

Technology has advanced and there are now multiple platforms which you can market yourself on such as social networking sites and the web, but the traditional marketing tool is just as effective to earn business.

It’s not just about swapping business cards- it is a crucial opportunity to find prospective work and find future partners. In one sole occasion hundreds of professionals gather under one roof so there is no better time than ever to get your name known.

Are you put off about mixing with strangers? Here are 5 expert tips to help you tackle the situation head on and make a great first impression.

•    Dress the part

By dressing smart, you will automatically feel more confident. Why? Well because when you look good, you feel good. Also, others are more likely to take you seriously.

•    Be sociable

Networking isn’t just about talking to as many people as you can. Be sociable when you start talking to someone- listen to what they have to say and show an interest. It isn’t just about talking about yourself; talking too much can make you appear rude so ask the other person about their career and their experiences.

It is much better to form a few great relationships that it is to form lots of weak ones.

•    Showcase your personality

No-one speaks like a robot so when you are talking, be human. Relax your shoulders, smile, look the person in the eye and be friendly.

•    Conversation starters

Not sure how to start a conversation? Why not say the following- what do you specify in, what’s your name, what are your career aims, where are you based geographically?

Why not try and talk about the most recent industry news. This can be a great talking point and highlights your interest in the field.

•    Follow up

You can make a great impression after the event by following up. After you have met someone and exchanged contact details, follow it up with an email. Thank them for their time and show an interest in staying in touch. Don’t forget to add them on LinkedIn.

Follow these top tips and soon enough you will feel confident when networking. If all else fails, take a friend with you for moral support but note that it won’t look professional if they are stuck to your hip the entire time. Try to network alone and regroup occasionally and at least you will have someone to talk to if you arrive too early.

This article was provided by Nixon Williams, the specialist freelancer accountancy service. For more tips and expert advice, speak to Nixon Williams IT contractor accountants today- the industry professionals.

By Jasmina