For most of my career, I’ve felt like an imposter. I didn’t think I knew enough to contribute to the web designer/dev community, so why would anyone want to network with me? If I tried, wouldn’t people just figure out I didn’t know as much as them?
I used to believe this was true. As a result, I’m just now starting to build a professional network. If you want to fail at networking like I had, follow these 7 easy steps!
1. Figure Everything Out on Your Own
Every project I start, I learn something new. This develops great problem solving skills at the expense of networking. I could have asked questions on Stack Overflow, but, instead, I slogged away for hours on my own.
I’ve asked a total of three questions on Stack Overflow in my career. Every time I do, I’m welcomed by intelligent, helpful people that work with me to figure out a solution. If I’d been more willing to ask for help, I’d have met more great designers and devs along the way.
2. Feel Like an Imposter
My biggest struggle as a designer/developer is feeling like an imposter. It wasn’t until 6 years of making my income as a designer/developer that I finally felt like I could even call myself a designer.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Everyone feels like an imposter.
You may not be the best at what you’re doing, but you’re doing it, so have the confidence to allow yourself to be a part of a network.
3. Don’t Write about What You’ve Learned
It’s hard to write an article or share your opinion when you feel like an imposter and you know there are people out there that know a ton more than you.
Why would anyone read what you write? Won’t people tear it to shreds?
Well, frankly, it’s likely no one will read your article. But that’s not the point. The point is, that writing will make you more confident in your abilities, shape your ideas, and prove to yourself that you have ideas to contribute.
4. Don’t Be on Twitter
Before I joined Twitter, I only read articles that were directly related to the problem I was trying to solve.
Using Twitter, I’ve learned about new techniques, best practices, and interacted with great people. Also, it’s a big confidence boost when other designers/devs follow you or retweet something you said. Don’t expect that to happen overnight or even much at all. It’s slow to get the ball rolling if you don’t post much and don’t have many followers.
5. Live in a Small Town
I’m one of three professional designers and/or devs in the town I live in. I’m going out on a limb here, but if your “network” is a shape easily drawn by a three-year-old, then it doesn’t count as a network.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to network while living in a small town, but you’re going to have to put more effort in. There aren’t meet-ups to attend, conferences to go to, or tech-oriented companies to work for.
6. Don’t Attend Conferences
I’ve never been to a conference. They can be cost-prohibitive for freelancers. I really want to go and meet a bunch of people who are as excited about web design and development as I am.
Quick shameless self-promotion: I’d love to try speaking at a conference. Send me a message if you think I’d be a good fit for your conference.
7. Immediately Start A Freelancing Business
I started web development and design by accident, and started picking up gigs on the side. I’ve never worked as an employee of an agency or company. The ability to set my own schedule and work on projects I’m passionate about is better than I could have expected. The downside… For six years, I didn’t have any professional peers. No co-workers. Everything was up to me.
I’d love to work with a bunch of smart people, learn from them, and create amazing things together. In the last 6 months, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a small team at the Engaging News Project and work with fantastic, intelligent people. We push each other to make better products, and I’ve become a better designer and developer as a result.
It Takes Effort
Yeah, this article is called “7 Easy Steps to Fail at Building a Network,” but I need a positive takeaway, right?
It takes effort to build a network. Most of my career I just pretended it wasn’t important. Since trying to develop a network, I’ve become a better designer, developer, and person. And it’s fun to meet new people that are excited about the same things you are.
If you think I’d be a good part of your network, reach out to me. Because I’d sure like to be a part of yours.
Do you have any good tips for people trying to grow their network (including me)?