With over 44 million members worldwide and 84 thousand events running every week, Meetup congregates groups of like-minded individuals who share similar interests, hobbies, professions or goals. Here's how to use meetup.com.
Do you feel shivers creeping down your spine when you hear the word “networking”? Freelancer or not, many people get downright anxious when they have to introduce themselves and pitch their business to a room full of strangers. Been there, done that.
Luckily, thanks to platforms like Meetup.com, growing your professional network doesn’t have to be a stressful and tedious activity. Instead of chasing your tail and running from one random event to another, you can use the service to find the perfect event for your line of work.
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What’s Meetup Anyway?
With over 44 million members worldwide and 84 thousand events running every week, Meetup congregates groups of individuals who share similar interests, hobbies, professions or goals. The singular purpose of those groups is to organize and run offline events where users can connect with each other on a local level.
Once inside a Meetup group, you can look up scheduled events, lists of attendees and rules of engagement members should abide by. Joining a group also gives you an opportunity to contact organizers and get more details before attending.
By gathering some basic intelligence beforehand, you’ll minimize your chances of wasting time and energy attending events that don’t align with your personal goals. The platform is also a great way to quench anxiety since you can get familiar with the group and other attendees before you even walk through the door.
We’ve compiled a list of 6 strategies around how to use Meetup, secure solid connections and land more clients.
1. Attend Meetups to Gain Knowledge and Hone Your Skills
As a freelancer, your entire business rests on your knowledge and skill set. Investing time and effort into expanding your professional toolbox is one surefire way to ensure growth in the long run. In order to do that, you need to seek out meetups that align with your goals.
Meetup offers personalized suggestions based on your interests and line of work, so it doesn’t take long to find relevant meetups in your area.
For example, if you’re a freelancer programmer and want to test yourself against others in the field, find a local community of coders and get together for a neighborhood hackathon. If, however, your goal is to brush up on more general business skills, groups that focus on business finances, sales, marketing, or project management are great places to start.
Leaving your professional comfort zone and branching out into other kinds of meetups will expose you to fresh know-how that may help you scale your freelancing business in ways you hadn’t considered.
2. Attend Meetups to Connect with Your Peers
Another strategy to supercharge your freelancing business using Meetup is to join groups that are specifically geared towards freelancers.
Let’s say you’re working on a video commercial for one of your clients. You can handle the visuals with ease but still, need a helping hand to put the audio together. Where better to look for a suitable candidate than amongst fellow professionals?
Freelancers often have complementary trades that may result in partnership opportunities. Networking at these events will improve your chances of teaming up and earning a referral.
There is another benefit to this approach. Surrounding yourself with experts and mentors early on in your career will also help you choose the right direction for your business efforts. It’s amazing how much you can learn from more experienced peers and how willing many of them are to share their knowledge. They may even refer each other work when the occasion arises.
3. Attend Meetups Where Your Target Audience Will Be
Once you know who your products or services should appeal to, it’s time to decide what types of events your potential clients attend. For instance, if you specialize in design services for tech startups, you may want to scout for local events that draw in the techie crowd.
Regularly attending the same meetups as your target market can do wonders for your business. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be mindlessly distributing business cards left and right. Instead, get curious, observe the crowd, talk to people and see what you can learn.
Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to introduce yourself. Showcase your brilliance when you can and only pitch your services when appropriate.
If you’ve yet to establish your buyer persona, be sure to check out this HubSpot article that explains how to identify your target audience in four easy steps.
4. Establish a Meetup Group for Your Peers
Anyone can create a meetup group, so why wouldn’t you? Regular networking events may feel intimidating so you can easily turn the tables by organizing a meeting yourself.
Having your own meetup group establishes you as an authority in your niche. If you do well, you can become the go-to provider for partnership opportunities that occur within the freelancing community. Your name will be out there and people will eventually recognize your expertise.
If you’re still fresh in the business, you may wish to wait until you’ve built a larger peer network through other meetups, but that’s not a requirement. The ability to take initiative is a skill that will give you a solid competitive edge.
Here’s a Meetup video that gives some nuggets of advice on starting a group from scratch.
5. Establish a Meetup Group for Your Target Audience
If you’ve already settled comfortably in your niche and feel confident about your skills and knowledge, you could use that expertise to connect with your target audience.
Depending on what you do, your audience might require some education to understand how your work can benefit their business. Identify something that your market desperately needs to learn and bring that information directly to them.
Create a meetup that focuses on networking, knowledge, and opportunities specifically for your target audience. Simply creating the meetup group will only go so far—you’ll need to put in the time and effort (surprise!) to make your mark.
Remember that your primary objective is to deliver useful insights. Salesy presentations and blatant marketing plugs are a big no-no. If you’re good at what you do, opportunities will come knocking soon enough.
6. Become a Guest Speaker at an Established Meetup
You know how to use Meetup.com: With a handful of successful meetups under your belt, you’re becoming a seasoned attendee and a recognizable figure in your niche. If you also happen to have a knack for publicity, you may consider pitching a handful of organizers to become a guest speaker at their meetups.
Seek out an established meetup in your area that’s focused on your niche, reach out to the host and ask if you can contribute your voice. If they agree, make sure to put in the time to make it an unforgettable presentation.
Don’t expect to freestyle a speech unless you have years of experience doing exactly that. Be prepared, do your research and have a game plan. Nailing a speech for the right audience can help spread the word about your business and solidify your credentials.
Conclusion: It’s Time to Become a Meetup Rockstar
Meetup is an online community many freelancers and business owners completely ignore. Sure, it takes dedication and perseverance to build a network of connections that will help your business grow. But isn’t that the essence of running a business?
Are you actively using Meetup to land new freelance assignments? What strategies work for your business? Let us know!
This post was updated in June 2019.