How to Build a Network from Scratch

Even if you hate, you know, networking

Jessie Lewis
3 min readAug 8, 2018

When I first started freelancing, I was ready to depend 100% on the internet.

The Facebook Ads. The online communities. The email subscribers. I felt that if I could just create an amazing funnel, the leads would fall on my lap.

And yeah, that’s possible. But what I know now is that building something like that takes a long time, and most businesses aren’t built on funnels alone.

For a service-based business especially, it’s less about building your funnel and more about building your network.

Most of my clients have primarily come through people I know. It’s awesome — I know they’ve already been vetted, they already trust me, and we can get right down to doing great work together.

Don’t have a network yet? It’s not some big, scary business term. Networking is literally just making friends with people who have the potential to bring you business — and people you can help in return. You can network in person and you can network online. Often, they overlap. Here are some super-practical ways to build the relationships that can move your business forward:

Join a Meetup

If you’re a freelancer, find a freelancer meetup on Not only will you meet locals who totally get that #freelancer life, but freelancers tend to refer projects and leads to one another.

Alternatively, find a meetup where your target clients hang. If you’re in professional services, this might be a women’s group or a business networking meetup. If you’re a trainer, it might be a hiking club. If you’re a language-learning expert, it might be your local Spanish meetup. Find your people and get involved!

Get a speaking gig

If you’re a decent public speaker, pitch a talk to a local event where your target audience will be. A small conference, a lunch & learn, or even (again) a Meetup event. Give a helpful talk specific to the kind of service you offer. Even if explicit self-promotion is out of the question, just stick around afterward. If you’ve delivered valuable content, you can bet there will be some folks who want to learn more from you directly.

Join an industry organization

Nearly every industry has organizations that support its community, whether online or locally. For example, AIGA (for designers) has chapters across the country. Do some Google searches. Find your people. Even better? Get involved with the leadership. They always have the best connections.

Schedule virtual coffee dates

Have you and someone else been chatting over social media for months now? Make it official and ask if they’d like to schedule a virtual coffee date sometime! Schedule a video call with Skype or Google Hangouts. Prepare some questions and talking points ahead of time, because these can be a bit awkward at first — but I promise you’ll survive, and then you’ll have a new friend.

Get out there

If you’re new on the scene, relax. This isn’t high school — everyone loves to help the new kid! Be eager to learn, eager to share, and eager to work hard. You’ll have a strong (and even profitable) network before you know it.

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Jessie Lewis

Writer, artist, mom. Subscribe to my personal newsletter, The Jumble, for more on creative living →