22 March 2023

Stronger Together: network cultivation for independent consultants

Network Map

The decision to freelance is in many ways a decision to ‘go it alone.’ But in order to establish, maintain and grow a successful career as an independent, you’ll still need support. Enter: your network. 

Over the last 6 months, the Choix Insights team has spoken with freelancers working across a huge spectrum of industries and functional specialisms - from those at the start of their solo journey, to those with decades of experience. The vital importance of network cultivation has been a common theme throughout. We’ve put together a summary of the myriad ways in which networks have helped Choix freelancers in their careers to date, and the practical action you can take to develop yours. 

Why it’s important to build and maintain a great network


To find work

For most freelancers, at least some opportunities, and often the majority, come through networks. A strong, active network means you’re more likely to hear about relevant work - and you’re more likely to be able to help others to find it too!

“If you’re not the best person for a particular part of a project but you can bring in someone from your network who is, do it! It’s a great way of helping out your network - and people will bring you in on projects too.”
Veronika Bridgman, Choix Network 


To add more value

The better your network, the better positioned you are to help your clients. It’s easier to stay on top of trends in your industry, learn organically, and realise where you need to upskill. You’ll have people whose brains you can pick if you need a rapid knowledge injection; and you can often save your clients from needing to go to market by introducing appropriate specialists. 

"I’m networking constantly: connecting with new people and organisations at events etc. When I meet with people working in a similar field, I’m always asking myself: who’s a team player, who would I like to work with? It means that if I reach a point in the project where I’m no longer an expert, I’ll know someone who is. It means I can be confident of taking my clients right through - to a full solution."  Madeline Lisaeus, Choix Network 

To develop your career

As a freelancer you don’t have the same support structures that you might enjoy as an employee. You have to create your own. And cultivating relationships with people who can help you develop your vision, challenge you, offer advice and practical assistance and introduce you to their own networks, is a huge advantage. 

"Throughout my career, I’ve sought to have access to someone who can challenge me and my assumptions, even if I may not always have appreciated their input at the time!  My experience has been that the right mentor will be a powerful tool for personal and professional growth." 
Len Pannett, Choix Network 


To find community

Maybe you’re working remotely. Maybe you’re on-site but, as an external consultant, you don’t build the same sorts of relationships you might as an employee. Freelancing can be a lonely business. Whether you’re simply looking to let off steam or get a fresh perspective on a client situation, having other freelancers to check in with can be invaluable, both for your well-being and your ability to deliver solutions. 

"I’m actually starting to reach out to my network and my batchmates from university - there are quite a few of us in similar fields - with the view to create some kind of support / learning / idea thrashing community!" 
Priya Sivaraman, Choix Network Member


Four Top Tips for Network Cultivation


(keep building your network and deepening key relationships)


Go to events and conferences and talk to people! Stay in touch with old colleagues, join alumni groups / industry groups - keep having conversations and building your network. Give time and attention to building relationships when you’re on projects - to deepening connections with people who know you and have directly experienced your approach to work. Develop the relationships that feel key - check in with people, go for coffee. And be a connector yourself: make introductions, recommendations, help your network out!


2. Communicate

(let your network know what you’re about and what you’re up to - and vice versa)

Regular communication helps you create an identity, establish a reputation and stay in people’s consciousness. So let your network know what it is that you do, and what it is that you’re doing right now! Listen to what others are doing too. Stay engaged. 

LinkedIn is a great place to post blogs and articles, follow people in your industry and engage in conversations. Speaking at events is always useful for boosting your profile; and sending a quarterly newsletter can be a fun way to let your network know what you’re up to / thinking about (as well as being a structure that supports you to gather and focus your thoughts on a regular basis).   


(offer help to others - and ask for it for yourself!)


Mentoring is a great way to add depth to your network and make a positive difference for others. Maybe you work with people one-on-one, maybe you volunteer with an accelerator programme and share your experience with lots of different companies. 

And think about getting a mentor for yourself. Or several! Maybe it would be good to have someone you can soundboard your career vision with? Or someone who can introduce you to more people in your industry / help you break into a new one? 


4. Organise


We’ve spoken to consultants who have banded together to build resource platforms so they can share and access each others’ knowledge on an ongoing basis; consultants who have arranged groups to troubleshoot for each other, generate ideas, pitch for projects, even hold each other accountable for business development.

Arrange some pure fun too: a quarterly get-together to watch a show / go to the pub / hike in the countryside. Or hire a water-cooler for a freelancer-only Christmas pot-luck!


Choix connects the buy and sell sides of consulting, providing fair and transparent choice for all. If you want to talk to us about a project, or you’re looking to connect with our network of high quality freelance consultants and experts, please email hello@mychoix.com


I am networking constantly. It means that if I reach a point in the project where I’m no longer an expert, I’ll know someone who is. It means I can be confident of taking my clients right through - to a full solution.