The ability to conduct business online has been the fuel of the gig economy. When the pandemic forced everyone to operate remotely, independent finance professionals (IFPs) were operating on familiar turf.
What was new, however, was maintaining personal connections in the absence of face-to-face meetings, events and business lunches. The virtual networking lessons gleaned from the pandemic will continue to be relevant in the “new normal”.
Here are five online networking tips that you can use to find new clients and add value to existing ones.
Build your hubs — expand your reach
As an IFP when you’re flying solo, having networking hubs will further your search for clients.
Your state CPA society is an obvious one. Get involved and discover the networking options they have to offer — online or in-person.
Contacting people with whom you may have lost touch, including former networking group acquaintances or even college friends, starting an online networking group, or even other IFPs — each one of them is a great base to find new opportunities and build your clientele.
Focus on the personal — build a rapport
Work chats don’t have to be all about work. Be proactive in strengthening your relationships. Go beyond work concerns and find out how they are doing. Pick up on cues. If they seem distracted or stressed, pause and take time to show you care about them and the challenges they may be facing.
But, at the same time you must be aware of the broader environment as well. A client could be overwhelmed because it’s the financial year-end. Communicate strategically. Customize your outreach with an understanding of their business situation and needs.
Help bring in the change — be a resource
As technology becomes a lifeline for clients, CPAs can help more traditional individual clients and organizations get up to speed in the new environment.
You have a unique understanding of a business’s challenges, its needs and the increasingly disruptive business landscape. Use it to educate and advise them on harnessing digital options. It will not only help you expand your existing scope of work but also make you the go-to person for other businesses dealing with change, via word of mouth.
Show the true you — attract your kind of clients
CPAs have a reputation for being great with numbers and data. But this is also a great time to show you are multifaceted. Build a presence on social media and use it to connect with and attract new clients. Sharing your interests lets your network know what they will truly get. It’s your chance to build your brand and attract the kind of clients you prefer.
Take control — use technology to your advantage
Online tools offer so many ways to be in control of the conversation. If you are an introvert, the fact that you can attend meetings from the familiarity of your living room, prepare in advance and have your notes right on your screen makes a big difference in creating the first impression. And if you’re in a big gathering, you can use the breakout rooms feature to have a more private and focused conversation.
As an IFP, the strength of the connections you build can determine the gigs you get. By leveraging digital networking options to their fullest you can add another facet to your professional outreach and client search.