Your New Wingmen


How to Build Your Business With Adjacent Referral Networks

By Shana Clarke

Photo by  on  Unsplash

Photo by on Unsplash


Just like you need multiple ingredients to make a great salad, you need a variety of contacts to build a strong referral network. Make Prefer work even better for you by building an effective and engaged community.

A recent study found that 81% of freelancers refer work to each other. Often, these recommendations came from “adjacent” contacts — people that run in the same orbit but don’t compete with your business (for example, interior decorators refer house cleaners, and nutritionists refer fitness trainers). By making these connections, you not only open yourself up to more opportunities, but become a fixture in your industry. By working closely with others, and proving the value of your business, you can be seen as an “expert” in your field (and ultimately, charge premium pricing). Here’s how to grow your referral hive.


Putting yourself out there is the most effective way to make connections. Take the time before heading out to perfect your “elevator pitch” so you can tell someone about your business in a clear and concise way. These pitches are only about meant to be about 20–30 seconds long, so work on maximizing your story in minimal time.

Look for professional conferences, Meetup groups, or Soloist Collective in-person events to attend. In addition to participating in events specific to your industry, think about attending seminars or other gatherings aimed at adjacent contacts.

Beyond organized events, think about your daily routine and where you might find opportunity. Dog-walkers may want to strike up conversations with owners at the dog park; home organizers can chat with people waiting in line at The Container Store; hair stylists may engage with the person in the chair next to them at the nail salon. If the concept of “networking” feels daunting, call it a term that makes you comfortable, such as “connecting.”

Follow Up

Stay on people’s radars by following up after a meeting. Send an email the day after being introduced, but don’t let it end at that. Put a reminder on your calendar to check in with your new contacts periodically, such as every three months or so. As we all know, businesses ebb and flow, so it’s worth reconnecting on a regular basis.

Give for Get

One of the biggest pitfalls of networking is becoming the “what can you do for me?” person. Yes, we want to connect with others because we want help, but don’t forget a relationship is reciprocal. Instead of evaluating how someone can help your business, think about what you can offer them. Again, you’ll show your expertise in your field and become a valuable resource for that contact.

Social Networking

Online networking is just as imperative as IRL connections. Look for Facebook groups of like-minded professionals, or harness connections through LinkedIn. Engaging with others via Instagram and Twitter also connects you with a wider audience of adjacent professionals.

As Soloists, it’s easy to get into “silo” mode and work independently. However, it’s been proven that 82% of Americans seek referrals from friends and family. Cultivating your networks will lead to more exposure, and ultimately success, for your business.