3 Principles of Non-Sleazy Networking for 1099s and Job Hunters

Posted by Dale Davidson
1099 networking

Note: This article is adapted from the author’s book: Going 1099: How to become a solo federal sub-contractor and gain control of your working life, earn more money, and unlock more free time.

One of the ways I have pursued 1099 gigs is through networking.

Yes, everyone says you should “network” but as someone who hated the idea of getting into small talk with random people at a big conference, I avoided it for a long time.

But I later realized that successful networking isn’t like that. It feels organic, enjoyable, and if done well, profitable. And best of all? No need to go to any conferences.

If you’re interested in pursuing a 1099 gig for yourself, or even another W2 job, use the following networking principles to help you both expand and improve your relationships with your network.

Don’t Cynically Use People

Networking makes many people uncomfortable, mostly because it conjures images of disingenuous sleazeballs trying to get ahead.

Guess what? Those people exist! However, this does not mean you have to be one of those sleazeballs.

The way to get comfortable with networking is to view it as building a healthy ongoing relationship.

In a healthy relationship, both parties give and take over long periods of time. However, the core of the relationship is not transactional. It’s never, “If I do X for you today, can you do Y for me tomorrow?”

Here are a few things you can do to set the tone with people you want to build a friendly and professional relationship with.

Coordinate and pay for the coffee or happy hour

Phone calls or Zoom calls are fine, but meeting in person helps accelerate a relationship.

I like to set up a coffee meeting or happy hour at a time and place that is convenient for the other person. I’ll proactively pitch a few time blocks and places, and let them pick. Do the logistical work!

We’ll have a pleasant conversation and then I’ll pick up the tab.

For $10 – $50 it’s worth it to build goodwill.

Do favors

Doing a favor for someone increases goodwill tremendously! So find an opportunity to be helpful to someone.

Some examples:

  • Maybe you can make a helpful introduction for them
  • You can use your professional skills to help them
  • Send them a useful resource or tool you personally use that can help them

I was talking to a colleague at work once and they mentioned they were starting to get into weight lifting.

I mentioned an app I used to track the progress of my weight lifting program and they were super happy to get a recommendation.

A favor can be small but have an outsized impact on your relationship.

Stay in regular communication

If you just have a one-off conversation with someone, that relationship will fizzle out. What you should do instead is communicate with your network consistently.

I would send an e-mail every few weeks or each month with any of the following:

  • Asking about the other person’s needs or projects (based on the last time you chatted)
  • Providing an update on stuff going on in your life (mostly professional unless you ended up discussing your cat’s health problems)
  • Sending an interesting article you read that your contact may find useful or interesting (lately I’ve been recommending podcast episodes I like)

Being the person who sets up happy hour, does favors, and sends interesting articles will help ensure you’re developing a positive and ongoing relationship, not a cynical, one-off transactional one.

Start with your current network

I used to think that networking is all about meeting new people, which, as an introvert, made me tired just thinking about it.

However, the good news is you don’t have to meet new people (initially) because you already have a network.

  • Friends
  • Current co-workers
  • Former co-workers
  • Former bosses
  • Former clients
  • Current clients
  • Recruiters
  • Colleagues that you worked with from different companies/agencies (not necessarily co-workers)

Notice how these are people you’ve already met and had interactions with. You don’t have to go to some random conference and hand out business cards.

The response rate for people you already know and have some kind of relationship with is far higher than someone who is a stranger.

What’s even better is that your network has a network too, and might be willing to refer you. Referrals are great ways to expand and build your relationships.

A friend and former client of mine introduced me to a prime contractor program manager. We had an initial call and it went well.

I kept in touch and I eventually worked on a project as a 1099 for that company.

Friend -> referral -> 1099 project. That is a common pattern.

Shoot them a note, grab a coffee together (make sure you pay) or hop on the phone, and tell them what you’re looking to do.

Which brings me to my next point.

Be specific with your ask

There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a request from someone asking for help “finding a job.”

It is too vague. Without specific details, it requires too much work to figure out how to help the person making the request.

As someone who will be asking people to help you with your 1099 hunt, you need to be specific enough that your contact can think of at least one person to introduce you to right off the bat.

I’ve heard this called the “Rolodex effect.”

In order to do that, you need to figure out what exactly it is you’re looking to accomplish.

For example, if you are looking for a job or a 1099 gig, you should get clear on the type of position you are pursuing.

In my case, I was working in human capital consulting, which can mean a wide variety of things.

I narrowed it down to “workforce analytics” or “people analytics” over time.

However, if you are qualified in or are more interested in more than one type of position, you don’t have to choose just one. In my case, I have used the following line: “I have quite a bit of experience in workforce analytics but I’m also looking into other types of business analytic projects.”

It may be helpful to search on government contracting job boards (like ClearedJobs.Net) if you need help narrowing down the specific terms to describe the type of work you are looking for.

If there are specific government agencies that you have unique experience or knowledge of, you should also prioritize those. For example, if you spent five years on an FBI project, focusing on FBI positions might be a good strategy.

“I’m focusing my search on projects with the FBI. If you happen to know anyone that works over there in the analytics office, an introduction would be great!”

Remember, the goal is for the people in your network to think of someone specific they can introduce you to.

The more targeted you can be, the better the results.

The skill of networking is incredibly valuable. But it’s also important that you feel good about how you do it.

By reframing networking as relationship building with people you already know, and getting specific about what you want, you will generate new opportunities for yourself.

No business cards or conference tickets required.


  • Dale Davidson

    Dale Davidson is the author of Going 1099: How to become a solo federal sub-contractor and gain control of your working life, earn more money and unlock more free time. You can e-mail him directly at [email protected] and get two free chapters from the book exclusively for ClearedJobs.Net members.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 27, 2023 9:00 am

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