When we start-up our businesses often the idea of networking is last on our to-do list. This decision, I would argue is a major mistake. Once I took the decisive leap to move on from a full-time job and do something different working for myself I started to network. Straight away.
I took a look at Eventbrite to see what type of networking events were happening locally. Once I took a deep breath, signed up for some events and started to talk about what I wanted to do – it was enlightening. It was scary. Very scary at first. However, I met some very friendly people. Often people in the same position as I was. For me getting out and about and networking was one of the best business decision I have made.
Through this initial networking I discovered a great networking group for me called 4Networking. I can highly recommended it. In fact, I like it so much I am now on a local team for Stockport, Manchester. Now it’s not everyone’s cup of team but for me the friendly, fun atmosphere and welcome was just the boost I needed. Everyone is supportive and welcoming. Having a friendly bunch of people is great to connect with if you are working on your own or freelancing.
Below though are some key reasons you should not dismiss networking to develop your business.
1. Advice & support
Networking helps you connect with others. Often you are networking with people in the same position as you with loads of business experience. A successful network is one that encourages an environment to share advice and support. Consultants, Freelancers and successful business people are normally generous with advice particularly with people who are starting up. For me this is the number one reason you should network. It can be lonely and frustrating starting up on your own.
The main reason people network is to access business leads. It is the essential reason for networking. The reality is the more people you know who know what you do the more leads you will get. Networking grows your people network and raises your profile.
2. Advice & support
Networking helps you connect with others. Often you are networking with people in the same position as you with loads of business experience. A successful network is one that encourages an environment to share advice and support. Consultants, Freelancers and successful business people are normally generous with advice particularly with people who are starting up. You will be inspired by the people you meet who can share their experiences.
You need a website? Or perhaps help with designing your business cards? Being part of a network is a simple effective way to identify reliable suppliers. It’s back to the word of mouth theory, people will work with people they know or are recommended to.
Networking is a super way to change your thinking and your mindset. You can tap into new ideas or meet new potential clients, often in areas when you least expect it. I find people with all types of businesses want social media advice including accountants, electricians, therapists or coaches. Everyone wants an online profile or wants to review their social media.
People you meet networking often can help you to identify new market opportunities you might not have thought of. Similarly network with people in your sector, often background, experience and expertise varies and you can share work and contacts. Be positive.
Meeting other business people and talking about what they do, how they work is a simple way to improve yourself. Everyone takes a different approach, or has a fresh an idea you can use or adapt. Talking to other people from different sectors can stimulate new ideas and innovative thinking.
Putting yourself out there and promoting your business is the scary bit. But its so worth it. Introducing yourself and your business succinctly to strangers teaches you very quickly the best way to get your message across. It is daunting at first, but you know the old saying practice makes perfect.
7. New Friends
I never expected this but one of the major benefits of networking is I am making new friends. I am bonding with people and sharing my pitfalls, my successes. You will meet goodwill, enthusiasm and build strong friendships. It’s all about building your network.