“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” Chris Grosser
Networking…it’s become such an overused word these days. Networking has become such a vital tool in any business. Since I started my own little empire I’ve noticed the power of networking, from making life long friends to substantial leads resulting in paying clients. With the right people your business can flourish by just saying ‘Hi’!
Friends with Benefits
No it’s not THAT type of networking! ;-) Meeting new people and subsequently making friends with like minded business people is invaluable to any self employed person. Working for oneself can be an extremely lonely adventure. There are no Christmas office parties, no working lunches and casual Fridays can sometimes end up being casual weeks. Personally, because I work from home there have been plenty of days where I am running my empire whilst still in my PJs, drinking tea with Dr. Phil on in the background. Once you get out there and start networking, all of a sudden you have circle of friend in the same boat! Suddenly you’re meeting for coffees, you have someone to rant to when a client doesn’t pay on time or when someone cancels. You have people around you who want to see you succeed, with whom you can share your success stories and who just…get you! Benefits don’t have to be just financial. A friend in business is priceless.
Word of Mouth
Unless you are the Dalai Lama, people in any relationship will at some point ask the question ‘What’s in it for me?’. Selfish as it may seem, but true nonetheless. Through the power of Networking you can meet new people, make new friends and hopefully start to become recommended to others. Without even knowing it you will start to do the same. Someone needs a photographer? You remember meeting a lovely lady at a conference and you pass on her number. Simple! This will work for you too. When I started to attend these events over a year ago I completely underestimated how valuable they would be to my business.
Cash is King
Every single penny is watched over with a careful eye when you are self employed. That’s why the decision to advertise can be so difficult; but an inevitable risk regardless. Placing an advertisement in your local paper can cost a small fortune these days and there’s no guarantee of reaching your target demographic. Why not buy a ticket to a networking event instead? Promote your business in a different way. Promote you! The connections you make will be worth more than the price of admission.
Be a Sponge!
Networking events are an excellent way to top up your knowledge base. Most Conferences/Summits/Expos/Events will have an array of motivational and educational speakers. Be a sponge! Soak up their wisdom and advice. There’s a reason why they are on that stage, so bring a notepad or take notes on your phone. Voice record their speeches. Better still ask for a copy of their presentation so you can study it later. It’s also a great way to break the ice. Follow these people on Social Media and interact with them afterwards. Tell them you enjoyed their talk. You never know when you might need their advice or how valuable that connection may prove to be. I can guarantee you will leave that event feeling empowered and motivated to make the changes you need to make your business a success.
Ok realistically we can’t go to every event. We still have to actually run a business at the end of the day. Luckily for us we live in the Digital age where we can #NetworkInPjs J There are lots of ways to network and interact with people through Social Media. Join a group on Facebook such as the Women in Business group or the Irish Biz Party group. Introduce yourself and share your Facebook Business page. Ask for advice on how to improve your page. Share your Special offers. Ask for, and also give advice where you can. Life is a boomerang. You get what you give. Almost every county on Twitter now has it’s own ‘Hour’. Find it, follow it and partake in it. Place the hashtag in your tweet to join in the conversation, e.g. You could simply say ‘Hi to everyone on #WexfordHour’. You might be surprised who says ‘Hi’ back. There are also national Twitter chats such as the #IrishBizParty on every Wed at 9pm. Again, introduce yourself, be open and honest, talk about your business and ask people about theirs. Follow others and before you know it you’ll have a circle of online friends too! A place where you can tap into for advice, motivation or just a general cheering up.
I owe a great deal to the people I have met through various networks. I now a fabulous circle of friends around me to whom I can let off steam. They give me a kick when I need it, they motivate me, inspire me, ground me and support me. A good contact is worth their weight in gold. So get out there, search for some events, join some groups, like some pages, join in some Twitter chats and start Networking your little tush off.