One of my attributes that shone in the corporate workplace was my ability to build up and maintain an effective network around me. It was something that I was hesitant about when becoming a sole-trader as it was integral to the way I worked. However, I love talking to people and finding out about business; I find it absolutely fascinating so going to networking events was a no-brainer for me.
I am just astounded that when I go to networking events I am constantly meeting someone who has a profession that I did not even know existed. I am so impressed with the amount of self-employed / sole-trader / limited small businesses out there where the individual(s) involved are niching in something so specific. Really helpful when you want a specific job done, right?
A health and safety policy adviser;
A business case study writer;
A new employee assessor;
A blog mentor.
Do what you do best and outsource the rest
As a small business, working with lots of freelance individuals who are specialists in their own field makes you appear like you have a great big team of people. And the best part? You are getting the best service without hiring any of them full-time which is costly and unnecessary for a business who has peak and troughs in their workflow. Summer holidays quiet for anyone?!
To your clients and customers an entire team of specialists have your back, but it is still just you in the driving seat. Having people to rely on with the best advice is incredibly important to me, because we all know that the best way to progress our own business is to focus on the tasks that we are good at.
How I advise my clients
I spend my working days working on projects with my clients and helping them long and short term on how to work more effectively. I am not interested in working on the same task week-in-week-out where I can see improvements. If there is a more effective way to work I will advise accordingly. I’ll advise and work on sustainable improvements to move your business forward. And involved in this could include recommending that you outsource tasks beyond me.
How networking will save you time
Networking for me is the gathering of information that could not only help my business but could also help my clients in the future.
I’ve still got a lot to learn about my pitch and selling myself at networking (pretty sure that there is someone selling that service as well!) I am not coming at this from a professional networker, but from one like-minded individual to the next, working my way round the nuances of networking.
But this is how I see that networking can save you time and money in the long run:
The people in the room that you meet is the start of a database of contacts, and by having a conversation with them, you have already vetted them. A keeper or a loser, you’ve saved yourself the time on research in the future.
It is not just the people in the room, their network and the people they know are a useful bank of contacts.
So if you have a future query about a service you require, who do you go to first? Google which is time-consuming and quite frankly overwhelming, or your contacts, people you have met and could drop a quick email to?
You’ve got those links for life so you will reap the rewards for years once you leave the event and connect on LinkedIn.
My top tips for networking
Listen to peoples’ pitches. I keep hearing that no one listens to the 1-minute pitch round as they are worried about their own. I do listen! That part is really important as you find out who may be of importance to you. No one will mind if you want to read yours off a card. It’s not a memory competition.
Get up. Dress up. Show up. You don’t have to put on a suit if it’s not that sort of event but do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel confident in a room of strangers.
If you are not confident, take someone with you that you know.
Try and look at networking as not only what you can do for your business, but what it can do for your clients. I see so many opportunities where I can add value to my clients’ businesses with the people that I meet at networking. If not now, in the future.
Try all the different groups out and see which ones work for you. Don’t like eating in front of people? You don’t have to attend those events! Got young kids? Don’t go to the early starts.
Networking is not a one-way street. Think what you can do for your connections as well as what they can do for you.
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