Why Networking is Important
How many times have you heard “It’s not what you know, but who you know”? Maybe not at all, but you have now. Speaking from experience, I believe that is 100% true. And it all comes from networking. Networking is crucial to your work-at-home success.
Who you know can mean the difference of getting that freelance or consultant job. This all comes from networking. I’m talking personal networking – friends and family – and professional networking with strangers.
Personal relationships help your business stand out. Our society is bombarded with emails, advertisements, and special offers. A hand shake and conversation will help you rise above that racket and remain at the forefront of people's minds.
People do business with those they know, trust, and like. The more people you know, the more business opportunities you’ll gain.
Where to Network
Everywhere! The grocery store, soccer games, school events, holiday parties, and the post office! If this is too much out of your comfort zone, then there are plenty of professional networking groups you can join, which hold events that are meant to boost your business.
Look online for networking events to find relevant groups in your profession. Web sites such as www.meetup.com, www.findnetworkingevents.com and www.gumtree.com are a few good ones. Look into attending industry conferences as well.
Social media is the greatest free networking tool! Set up a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn business account or page and manage all of them at one time through www.hootesuite.com. Invite your friends and family to join/like your page, ask them to share it and watch your network grow right before your eyes.
Many local Chamber of Commerce also run networking events. If not, they may be able to fill you in on events going on in your area. At the very least, they can introduce you to other entrepreneurs in your area.
How to Network
Knowing what to say when networking is the hardest part of the process. Many people don’t like to talk about themselves and “brag” about what they do. The key is to not talk about you, but ask them about what they do for a living and learn about them first. The conversation will naturally turn to you and you’ll have your chance to hand out business cards.
Finding the time is hard, but it’s crucial. We are all busy – work, school, families – but you have to make networking a priority if you’re going to make your business work. When you schedule networking events, put them on your calendar like any other meeting. Once you get into the habit of meeting people for lunch or dinner or attending events, you will see the benefit.
Just starting out? Give yourself a networking challenge. Maybe decide to meet with eight people a month. Start with four people you know, but would like to know better. Then move onto four new people you’ve never met before. You can call it the 4 X 4 challenge. You’ll become a better networker and will grow your network by at least 48 new people within a year. But the hope will be that all of the 96 people you met with will help you grow your network even more.
Most importantly, follow up. Whether it’s with a phone call or email, be sure to follow up after your networking event or meeting. Thank your recipient and recap the items you discussed.
Remember, everyone is a potential business contact or customer. The more people you meet, the bigger your network will grow. Always carry your business cards with you and when talking with others, discuss how you could help each other.
Networking will help you reach your goals and dreams. Start today! It will take your business to the next level.