Top Tips for Successful Networking

Top Tips for Successful Networking

By Workwell | Dec 01, 2021

Limited Company

by Guest Author | Dec 1, 2021 | Blog, Ltd Company, Start Out Strong Campaign

Start Networking Successfully
It’s obvious to anyone working for themselves that they are responsible for generating future work, and if you don’t put the effort in then you could end up with unplanned gaps or dry spells. Your network can be critical to your success, so don’t underestimate the value of getting yourself out there. Many people, myself included, hate the very idea of “networking” so let me take you through some of my top tips to doing it effectively.

What networking isn’t

It’s important to remember that networking is a two-way process, and definitely not about overtly or aggressively selling yourself! Truly effective networking should also be about giving value to others, whether that is just sympathising with a recent issue they’ve had, sharing some of your knowledge to help them, introducing them to others within your network, or just chatting about life in general. All of these are relatively small things that cost you nothing, but can make all the difference to someone else, and give them a reason to remember you – in a good way!

There are lots of different types of networking opportunities open to you, you should push yourself to dip your toes into as many of them as you can in order to work out which works best for you and your business.

Traditional networking events

Going to networking events can be really useful in gaining new business, and also to increase your confidence in talking to strangers about what you do. Prepare in advance a couple of sentences that outline how you want to summarise what you do, and the key points. You don’t have to recite it word for word which will sound wooden, but having an idea of what to say avoids panic or awkward silences! Also, it can help to think of potential anecdotes or topics you could talk to strangers about, e.g. popular TV, sport, or something going on with your favourite celebrity.

It can be nerve-wracking to turn up at an event on your own but don’t forget lots of other people attending are in exactly the same situation as you. There is so much potential at these events! You have nothing to lose by simply approaching people and saying “mind if I join you?” as they are very unlikely to reject your approach. If the conversation doesn’t then flow, just excuse yourself and move on. This all sounds very easy, doesn’t it? You have to be brave, give it a go, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Online networking events

A new breed of networking opportunity has sprung up in recent years, that of the online networking event. If you don’t enjoy in-person events then these can be a good alternative, especially as everyone will be in the same boat of being virtual. A good online event will have planned out how to get the attendees to connect with one another, for example, facilitating introductions, someone asking questions to spark discussion, moderators to help the conversation flow and prevent one person monopolising, using virtual breakout rooms for smaller groups or scheduled speed networking with one or two other participants. The possibilities are endless, and providing some planning has gone on behind the scenes then you’ll be able to go with the flow.

As well as organised online events, there are lots of good local online networks full of more informal opportunities such as Facebook communities, local interest groups, and websites like nextdoor.co.uk have really taken off in recent years. These are all fantastic opportunities to get yourself out there in a gentle way, and they can be goldmines of brilliant contacts for you and your business.

Nearest & dearest networking

Remember that your friends, family, and casual acquaintances can be good sources of future clients, so make sure they know what it is that you actually do! Don’t assume that your nearest and dearest know what you do, in fact, they often have a completely different perception of how you earn your income and if that’s the case you’re potentially missing out on more income.

Just use casual conversations to be clear about what you do and reinforce how what you do solves other people’s problems for them. Again, I caution against being too salesy, it’s just about using all opportunities to grow your business. If others in the gym, school drop off group, dog walk circuit know what you do then they could become future referrers for you and vice versa. It’s as simple as that.

Social media networking

You’re probably already doing some social media networking activity, and the more you do to grow your presence here the better. New clients will often check you out online before they consider working with you, and if they like how you interact on social media and the content of your posts then they are more likely to choose you.

The key again is not to be overtly salesy in what you post, people buy from people and they will always prefer a more authentic approach. Also, it’s important to make sure you are posting in the places where your clients are likely to be – it’s surprising how many freelancers don’t stop to think about that! For example, if you are a freelance PA then LinkedIn might be more useful for you than Facebook, whereas if you are a food business then Instagram might be your best option.

A word about confidence

I know that feeling confident in your networking can be difficult, particularly when you’re starting out. The secret is to prepare. Plan your small talk. Think about possible topics of conversation that are not work-related. Come up with a few back-up questions so you can keep the conversation going. Work out your ‘elevator pitch’ so you can quickly tell people what you do and why it matters. All of these will give you confidence in being able to talk to new people and grow your network – you never know what it might lead to!

The most important point

I’ve already said it, but it’s important so worth saying again – the best networkers are the ones that bring value to their contacts. They recognise it’s a two-way process, and when they meet new people they work out any mutual interests and how they can best help. And they enjoy it!

Julia Kermode is a podcaster, network builder and campaigner with a passion for the rights of independent workers.

She founded IWORK during the pandemic to support and champion this important workforce, many of whom were key workers putting themselves at risk in order to support others. IWORK empowers the UK’s army of temporary workers, gig workers, self-employed, freelancers and contractors – the lifeblood of the economy in all sectors.

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