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3 reasons business owners and freelancers should network (hint: it's not all about selling)

One wonderful connection is worth more than 8 uninterested connections..........................

Business is going well, I’m not desperately looking for clients…. And I am already busy enough with actual paid work, plus the school pick-up and all the other family responsibilities. So why would I take several hours a month out of my valued time to go to networking events?

Put simply, because I get value from networking other than just “getting sales”.

So, while you should never approach a networking strategy as purely a sales strategy, if done right, networking will give you the following benefits.

1. Get out, have fun

Make connections - people you can call on for a coffee, ask business advice, or simply discuss the highs and lows of running your own business. I really like having ‘professional friends’ – they are the people that pick you up if things are tough and also celebrate your business successes.

If you work alone/work from home then it’s really important to get out, shake off the intensity of your workload and (hopefully) laugh or breathe in the fresh air as you get out and about.

Attending networking events are the perfect way to meet like-minded business professionals and perhaps see things from a different perspective. Make sure you have a polished and fabulous bio/elevator pitch to say to people at events!

Please don’t be pushy - but please do bring your business cards, a genuine wish to connect with people, and make sure you have on clean clothes (yes, I’ve seen it all!!)

As a side note, online groups and forums can also be brilliant! Yes, you’ll get a few pushy people – just like you do at real-life networking events - but the majority of people are genuinely there to chat to other business owners, get advice, give advice and feel that sense of community.

2. Drive sales

Despite me advising not to approach any networking (online or in-person) with the sole aim of looking for sales, if you take the long-term approach, and give as much as you take, then there is no doubt that networking will increase your sales or client base.

Why? Basically, you need to spread the word about what you’re doing, and build the “know/like/trust” factor that is often so important in whether people do business with you. Put simply, you might have the best product or service, yet if no one knows about it or knows about you, how will they find you?

When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound?

So, while you should never approach a networking strategy as purely a sales strategy, if done right, networking will help drive sales.

3. Learning opportunities

Networking events are often coupled with a seminar or workshop. So, you get to learn while you also make some wonderful new connections.

Walking away from a workshop with some new knowledge, fresh ideas and a handful of new business contacts – what’s not to like?!

So, check out all the local face to face networking you can attend, plus look for some relevant online networks. To being with, you might have to trial a few and attend lots of events, but as you get more experienced, you’ll soon be able to suss out the ones that are worth your time.

A note on introverts: not everyone needs to be an extrovert to be successful at networking events. Seeing as a major part of being successful at networking is actually listening rather than talking, you might actually be surprised how well you go.

Even the so-called-extroverts will probably have some nerves. I appear confident most of the time but even I often feel nervous/tired/uninspired at events. It’s all about making meaningful connections rather than a huge number of connections. One wonderful connection is worth more than 8 uninterested connections.

So good luck and have fun building your network.


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