Successful businesses are built on connections. Whether it’s machines on the Internet or people talking to each other, networking is what brings everyone together.
If you run a small business or work as a freelancer, or even if you have a full-time job, your career will get a big boost from networking. It’s our social interactions that help us grow and prosper.
1. Finding your Tribe
Networking allows you to find people like yourself, both those in the same business and those who share a similar skill set. Writers and artists, for example, benefit greatly from socializing with fellow creatives. And beyond that, even just getting to know others who are in business for themselves is a great way to learn and become more successful.
And people in your network aren’t just there to help you get ahead. Once you have a group of like-minded folks who know you, they can be a fantastic resource when you need advice or support in a tough situation.
2. Professional Tips & Tricks
Learning how to build a business can seem overwhelming, especially mastering all of the steps. When you have a network of small business owners and other professionals, you’ll find most of them are happy to provide advice and recommendations. Which business structure is best? What are successful marketing strategies? What are common pitfalls to avoid?
And for those in established businesses, there’s always something new to learn about your field from colleagues, not to mention big ideas and strategies that might come from an entirely different type of business.
3. It’s Always Who You Know
Looking for a new job? Recruiters recognize the power of referrals as the best way to get a job. According to recruiting website Jobvite, people who get referred to an open job are five times as likely to get hired over those without referrals.
For small business owners and freelancers, the network brings in new clients and customers. Many professionals will keep a list of others in their field as well as related fields so they can offer clients options for additional services or redirect prospects when their calendar is full. For example, if you’re a web developer, it’s handy to have graphic artists, copywriters, and marketing professionals in your network so you can better serve your clients.
4. Staying Current
We’re most successful when we’re actively learning. For our businesses, it’s good to stay on top of current trends and tools. For example, when’s the last time you looked at online invoicing options? Do you know about apps for your phone that can manage your receipts organized or keep track of your mileage? When’s the last time you updated your website or portfolio?
Although all those things might sound daunting, odds are that someone in your network knows about the hot new trends in these areas and would love to share their experience with you. But you have to know the people to ask, and that’s why building that network will be so helpful.
5. Best Practices
Your connections can help you stay on top of current best practices in your field. Maybe someone conducted a recent study whose data points you can use in your own marketing. Perhaps there’s a new way to generate Facebook ads or a better way to keep track of business expenses. There’s a good chance that with a broad network, someone will have those crucial tips that help you find the information you need and stay ahead of the game.
How to Get Started
- Take advantage of local resources. Check out your local meetup.com listings for groups that share common interests. Visit professional organizations in your field. Take continuing learning classes, webinars, and other professional training in your area. And, of course, get to know the other participants.
- Build a website. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. An “about” page and contact form can be a great way to stay in touch!
- Bring business cards everywhere. Your next connection might happen at a restaurant, supermarket, or your kid’s soccer practice–you never know. It pays to be prepared.
- Follow up. After you meet someone, send them an email, or connect with them on social media. Without following up, they’ll likely forget who you are.
- Make it fun! If networking is drudgery, you won’t do it, and the connections won’t last. Choose events that appeal to you.
- Networking is ongoing. It’s not something you can do when you’re starting out and then coast for the rest of your career. You need to get out there and meet new people and make new connections every so often in order to grow professionally.
How Do You Network?
We at Namecheap would love to hear your tips for successful networking. If you have any stories about how networking helped you take your business to the next level, we want to know! Comment below with your best networking stories.