As a solo entrepreneur, everything falls on your shoulders. If you don’t do something, it won’t get done. This includes networking. To build a thriving professional network, you have to prioritize time for establishing and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships.
The Value of Networking
Many entrepreneurs and freelancers see networking as something that they could do if they had more time. But it’s time to stop viewing networking as an optional or supplemental activity. Networking is, in fact, one of the single most important investments you can make in the longevity of your career.
Networking is all about building credibility and establishing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. It can take months or years for your efforts to pay off, but the results will come.
“Not all of your professional connections will need your services right away,” entrepreneur Neil Kokemuller admits. “However, since you have a connection with them, you have a top-of-mind-awareness advantage when they need your help. This point is especially true if you consistently keep your work and message in front of them.”
You’ll also find value in rubbing shoulders with people who are talented and skilled in areas that you aren’t. Not only can you gather insights and advice from them, but some of their knowledge may actually rub off on you.
4 Tips for Solopreneurs
As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you’re in a unique position. On the one hand, you don’t have access to some of the same networking resources that your employed peers do. However, you have the freedom and flexibility to pursue networking opportunities that others can’t. The key is to make the most of your situation and to continually pursue networking as a long-term investment. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Join Local Groups and Organizations
As a freelancer, you don’t have the benefit of being associated with an established business. This means you lack some of the same connections that employees of large organizations have. You can overcome this deficiency by joining local groups and organizations in your industry. Your membership in these groups will give you access to events, conferences, and career opportunities.
2. Leverage Your Personal Network
There’s also something to be said for leveraging your personal network to discover opportunities and find new connections. Every friend, relative, neighbor, or former classmate is a potentially valuable resource for you and your career. Cultivate these relationships by regularly catching up and/or informing them about what you’re doing.
3. Join a Coworking Space
For many freelancers, working from home is somewhat problematic in the sense that it eliminates your ability to rub shoulders with people daily. To combat this isolation, join a coworking space that allows you to mingle with other people, yet still remain focused and productive.
“Each tenant gets to be part of a larger network of lawyers, marketers, accountants, entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and students,” Novel Coworking explains. “You can meet other tenants at networking events, happy hours, and lunch and learns. Your next intern, business partner, or customer could be just across the hallway from your office.”
The beauty of renting coworking space is that you have the flexibility to work when and where you want. If you’re getting cabin fever working from home, you can head to the coworking space for a change of scenery. If the weather is nasty and you don’t feel like going outside, you can simply work from home one day. It’s your call!
4. Build an Online Presence
In today’s world, online networking is just as important as in-person networking. As a solopreneur, you have just as much opportunity as the next professional to take full advantage of this.
The key to online networking is to establish a brand and build up a digital presence. You can do this by creating a website, developing social media profiles, publishing content, and utilizing LinkedIn or other online communities that are specific to your industry.
Adding it All Up
Networking isn’t easy or effortless. It’s gritty, tiresome work that often feels unrelenting and low-returning. However, a long-term investment will ultimately yield a healthy harvest of new opportunities. Prioritize networking, and you’ll infuse greater potential into your career. It’s as simple as that.