Networking. Do you run and hide, or just roll your eyes? Or, do you love it?
Whether you’re an old hand at networking, determined to re-engage with the outside business world post-Covid, or you’re right at the start of your networking journey, in Brighton, networking is A Thing.
You can hardly leave the house without falling over some sort of event. Well, not literally, but every day there’s something going on. Or, there was, before the pandemic shut everything down. People I meet at networking events cheerfully tell me that it’s possible never to do any authentic work; just go out and meet people at networking, and it feels like a proper job.
In other words, there’s a lot of networking in our fair city.
And, you should do some.
Because forging business new connections, making contacts, interacting, schmoozing – call it what you will, those who network, get work. Let’s look at what networking actually is, the benefits it can offer, and how meeting other company owners can take your income and profits to the next level.
And, at the same time, make you a valued and respected part of the business community.
Yes, really. I will explain.
What is Networking?
Simply defined, networking is about making and growing business relationships.
Ideally, you’ll meet potential new clients, but it’s not just about that. You could also make connections with people to whom you can refer other people you already know, who are specialists in their field. Likewise, this is a platform that enables you to introduce your new contact to someone else.
It’s figuratively, and precisely, a network.
Crucially, it’s more about giving, than taking.
For example, as a copywriter, I like to work in partnership with website developers and graphic designers. These skills “complete my circle” – those folks have talents that go over my head, so working together can deliver remarkable results for clients.
Professional networking happens in relatively informal settings. For example, in cafes, restaurants, wine bars, and sometimes offices, or professional “spaces” such as those that The Werks own and run. For face-to-face events, which this article mainly concerns there may be alcohol involved – but that will be covered in our next “how to” blog, so look out for that one.
There’s also online networking on Zoom, and via social media platforms like LinkedIn, from which you make professional online connections.
Let’s come back to why it’s important.
1. Networking Can Help You Get More Work
Yes, I’m going to say it:
Using your network to meet new people is one of the most effective ways to develop new business. I make no bones about this, although this confession may be controversial. We’re none of us as altruistic as we think we are.
If we’re honest, most of us “go out networking” in order to “tout” for work – nicely of course. This is undoubtedly true, otherwise the eye-wateringly expensive, hard-sell, forced-referral networking organisations out there (no names, no pack drill) would sink like a stone.
There’s getting new business, and getting new business.
Talk AT people, rather than TO them, show a complete lack of interest in what they do, fail to ask them questions, spray your business cards around like confetti, and it ain’t gonna “work”. Gaining new clients, or additional work with your existing network is about being known, liked and trusted. And, coming across as serious, and professional.
Some can do it; some have to work at it. Which one are you?
2. Networking Develops Strong Working Relationships
There is (almost) nothing more enjoyable than re-connecting with people you have already met at an event, and that you like and admire. Creating and then reinforcing strong working bonds with people helps you to:
· Get to know what they’re good at
· Understand their industry expertise, and therefore
· Recommend them to others, or
· Engage them yourself
· Connect on a more personal level, and understand the person “behind the mask”
We tend to do business with people we like and trust. Networking helps you to get to like someone, and trust them. It’s as simple as that.
3. Networking Helps You To Exchange Ideas and Advice
Hearing about what other people are up to can inspire you to bring new techniques and skills to your profession.
A unique perspective on a knotty problem, perhaps. Fresh ideas are always a fabulous way to help you see things from a different angle; and vice versa – your experience can help others.
For example, if you’re a massage therapist struggling to get work, you could meet someone who’s previously been in a similar position. Not only can you develop instant rapport and empathy between the two of you, knowing you’re not alone is a marvellous thing. And don’t worry about your competitor stood in front of you. You’re sharing, collaborating and growing together.
This exchange of information lies at the heart of networking.
Importantly, YOU can develop a reputation as someone who knows their stuff. How would that work for you?
4. Networking Boosts Your Professional Confidence and Your Social Wellbeing
Are you shy, or introverted? If so, networking can seem incredibly ghastly. But, getting out of the house to meet people, if only for a couple of hours, is likely to be the most useful thing you do all day.
Let me elaborate.
Unless you’re an expert in search engine optimisation, it’s highly unlikely that hiding behind your computer will generate new leads for you, or help forge healthy collaborations. Even if you’ve SEO’d your site to the max, I know this much is true:
We do business with other people, and people buy people.
People tend not to do business with computers. And work will NOT just come to you. Ever.
Moreover, as humans, it appears that we’re designed to connect with one another, and to be with each other. Fundamentally, this is what we do. It what makes us the intelligent, sentient beings that we are.
Don’t Be Scared, We’ve All Been There
So, if you’re a nervous networker, it’s important to know that we were all frightened at first. Do something scary once, twice, three times – and it starts to lose its power to spook you.
Trust me on this one. The first networking event I went to – DIDN’T HAPPEN. I turned around and went home again, I was so intimidated.
Yes, we all hate walking into a room when we don’t know anyone there. But, keep doing it, and it’s less daunting. Simply try asking to join a group of people and cheerfully admit that “this is all a bit scary, isn’t it?” Watch the smiles of recognition and hear the heartfelt words of reassurance. It’s really all fine.
And the next time, it’s easier. And the time after that.
And who knows, you could make life-long friendships. Or meet your future husband, at the second networking event you go to (having chickened out of the first). But that’s another story.
Written by: Susan Beckingham (Sussex Copywriting Services)
Based at: Yacht Werks, 28-29 Richmond Place, Brighton
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