18 July, 2017
As we’ve talked about in the past, having a virtual office address in London and working from home or coffee shops give you an incredibly flexible and cost effective solution when starting out as a freelancer or small business owner. But it’s not always easy to make the connections you need with fellow business men and women. If you’re not naturally coming into contact with your peers in a large office environment, or via other events that might happen when you work within a small business community, you need to be proactive.
Getting out and about to social networking events can really help you meet those people you need, whether that’s your next developer (who you might meet at Silicon Drinkabout) or your financial co-founder who you might meet via one of Escape the City’s events. Either way, you need to be prepared, open and above all else willing to genuinely help others. Don’t forget that others are going to events hoping that you might be just the right person to help them solve their need. So if you are super clear about what you do that can help them you’re more likely to meet your match.
Here’s our top 5 tips to getting out there and building your all important network. And it’s all about putting the other person first!
Networking just to land your next freelance gig or client is tempting and it might be easier than normal to meet senior people you wouldn’t normally have access to, but you’ll be coming at it from a selfish point of view. Very often other people in the room can quickly see if you’re thinking “What can I get out of you?”. Aim to help the other person first and ask yourself “What can I do for the other person?”. Now coming to understand what you can do for them requires that you understand the other person’s needs, which means asking them a lot of questions. Ultimately you should be asking questions about them and their business and listening as much as possible to their response. When you spot an area you can help with then let them know, and if nothing comes to mind in the moment, you now have a new relationship with someone you know more intimately than most and are more capable of offering something useful to when it pops up on your radar later. Being generous and genuinely interested in this way is an attractive quality that you will be remembered for.
You know the person we mean. There’s always someone who barges into a conversation, interrupts the flow and spends the next 5 minutes trying to figure out how important you and the rest of the group are and whether they can extract anything of value out of you. This is the reason networking gets a bad rap, “Are you valuable enough for me and what can I take from you?”. Don’t do it!
At some point we’re all asked questions about what we do and ultimately that will lead to the questions about how we might be able to help the person who’s asking. So it’s essential that you know what your value is before you attend an event. Take some time to be clear on what your abilities, strengths and connections are. Be clear in your mind what you think your strengths are and if you are there representing your business make sure you are super clear on what your business does and how that helps others. If you can, it’s always a good idea to have a fun story to tell that demonstrates what you do and how you help others.
You might not need someone to help you specifically right now but if you haven’t started to build good relationships with others, when you need someone’s help or skill set, you might find yourself at a loss at a key moment. Why not give it a go this week? If you’ve never done it before we suggest finding an event you like the look of and get out there in the next 7 days!
Here’s 3 great sites for finding events to go to:
Don’t forget also, there are others out there that need your help right now. Just being able to connect one of your existing connections to a newly met person can be transformative for both of them and simply being part of the ebb and flow of helping others succeed is extremely rewarding for you.
Finally, as you start understanding the people you meet and their needs and abilities you’ll start seeing how one person you’ve met can help another. Don’t hesitate if you spot a useful connection, do everything you can to connect people who you think can be genuinely valuable to each other and they will be hugely grateful for it.