When researching to start my VA business, the subject of networking came up and it became apparent it was a necessity to integrate myself into the business world. But when you sit and think about it, we are networking all the time and the good old-fashioned way was down the local pub! I fondly remember the days in our family run pub where there was many a deal struck, referrals made and even the odd diagnosis of the medical kind.
When I met up with a couple of fellow VA’s, a top tip was “network your arse off”! So, I started researching events and found many, free or inexpensive ones across my locality. I have attended breakfast events, informal early evening events with drinks and canapes, yet to attend a lunchtime one. They are run by local organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, or groups formed by local business people, industry-specific groups and even franchise type groups. I have attended women-only events, business shows and have had a go at speed networking, very interesting.
Being naturally introverted, networking for me is very difficult as the title of this blog state I am a bit of a wallflower. However, to date, I have not been bitten or shouted at or encountered anyone who is negative, but have met lots of charming and interesting people. I have received a lot of advice on networking – don’t go to sell, but to make connections and build relationships and it is so nice to see a few familiar faces now when I attend events. The day can be saved for me a bit when there is a talk – last year these have included a rugby player, a musician, Peter Thornton and a fantastic talk on networking; I have also met a published author bought her book which was a great holiday read. Through networking, I have booked a stand at the South West Business Expo, joined the BBX community and picked up my first clients.
One lesson I have learnt in life is that things don’t happen if you stay in your comfort zone and working from home as a freelancer has been an ambition for so long and am loving the freedom, but realise that I need the connection with others that can be gained through networking.
Even though I find it difficult, and if anyone else out there feels the same, just do as I do – put on the big girl pants and carry on.