Virtual Networking 101
It’s been said that “no man is an island” – this couldn’t be more true when it comes to working online. Particularly when you’re working from home; it’s very easy to get into a “lone worker” mentality. Avoid this by using our networking tips to help you expand your network.
#1 – Build a support system. Find others in your field or work and build up a support system. These people will not only understand your business but they’ll also be able to support you in a number of ways, such as sending new business referrals your way or recommending a great service provider. Of course, you’ll also want to help them in return.
But more importantly, a great support system is just that – support. Your support network will be able to understand the unique issues and dilemmas of your business and may be able to offer advice and a helping hand whenever needed.
You can build your support network by joining like-minded mastermind groups or finding local events in your area. A quick search on the internet or asking other colleagues should give you several options.
#2 – Go to seminars and events. Especially if you’re working from home you may think that going to a seminar is too difficult or perhaps not worth it. But it’s been said that many great business relationships (and friendships) have been formed at these events.
If a large seminar seems daunting, start with a smaller-scale event. You may even be able to find one locally rather than having to fly out to a different area. And keep in mind that no one expects anything from you at these events; you can participate as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. Having said that, this is a great time to network and make new business relationships.
#3 – Network online. If you can’t make it to an event or want to find a good networking option in between events, online forums can be a great tool. Visit several and read through the posts before deciding on where you want to spend your time. Forums can be time consuming so you’ll want to choose wisely.
A good forum will have members who are courteous and genuinely interested in helping each other and building support networks. Do your part by contributing where you can as well. And do take your time to familiarize yourself with the forum rules and etiquette before joining in – this will help you avoid potentially embarrassing situations.
Ask around for recommendations from people you trust. If you can’t come up with recommendations, then a simple online search should bring up several results. Do your homework and go with the one you feel most comfortable with.
#4 – Join a mastermind group. A mastermind group is a like-minded group of people who come together to help and support each other. Many great businesses have been built on the mastermind concept. Although these groups will usually cost a certain amount to join, you may make the initial investment back several times over.
However, not all mastermind groups are created equal. You’ll want to find a group that will offer support in a positive manner. A good aim is a group of different abilities, including some entrepreneurs whom are more successful than you are – this will ensure that you’re getting great advice from people who have “been there and done that.”
Above all, no matter which networking option you choose, it should make you feel good and ultimately help your business. And remember, give back wherever you can as well.