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Networking is much more than a buzzword. It’s a handy tool for any business, particularly if you’re self-employed.

Meeting other people who also own their own businesses offers many benefits, such as:

  • an opportunity to get to know amazing people with similar values;
  • an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes;
  • potential doors opened to contacts whom you may not have been able to connect with otherwise;
  • the ability to feel connected to something bigger than your laptop.

Now you might agree that there are many benefits to being self-employed, but also that it’s easier said than done. After all, nobody wants to walk into a room full of strangers and start pitching them on a product or service.

Here are some of our best networking tips for new business owners:

1.  Start with Social Media

A great way to open the door to live interaction is to start by connecting with influencers from the safety of your social media account. Follow and interact with people whom you would love to connect with on social media and leave helpful valuable comments. Over time, this will help you create real relationships.

2. Join An Entrepreneurial Community

Entrepreneurial communities provide a helpful means to meet and network with other individuals. Scan your local newspapers and community boards for groups that accommodate start-ups. In addition to networking and making connections, it will provide valuable exposure, mentoring opportunities and great advice from people who have been there, done that.

3. Put Pants On and Join a Co-Working Space

One of the benefits of working from home is the ability to work in your PJs. However, it might be a smart idea to spend one or two days a week working from a different environment. In addition to giving you the opportunity to meet different people, it will also help spark your creativity levels by breaking up an otherwise mundane day.

4.  Always Show Up Early

When you’re attending a networking event, always show up early, when it is calmer and fewer people have settled into groups. In this way, it will be easier for you to find conversation partners.

5.  Keep It Simple

Instead of standing on the edges of the room, walk up to someone and start a conversation by asking simple questions. Listen carefully to the answers, as that will help you to get to know the person.

6. Share Your Passion

Instead of leading with your pitch, rather share your enthusiasm for your service or product. Share the story of how your company came about. Only when a potential new customer asks about your product or service, then you can use a simple elevator pitch to introduce your company.

7. Be Generous in Conversation

Instead of hijacking the conversation, rather give others the opportunity to talk, too. The best networkers aren’t those who commandeer a discussion, but rather those who listen.

‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ – Zig Ziglar

8.  Follow Up 48 Hours Later

The conversation begins with networking, but the key to success lies in staying in touch. After a good exchange, find out whether the other person would like to stay in touch, and whether they’d like to talk on the phone, email, or via social networking.

Follow up within 48 hours of your exchange, mention something that was discussed, and invite the other person to get in touch with you.

We’d like to hear from you…

How do you network? What are your best networking tips? Please share in comments below.