Networking love it or hate it is something all businesses are built upon. It is about crafting relationships within your industry to gain opportunities, and to grow awareness of your company amongst your peers and your target market.

Mention the word networking and the first image in the mind is a room full of suit wearing business men and women mingling over warm white wine. However networking doesn’t need to be carried out in this way anymore. It can actually be enjoyable and there are more and more ways in which to make those valuable contacts.

Get out there…

To build those vital contacts it’s really about getting out there and meeting people face to face. Many people decide to continue working full time when they set up their business which can mean networking time is limited. However there are several potential evening events to attend, weekend trade shows, exhibitions etc which attract industry professionals which makes it an ideal to place to meet valuable contacts.

Sign up to forums and get into social media to find these useful events. There are many more informal networking events held within pubs which makes for a more relaxed and easy environment.

Social media networking…

Social media is actually a brilliant place to find networking events, follow peers and to interact on forums. If you are just starting out, it can be daunting making those first steps, especially if you work from home and are making the leap into self employment or running a small sideline business. However social media is a great way to get started. You can set up a page for your business and then begin to interact with other pages. The more you do it, the more you will begin to get to know others, and the support network can grow around your new business.

As so many pages have a social media page it is also a great place to find people such as photographers, marketing experts, graphic designers etc, who could be of use to you. Get talking, like/follow fellow business pages, and get to know your industry peers.

How to network…

When networking you need to be fully prepared to market yourself. Have your business cards ready to pass onto others. Also be prepared to describe what it is you offer and have the confidence to speak about your business amongst those who are already established. Know your products and services well, prices, and terms so when questioned, you come across well.

If you have no self belief, others won’t believe in your business either. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your background is, or who you know, just have that belief that your business is just as important as anyone else’s, and push it to succeed.

If you dread networking from the outset, you will never be good at it. Develop the mindset that networking can be fun, enjoyable, and business contacts can actually become supporting friends. If you don’t enjoy formal networking events, start by aiming for the informal low key meet ups where you feel more comfortable. The more you do it, the easier it will become, and the more people you will begin to see again and again. Eventually meeting up won’t be so daunting after all, it will be a case of meeting friendly contacts to share ideas with.