You can sit with us: 5 new ways to network

Who do you talk to about your business? I mean, really talk to? Do you have people outside of family, partners and friends that you can ask those awkward questions about what to charge or get really trusted recommendations on VAs, interns, printers, manufacturers or graphic designers? Do you have a dependable crew who work in a similar industry, who understand your frustrations and can genuinely celebrate your wins? For many of my clients, the answer is no. Often, we're so busy building a business that we forget to cultivate a little clique who can help us when we most need it.

I'm fortunate to have a group of likeminded small biz owners that I trust enough to chat with about pricing, proposals, pitches and product design. We meet once a month or so and spend the entire evening discussing our challenges, wins and business goals for the future. There's no talk of any personal relationship issues, there's no talk about our weight or celebrity gossip. It's all small business and it's AWESOME. 

I know what you're thinking. "Fiona, I have no time to actually meet my "real" friends, how do I make time for this new crew? Plus, where would I even find these people?!" Exhale and review the tips below. It's easier than you think. 

1. Investigate Your Networks

We're often surrounded by people that could help us (and vice versa), and we don't even know it. I was at my son's friend's birthday party recently and discovered three of the other parents also work in digital marketing. Now, there's a fantastic group to connect with on business — get a play date and a biz chat done in the one go.

You can discover a lot more about your own networks through things like a LinkedIn export, Facebook profiles or just asking people you may not usually (such as other parents) what they do. You might be pleasantly surprised how many people you know are also looking to connect. 

2. Time is Precious

There's no rulebook to say you need to meet your biz crew face-to-face. Perhaps you meet over Skype or Facetime on a weekday evening. Maybe it's a WhatsApp group you chat through or maybe you have a private Facebook group you can connect on.

Don't have the time? Consider having a TV-free evening or asking another parent to drop your kids home after sport. The point of connecting is to converse regularly about business, get and give advice, and seek small business support. The vehicle for how you do this is up to you.

3. Get Social #IRL

We all have them. The social media accounts that seem to always like our pics, take the time to make comments and engage with our posts. Guess what? There's usually an actual person behind that handle and most likely they'd be open to meeting in real life (say whaaat?).

I recently reached out to someone through Instagram and we're meeting in the coming month. We have similar businesses and we regularly comment and engage with each other's accounts, so why not? Given one-third of all marriages now start online, what's to stop business relationships forming the same way?

4. Take a Class

One of the best ways to meet people working in a similar field to yours is to take a class relevant to your industry. I've had several creative people connect at my small business marketing class and go on to form really strong business relationships. Google classes near you and take the time to chat with people during the breaks / after class.

5. Go Local

Too often clients think they need to live near a large city in order to attend networking events, classes or workshops, when, in fact, there's so much happening in every suburb or town. Look up local business pages / groups for your area on Facebook, check out classes run by your local council, research Meetup groups or even ask your local wine shop / cafe / fashion boutique if they can recommend any local business owners looking to connect. A five-minute chat may well turn into a lifelong connection. 

Making new connections can be awkward when you're a "full grown" adult, but it's well worth it. It gets you to focus on key business areas you need help with, allows you to share your knowledge with others and can help you balance your personal and business lives by finding additional support outside the home.

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Fiona Killackey