Growth Strategies: Building a Network and Community

When you work for yourself, you wear many hats - entrepreneur, accountant, marketer, and more. But one of the most crucial roles you play is that of a networker. Networking is essential for self-employed individuals, as it can lead to new business opportunities, collaborations, and access to valuable resources and expertise.

The Importance of Networking and Community

Networking is more than exchanging business cards (if you even still have those); it's about creating meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. At some point, everyone you meet can either be, or know someone who could be, a potential client, source of inspiration, or mentor.

But beyond business benefits, networking and community building also play a critical role in personal growth. Interacting with diverse professionals can inspire new ideas, boost creativity, and provide different perspectives that enrich your own approach to work. Plus, in a field where isolation can be a real challenge, having a community provides a sense of belonging and camaraderie, which is essential for mental well-being.

Start with “what can I do for you”?

“Networking” comes with self-focused connotations. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The reality is people are more likely to help you when you have something to bring to the table.

To effectively build professional relationships, start by understanding how you can help the people around you. This can be anything from offering your time, services, expertise, or simply contributing to published projects that get you visibility into existing active communities.

Practical tips for strengthening your network

  1. Contribute to Online Platforms: It’s easy to consume content from a never-ending feed of posts, but doing your own commenting, sharing, and posting are all proven to drive traffic and engagement to your own assets. Find a topic you’re particularly interested or specialized in, find trends and accounts who regularly post about it, and get involved.
  2. Attend Industry Events and Conferences: You might be surprised by the sheer number of conferences that exist in the world, which means there’s a high likelihood there’s one in a topic you’re interested in. The key is to not just be a passive attendee, but to engage in discussions, ask questions during sessions, and introduce yourself to fellow attendees. And remember, 20% of the work is showing up and 80% is in the follow up and conversations after the events.
  3. Join Professional Associations or Groups: Being part of industry-specific associations can provide access to exclusive resources, workshops, and networking events. These groups often foster a strong sense of community and can be a great way to meet peers who share similar goals and challenges.
  4. Participate in Local Community Events: Don’t overlook the power of local connections. Attend community gatherings, workshops, or co-working space events. These can lead to meaningful connections within your local area, offering both personal and professional benefits.
  5. Start a Blog or Podcast: Creating content in your area of expertise can attract like-minded professionals and establish you as a thought leader in your field. It’s an excellent way to start conversations and connect with others who resonate with your work. Even if you’re only writing to yourself at first, it’s a good way to start a habit and improve your mental organization and communications skills.

The bottom line

Sometimes it takes only 1 or 2 strong relationships to dramatically improve your independent business, but it takes time and effort to find and build those relationships. Establishing regular habits that improve your network will almost certainly yield results over the long term.

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