One reason that successful entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers thrive is because of the networks they build. Networking with other people who want to help you succeed – and who you want to help in turn – is one way to make the path of the entrepreneur a little less lonely.
Whether it is by sharing stories and offering advice or referring clients and partnering up on projects, many of the most successful small business owners do well because they help each other. Failing to recognise this can stunt your business’s growth and lead to lost opportunity.
7 ways to work your network for leads and clients
To make sure you get the most out of your network, here are some tips for leveraging your network to get more clients and leads.
- Proudly let everyone know what you do.
- Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Give to others — but don’t be afraid to say “no.”
- Make it easy for people to refer you.
- Offer a referral incentive.
- Send leads and clients to others.
- Join digital networking group
Let’s look at each networking strategy in more detail.
1. Proudly let everyone know what you do
One of the biggest mistakes freelancers and business owners make is downplaying what you’re working on or what business you’re starting. Often — especially during the early stages of a new business endeavour — it’s nerve-wracking to talk about projects.
Don’t let fear, anxiety or even humility hold you back. Talking about what you do is the best way to spread the word and let everyone in your network know what you do so they can send relevant business your way.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask
Another apprehension that often holds business owners back from getting more out of their network is the fear of asking. Many entrepreneurs, don’t want to feel bothersome so we don’t ask for things that could help us. It might be an email or social media introduction to a possible client or an invitation to a videoconference.
Don’t let worry prevent you from asking for it. People are often more than willing to help when they can. But they can’t help unless they know what you need — so ask. At the same time, be mindful of what you’re asking for. A good rule is to never ask for something that you wouldn’t be willing to give back in return.
3. Give to others — but be OK with saying “no”
Asking goes both ways. As you establish your business, people are going to reach out and ask you for things, too. Giving when you can is a great way to build relationships and goodwill with others. Do it, but also set limits with your work. Don’t feel obligated to give away work for free or give more than you feel is fair.
Consider setting up monthly or annual limits for what you can give as mentorship sessions, free work and products, and so forth to help you set boundaries that allow you to give without giving away too much.
4. Make it easy for people to refer you
If you want your network to send leads and clients your way, you need to make it easy for them. It’s easier to pass along a website URL for a freelancer than look up a phone number, and a website is much more likely to get the prospect interested in their service.
After seeing the freelancer’s work, the prospect can get an idea if they are a good fit before jumping on a phone call. If you want people to refer business to you, you must have:
- Professional email address. Ditch your free email account and get a professional email address that includes your business or full name.
- Branded domain and professional website. Have at least a simple business website that introduces who you are, what you do and the work you’ve done.
“Looking to set up that website before the next big networking event? No problem! With help from GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing , you can set up a website in under an hour using industry-specific templates.”
5. Offer a referral incentive to people who send you leads and clients
Referral incentives are another way that networking for entrepreneurs can lead to new business. Encourage your network to refer business to you by giving them an actual incentive to do so.
Create a referral program that gives monetary compensation or gifts to people who refer business your way. The programme doesn’t need to be formal. It could simply be sending an e-card or a digital gift voucher, depending on the size of the referral business.
6. Send leads and clients to others
Referrals go both ways. To bring more leads and clients to your business, you should also send referrals to others. When you send business to another freelancer or business, they will be more likely to think of you if a strong lead for your business comes their way.
Take referrals one step further by building a partnership programme. Again, this doesn’t need to be a formal policy. It could just be a list of recommended vendors that you give to your clients or a page on your website with your favourite freelancers. Create a network around your referrals so each member can spread the word.
7. Join digital networking groups
Networking groups on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook can help you make important connections. On LinkedIn, you can find groups to join from the search bar in your homepage. Established groups make it easier to create stronger, more beneficial relationships as you get to know people over multiple engagements. Consider joining an industry relevant group to increase your chances of finding like-minded business owners, as well as industry associations or digital networking groups for professionals in your sector.
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