With self-employment on the increase successful networking has never been more vital. Whether you’re looking to boost your career or broaden your horizons, networking is a valid and useful way of working, it’s just how you go about it that’s the trick

Step One: Practice your conversation 

Refamiliarise yourself with conversation. Do you speak to the same people everyday? With partners, friends and family you will have developed complex ways of communicating that are based on more than linguistic information. This isn’t the case with strangers and that’s why it can feel less comfortable talking to someone you don’t know. Have a trawl through your phone contacts, or your Facebook and find someone you haven’t contacted in a while. You can practice finding out information about people in less risky way. 

 

Step Two: Find Your Place 

Locate the places where you are likely to meet people in your field or with your interests, and go there. This doesn’t necessarily mean after work drinks. If you are thinking about setting up a made to order cake business, find out if there are any conventions in your locale. If you are already working in your chosen freelance capacity then think about where your skills would be welcomed. If you are nifty with video editing software then you might find a lead speaking to a musician for example.  

 

Step Three : Join in 

If you’re going to network successfully, you need to join in. People always respond well to generosity and that can operate on all levels of conversation. Being approachable is the very first level of generosity you can demonstrate. The usual applies: look around the room, make eye contact, smile and keep your body language open. This can be a bit hard at first because we are most used to being with people we know, but hang in there, it will come with practice. 

 

Step Four: Choose You Questions 

Ask relevant questions and when you are being spoken to show that you are listening by following the speaker’s lead: nod, agree, frown, sigh; join in with the speaker to a suitable degree. Once you have established the basics of what people do and how they feel about it, you should ask them what they need. They might not need another drink or your website building services but you may be able to hook them up with someone you know. Your friend will be grateful and your new contact will remember you for helping. It is a network you’re building after all right? 

 

Step FiveKeep In Contact 

Continued contact is the goal; a strong network of contacts that can help each other out with work and job leads. When you’re taking somebodies details do so appropriately, telephone numbers can be too personal these days and you definitely don’t want to be asking for social media handles. Ask if you can find them on sites like Linkedin, or if they have website you can contact them through. Let the other person offer their email address if they think it’s appropriate. When you are invited to contact a person, whether it be for yourself or if you promised to send on details of your friend in IT for example, then ensure you do it and keep your network strong.  

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