Why you should be networking even while it is all online.

I discovered networking shortly after I had started my business and I am so glad I did. I have learnt so much from networking and I have made some fantastic friends, the type of people you can message at 1 am because you know they will be up as well and probably doing the same as you even if your businesses are completely different!

When I first heard about networking, I was terrified, standing up in front of a load of strangers and telling them about myself and my business! No thank you!

What made me start networking.

I then spoke to a friend from university who had her own business and she advised networking too. The time had come, I knew I needed to have a go. My friend arranged for me to visit my local division of her networking organisation so one morning I applied my war paint and off I went. My god is was petrified. The people I met were so kind and welcoming and it was interesting hearing about all their businesses. Then it was my turn! I felt like I was having an out of body experience, I could see myself standing up and talking, I could see all the eyes on me. Nobody laughed! This was going great! They didn’t think I was an imposter; they were listening to what I was saying with interest! Wow! It was all over so quickly and before I knew it, I was back in the safety of my car and heading out the gates.

I had seen the value of networking, but I had also realised that there are as many different types of networking as there are businesses. I did a lot of investigating to find a more relaxed kind of networking and joined a few Facebook groups to get a feel for it and build my confidence back up again. I was ready to try again.

Having another go at networking.

One of the Facebook groups I had joined had the co-founder as their next guest speaker, this I had to see! I quickly booked my ticket before I chickened out. On the day I got my bag ready with business cards, notebook, pen and purse then off I went. I dropped my daughter at school and then headed off to Portishead, Bristol with my toddler in tow. We were going to a child-friendly networking event and that was so exciting! We arrived and the place was packed! I hadn’t expected that! I thought there would only be about 10-15 women there but there must have been at least 45! I was not prepared for that. Luckily, the coordinator made me feel comfortable and showed me where I could sit with my toddler. Fortunately, there were lots of other women there with their children of all ages so my nerves about bringing my son vanished. As there were so many women there, I didn’t have to stand up in front of everyone and tell them what I did, just those on my table. When it was over, and I was on my way home again I didn’t know what I’d been worrying about.

Trying out online networking.

My next experience of a networking event was a couple of months later, by that point Covid-19 had hit so this time I could network from the comfort of my own home! Online networking has been fantastic! I love the fact that I can attend networking events all over the country without having to leave my home, I can wear my pyjamas or have a glass of wine and not have to worry about driving, if I get scared or one of my children starts trying to climb on me I can mute myself and turn the camera off. There is absolutely zero pressure.

What have I learnt from networking?

Networking is brilliant for so many things, for me, it’s been such a fantastic source of information. Setting out on a new venture can be scary and overwhelming, there’s so much that you need to know and you don’t have the money to outsource so networking is fantastic for this. You can ask for help and advice and so many people will be only too glad to help as they remember what it was like when they were just starting out.

Another reason why networking is brilliant is that if you work from home you are quite often working alone, at the moment you will most likely have your family around you but you could be the only one in your household who runs a business. Being self-employed can get quite lonely so networking allows you the chance to have ‘colleagues’ and build relationships in order to have company.

My final reason why networking is amazing is that it is extra advertising, the more you do it the more you will come across the same people and start to build that all-important relationship. The people you meet while networking may not be your ideal client but that’s ok, they may come across someone else asking for recommendations for the product or service that you provide and because you have built that relationship they will recommend you.

Give it a go!

Networking is key to your success in business and I’m so glad I learnt that early on instead of trying to struggle on my own. Networking can be scary but it is worth trying out, especially now while they are all online. Somehow online networking doesn’t seem as scary as face to face networking. As I’ve already said, there are about as many different types of networking as there are businesses and it’s ok to be involved in lots of groups. You can try them out and see which one suits you best, once you have decided, you are not tied to that forever. Experiment with different groups and different styles or try different areas as well. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t regret it.

Forest of Dean Biz Women.
Forest of Dean Biz Women Logo

I loved networking so much that I set up my own networking group: Forest of Dean Biz Women. I wanted to create a group in my local area that is child friendly for when we can get together face to face in the not too distant future and be accessible to those just starting out. One of the biggest things that put me off when I first started networking myself was the cost. I didn’t have the money to justify paying monthly subscriptions to be a member of networking groups. I wanted to create somewhere where women could ask questions without feeling stupid or intimidated. Some of the groups I’ve come across are incredibly formal and professional and that just didn’t suit me. I wanted to create a community of friends who have each other’s backs and want each other to succeed. That’s exactly what I’ve done. We have so much going on: guest speakers on Zoom, live interviews, top tip posts, competitions and lots of fun.

If you want to join the fun you can join us here.

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