As we’ve mentioned a few times before, it’s important that contractors choose the best operating structures for their business and that they have a deep understanding of their market. However, as contractor accountants, we also believe it’s fundamental that contractors and freelancers invest in networking. While it’s true that most self-employed individuals will often work alone, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to develop your professional relationships.
In fact, building up your connections is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business.
Why is Networking so Important?
In today’s market, you have many opportunities to be your own boss; however, this also means there can be a lot of competition as well. Taking time to network with others in your industry can be a game-changer, both in getting new customers and in expanding your business. Connecting and collaborating with others is not a new concept; on the contrary, vendors in ancient times would discuss new opportunities with other traders as well.
Networking can help contractors and freelancers to sell more products and services, as well as gain a deeper level of understanding of your business. Working by yourself can be vital to complete certain projects, but not talking or meeting anyone else for extended periods of time can be challenging.
Networking can also help people to learn new things from others. Whether more experienced contractors or thought leaders in your market, it pays to gain new ideas and advice from those who have ‘been there and done that’ – receiving feedback from others can also help you to improve your business as well.
Networking is crucial for career growth and is about forging long-term relationships, as well as a good reputation, over time. There are several ways to do this, such as attending industry events, talking to people on social media, connecting on LinkedIn, and so much more.
Advantages of Networking
More specifically, when you spend time networking, even if it’s not your favourite activity and you’d rather be spending that time doing what you love, you can enjoy serious benefits. The advantages you get when you network efficiently can help you to stay ahead of the game, something that gains even more importance when you consider the current competitive market. So, networking allows you to:
Access Job Opportunities
A major benefit of networking is that you have access to more opportunities. You can be introduced to a potential client, receive a referral, or become aware of certain job openings, for example; networking can open new doors when it comes to professional growth, so keep it in mind when you start networking.
Become More Confident
You may not think this is a significant benefit of networking but, in fact, it can have a massive impact on your life as a contractor. Putting yourself out there can be daunting, especially if engaging in conversation with strangers is not your strong suit. The same goes for selling your services and products; most contractors and freelancers don’t like to talk about themselves in such a way, but this is a key skill to develop. The more you network, the more this will become second nature to you, and the more easily you can create long-lasting relationships.
Raise Your Profile
Visibility is an important issue for contractors and freelancers. You want people to know who you are and what you do so, by communicating with potential customers or partners on a regular basis, you can more easily raise your personal and professional profiles and remain in people’s minds for longer.
As a contractor or freelancer, you’re good at what you do. However, running a business, whether you’re operating solo or own a limited company, requires more than just knowledge and experience in your field. Networking can help you to find business solutions that will help you to grow your business. For example, if you don’t understand finances or HMRC rules very well, finding someone who specialises in accounting for contractors ensures you’re doing everything right.
Networking allows you to come into contact with a multitude of professionals that can make your life easier, so don’t underestimate it.
Meet Key People
You may have heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’; this is often true in business, as people need to have reliable and relevant connections in their network in order to thrive. By networking, you have the chance of meeting many interesting people who may have been difficult to meet or contact otherwise. These key, influential professionals can open the door to great opportunities or put you in touch with other businesses.
Networking Tips to Help You to Grow Your Business
But how can you network efficiently? At Gorilla Accounting, we understand this can be a little intimidating in the beginning, especially as you want to make a good first impression. It’s easy to feel under pressure because of this; however, there are plenty of ways to start building connections and growing your business, but not feeling overwhelmed by the networking process.
Make the most out of your valuable time by following these networking tips which Gorilla Accounting put together:
Have a Plan of Action
While this may sound strange, given that networking can be as simple as talking to someone else, the truth is that it pays to be prepared instead of improvising – this is crucial for people who dread going up to strangers to strike up a conversation, since it can help to make them feel more confident.
Plan ahead by jotting down relevant points of discussion if you know you’re going to be attending an event with other contractors, potential clients or key industry figures. This way, you can easily cover all the topics you wish to put across and establish that you’re a professional.
You don’t have to focus solely on work; on the contrary, you can request a future meetup to discuss a work-related topic, for example, and choose to talk about other subjects instead. Don’t forget to bring business cards to give out to people.
Attending Industry Events
Attending events in your industry, such as conferences, trade shows and product launches, can be incredibly beneficial for career growth. Attending these types of events will help you come into contact with like-minded professionals in your industry throughout the year, so consider joining them every time you have the chance.
Know Who Will Be in Attendance
It’s a good idea to research people who will be in attendance before you meet them, so you can feel more at ease when talking to them. This can also help you to decide which events are worth your time and which aren’t. Targeting the right audience is vital, given that it can maximise your job prospects. The same goes for online connections, so research someone before connecting with them or sparking conversations.
Making sure that your services are targeting the right people means you need to be clear on what you’re offering. If your pitch isn’t engaging, your efforts may fall flat.
Forging Business Relationships
A big part of building connections is to help other people. By doing so, you are nurturing your relationship with them. The best way to go about forging these types of relationships, therefore, is to focus on what you can do for people, not on what they can do for you. Even if they don’t require your services at the time, by facilitating connections and putting them in contact with people who can help, they are likely to remember you in the future.
In addition, when you’re attending an event, trade show or conference, make sure to talk to as many people as possible. Anyone can be a potential customer so, while approaching people or teams can be nerve-wracking when you work alone, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of making new contacts.
Even a quick two-minute conversation could make the difference when it comes to getting new leads. Because people are busy, keeping the conversation snappy and to-the-point can actually work in your favour; when attending events, for example, most people will have an agenda for the day and will want to remain on track. Taking too much time to discuss your business or your services, therefore, can be detrimental to your budding connection with a potential client or partner.
Use Social Media
Nowadays, there is more to networking than just face-to-face meetings; while these are still incredibly important and, for many, the preferred way to communicate, social media provides a platform for contractors and freelancers to connect with their audience and grow their network of people. This is also a very cost-effective way to keep in touch with existing and potential clients, promote services and products, advertise a launch, grow your brand, and so much more.
Social media will keep your business relevant and visible to potential clients as well – if you’re not online, you’re missing out. After all, your competition is likely online and advertising their brand and services to a wide audience.
Stand Out from Your Competition
When it comes to standing out from the crowd, contractors and freelancers have their work cut out for them. By working alone and not for a company or with a team, you have to do everything yourself, including marketing your business in such a way as to draw people’s attention. Making yourself known can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. In-person networking can be a great way to stand out in industry events, for instance, while social media offers you the perfect platform to brand your business the way you want to – and talk to people at any given moment.
Make sure to mention your success stories. Giving potential clients a laundry list of your services is not a very efficient way to stand out, as people aren’t likely to retain all that information. Talking about successes, on the other hand, such as mentioning a solution to a similar problem that your prospect may have discussed with you, will show them how you can help.
After an event or meetup, it’s crucial that you follow it up with an email, a simple LinkedIn connection, an informal message on social media or a call – whatever your contact prefers. You will be meeting a lot of people at events, and so will everyone else, so make sure to remind them of who you are and how you can help them.
You could have excelled at researching your audience and networking, but a lead can fall apart if not properly nurtured. And follow up in a timely manner too. Others will be competing for the same project, so don’t wait too long to follow up. The biggest part of networking is building relationships, so don’t let your connections fizzle out before they even take off.
This step is crucial no matter whether you’re new at contracting or freelancing or whether you have many years of experience. Without it, you may find yourself falling behind the competition.
Drawing from years of experience in the financial sector, Gorilla Accounting aim to help contractors and freelancers to build successful relationships and networks – and, of course, to grow their business to its full potential. We also provide you with the necessary tools for success, from our FreeAgent bookkeeping software to our contractor tax calculator, which allows you to figure out your take-home pay.
Get in touch today to learn more about what we can do for you.