Online and offline networking for contractors

Knowledge base from Boox

By Jonathan London on 17th April 2014

Online and offline networking for contractors

The ability to build a varied and far reaching network is a valuable skill for business people of all types across all industry sectors. For self-employed contractors and owners of small limited companies, this is especially true. A good quality network puts you just a few clicks or a phone call away from people who could not only put new business your way, but offer advice practical assistance and vital professional services.

Guide to online and offline networking

A guide to effective networking for contractors

These days, as much networking, if not more, takes place online as in the ‘real world’. If you have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account, for example, you are already networking online. Similarly, if you’re in regular contact with ex-colleagues, business associates and even old friends from school, college or university, you have the basis of a valuable network.

Online networking

Online networking has become a phenomenon in recent years. The proliferation of social media sites means that you have a range of different channels for different types of networking. Use these tips where applicable to the social media you use.

Build a full profile

Give people a good overview of who you are, what you do and evidence of how well you do it. Recommendations, testimonials, your career history and your CV will all help to reinforce your credentials. Include a recent picture of yourself and link to your website. If you write a blog, link to it from your social media feeds and always keep an eye out for opportunities to give advice and help to others.Don’t worry about including contact details as most social media sites provide a private member-to-member messaging facility. Keep your profile up to date.

Start with people you already know

To begin with, connect with your existing contacts such as colleagues, business associates, friends and family. From these, along with the people you meet in your business life, your network will steadily grow. Where possible, add a relevant personal message to your connection requests to make it more personal.

Join groups

Extend your network by joining groups or lists on social media sites. These range from alumni and geographical groups to people sharing tips and advice specific to industry sectors or users of specialist technologies. Groups offer an opportunity to learn and to grow your network by sharing information and insights valuable to others.

Offline networking

Informal events, conferences, exhibitions and functions hosted by organisations such as your local chamber of commerce provide great opportunities to network. Don’t worry about feeling shy – only a minority of people are naturals when it comes to working a room. Instead, work on these networking skills and you’ll soon expand your industry contacts:

Address people by their name

Not only will this help you remember the person’s name, it will help build a rapport, too. People like being addressed personally, though don’t overdo it. Repeated use will come across false and have the opposite effect.

Show you’re interested

Demonstrate through your body language, facial expressions and willingness to keep the conversation going that you’re interested in what people are saying to you. Ask relevant questions and offer helpful tips and advice – if you have them to give. Questions are also a good way to enter a conversation that started without you.

Be a good listener

Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their specialist areas. Use your questioning skills to get them onto their favourite subjects and be attentive. It’s a great way to build your network without having to talk much yourself.

Carry business cards

Although not as prominent as they once were, business cards are an indispensable aid to offline networking for contractors. Offer new contacts your card and ask them for theirs – it shows you are interested in them. Also, take plenty of business cards to networking events as often, the organisers allocate a table for you to leave a supply on.

Is there anything else you would add for others looking to improve their networking skills?

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