The Power of Networking

I am a terrible networker. I confess it freely. I’ve never been a schmoozer in any shape or form. At a party or convention, I’ll be one of the people hanging out along the fringe of the room eating snacks and reading whatever written materials are provided. I’m a writer. We keep to ourselves.

I hate to mingle and network, but I have come to realize the importance of this skill when it comes to building a business. I have taken some steps that I hope will help me network more often and more effectively. After all, I am trying to build a client base. Here are a few things I’m trying out:

1. LinkedIn—I’ve joined LinkedIn and now have all of eleven connections with business associates (make that twelve, I just received an invitation from one of my Writers’ Guild friends—see below), most of whom I knew before. However, as a LinkedIn member I now show up on their profiles as a connection and can receive recommendations from those people. LinkedIn also has a job search feature. I recently applied for an online writing position for a company in New York. I may not get the job, but if I hadn’t joined LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have known the opportunity existed. You can also join groups with similar interests and/or business goals. There are several groups that focus on writing or working from home. I’ll look into those when I get a chance. So, I think this networking effort will pay off in the long run. A bonus is I don’t have to make small talk with people I don’t know!

2. Missouri Writers’ Guild—I recently joined a local chapter of this organization. It has proved to be very informative. I get to rub elbows with other writers and get the latest information on conferences, contests, and learn about the writing “business” from professionals. I’ve learned a lot just from attending the meetings, but I plan to attend one or two of their conferences in the future to make even more contacts. I imagine most small business have similar organizations that could be helpful to a new business owner. The bonus with this networking opportunity is that it’s easy to talk to other writers, we have a common bond and they are often just as reluctant to schmooze as I am.

3. SCORE—This organization offers free small business advice and mentoring services. According to their website, there are 364 local chapters of SCORE all across the country. The chapter in my town even offers evening and weekend classes at the local community college for a small fee ($25 for most) and separate workshops throughout the year. Some of the classes they have offered are on online marketing techniques, writing a business plan, and budgeting for a small business. They even offer tools and templates online. I plan to look into this organization in the next few months. I’ll keep you posted on how well it goes. It certainly looks promising.

4. Handing out my business card—This sounds so simple, but for a non-schmoozer like myself it’s not that easy. I recently had some business cards printed and have handed out only four or five of them. They do me no good sitting in the box in my closet. My goal is to hand out my business cards more often and talk about what I do with people when the opportunity arises. I’m currently rehearsing my “elevator pitch.” According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, this is “the quick, succinct summation of what your company makes or does.” You’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. Forbes has a great article on this subject, “5 Tips for an Elevator Pitch that Gets Results,” if you’re interested in learning how to craft your own elevator pitch.

As you can see, I’m in the very early stages of learning this whole networking thing, but I’m willing to try. I have heard great things about using Facebook and social networking sites for networking your business, and maybe I’ll get around to doing that. I’m just not good at posting updates to Facebook without getting too personal. I don’t think people care if I went to the store today or if I’m serving eggs and bacon for dinner. But I’m open to the possibilities Facebook may offer. Yet another thing I’ll have to learn. I’ll just add that to the list. If you have any tips or pointers on how to network your business, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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