How often have you heard, “You should network more!” Maybe it’s even your own inner voice shouting this at you. (Isn’t that inner voice our worst critic?)
Let me be the first to say, “Stop should-ing on yourself!”
Now, that’s not to say those voices are wrong. There are numerous benefits of networking for businesses — especially solopreneur businesses.
And it’s when we keep our eyes on the prize of getting those benefits that networking goes from something we “should” do to something that we “get to” do…
Something we have the privilege of doing…
Dare I say, something we look forward to doing?
What Are the Benefits of Networking?
We often think of networking as something that big businesses do. But there are networking benefits for businesses of every size.
As a solopreneur, you work solo, sure, but you’re a business too. And that means the same activities that work for big businesses can (and do) work for you.
So let’s look at 13 benefits of networking that you can enjoy as a solopreneur.
Networking Benefit #1. Confidence
Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
I would add one more word: Go out and get busy networking.
But confidence, like Rome, isn’t built in a day. Especially with networking.
I’m an introvert, so just showing up to my first networking events was a big win for me. But I found that networkers are a friendly bunch.
They made me feel welcome. They made networking feel safe.
And the more I showed up, the more my confidence grew.
Yours can, too.
Networking Benefit #2. Test audience
Perhaps the most common question at a networking event is this: “So, what do you do?”
This is a prime opportunity to test your messaging!
Consider these three responses to the “what do you do?” question:
- I sell Mary Kay.
- I’m an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay.
- I help women take care of their skin and look their best with the help of the great products developed by Mary Kay.
How do you think people would respond to each of these messages? Which opens the door to further discussion?
Of course, the last one gets people more engaged.
By paying attention to how people at a networking event (your test audience) responds to your messaging, you can learn how to make that messaging stronger.
For example, do they respond better when you say, “take care of their skin and look their best”? Or is it better to say, “look their best and take care of their skin”? It’s a subtle change, but one that may make an impact.
And networking can be the perfect place to test it.
Networking Benefit #3. Trusted resources
How many times have you needed something — a plumber, an accountant, a business attorney — but not known who you should call on for help?
So, you search Google. But just because they show up on the first page of a Google search, how do you really know how good they are?
Wouldn’t it be better to know people ahead of time? Before you actually need them?
That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, it is!
Or at least better to know people you trust who can give you the recommendation rather than the bots and spiders of the Google algorithm.
Networking is the fastest and easiest way to build your network of trusted resources that you can turn to when you need them for solutions to problems.
Networking Benefit #4. Mastermind opportunities
To be clear, networking isn’t the same as masterminding. But networking can help you find people to mastermind with.
Masterminding is about brainstorming, encouraging, and holding each other accountable for forward progress. Napoleon Hill has been credited with coining the term in Think and Grow Rich, and many successful entrepreneurs cite masterminds as a key to their success.
Networking, on the other hand, is about building relationships and connecting with others. And it can be a great way to find your mastermind partners.
Networking Benefit #5. Human connection
In his book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, UCLA neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman says human connection is as crucial to our survival as food, shelter, and water.
But for solopreneurs, work life — where we spend many of our waking hours — can be lonely. We often don’t have much human connection beyond the customers and clients we serve.
Networking can change that.
Attending networking events is a chance to get and maintain the human connection we humans need.
Networking Benefit #6. Personal and/or professional growth
Because it exposes you to new people and new ideas, networking can get you to push your personal boundaries and think outside the four walls of your “box” office.
Maybe it’s the insurance agent we meet who mentions the great new yoga studio they found, and this lets us take our personal at-home yoga practice to the next level. Or the real estate agent who recommends a great book that changes how we follow up with clients.
The beauty of networking is that you never know who may be in the room. And you never know what golden thought nugget they may drop in your lap.
And you never will know if you don’t show up.
Networking Benefit #7. Friendships
When you commit to networking and start doing it regularly, you end up meeting people. Some you won’t have much in common with. But some you will.
And some of those people you will connect with on a deeper level. They’ll become friends.
I have friends that add immense value to my life who I never would have met if not for networking.
This is especially important when you’re new to an area. It’s also important when you’ve grown into a new phase of your life.
Networking helps you meet professionals who are like-minded. It helps you develop friendships with people who understand and support you as a solopreneur.
Networking Benefit #8. Joint ventures
Imagine a business attorney and an accountant holding a series of workshops together for start-up businesses. Or a solar installer pairing up with a roofing contractor to bundle their services together under the same financing. Or the Mary Kay consultant and a photographer teaming up to offer professional headshot photo sessions.
These are just a few examples of joint ventures I’ve seen develop out of networking.
These joint ventures came about — and worked — because each of these solopreneurs built relationships and trust with people they met through networking.
Networking Benefit #9. Co-marketing
Like joint ventures, networking can be the source of connections that lead to exciting co-marketing opportunities.
For example, I’ve seen landscapers and pool service companies team up and send postcards that promote both of their services. A solopreneur insurance agent I know teamed up with real estate agents hosting open houses so that they both got new leads. A health and wellness coach partnered with a personal trainer to share a vendor booth at a women’s event.
Co-marketing is a great way to get more out of your marketing budget and reach more people. And these co-marketing efforts all came about because the people involved got to know each other through networking.
Networking Benefit #10. Sounding board
Sometimes you just need to ask other business professionals for their opinions. For those times when you don’t need the higher level of support that a mastermind provides, networking can be a safe place to ask people you trust, “What do you think?”
To clarify this point, these conversations may not happen at an actual networking event — that’s not the time or place to get into deeper personal issues.
But you find the people who are safe to have these talks with as a result of networking, making connections, and building relationships.
Networking Benefit #11. Information
Sometimes the most valuable networking benefit is hearing a key piece of information that will impact your business and/or your life as a solopreneur. Let’s face it, when you’re wearing all the hats, all the information coming to your business comes only through you.
Networking and being around other people opens you up to more sources of information.
Maybe it’s a reminder that your state or federal reporting deadline is approaching. (Thank you, bookkeepers and accountants who are out there networking!)
Maybe it’s a Google algorithm change that’s likely to impact your digital marketing. (Thank you, digital marketers, web developers, and copywriters who are out there networking!)
You get the idea.
When we’re solopreneurs, it’s easy to stay isolated in our own business. But in doing so, we miss out on information that can help us. Networking is a way to be more aware of this other information.
Networking Benefit #12. Public speaking
Networking doesn’t have to involve public speaking. But it certainly can provide public speaking opportunities if you’re looking for them.
And some networking groups — BNI (Business Network International) and Toastmasters, for example — even give you regular chances to hone your public speaking skills.
One way to get more comfortable with public speaking while networking is to volunteer to take on a leadership role within the networking organization. The leaders usually have various speaking roles during networking events, like announcing upcoming events, introducing speakers, etc.
These small speaking roles can lead — when you’re ready — to larger speaking roles.
And the more you speak, the more visibility and credibility you gain in the eyes of your audience.
Networking Benefit #13. Fun
Not all networking events are stodgy, stuffy events. In fact, these days, more networking groups are adding fun activities to their events.
For example, you may find groups hosting wine and/or food tasting, painting or other crafts, scavenger hunts, group hikes, picnics, etc.
And, really, fun is a mindset, after all. If you approach networking with the intent that it will be fun, it will be. Regardless of the official agenda.
See for Yourself What Networking Will Do for You
These 13 hidden networking benefits are particularly beneficial to solopreneurs like you and me.
Networking gives us resources and opportunities we simply don’t have on our own. It helps us maintain a healthy balance of alone time in our business and connection with others. It can help us achieve higher levels of success faster.
I encourage you to Google “networking events near me.” Or, better yet, ask other local professionals you know where they network.
Or join the Hub, here at Solopreneur Life. It bundles coaching and networking in a fun, supportive community.
Pick something happening this week or next.
And show up.
Then pick another. And show up to that, too.
Networking is a long-game, so don’t expect overnight success and results. It takes time to build meaningful relationships with the people you connect with.
The time and effort that it takes is worth it.
Once you try it, you’ll see for yourself what benefits networking has in store for you.