I’d like you to think about the people you spend the majority of your time with.
Are they supportive? Constructive? Do they engage you in great conversation? Do they encourage you to grow and go after the things you want in your life?
Or are they holding you back by making you question your dreams? Are you keeping yourself small so you don’t make someone else feel bad?
When it comes down to it, you are the aggregate of the five people you spend the most time with, so those people really matter.
As an aspiring or new business owner, you need to cultivate this group well.
If you are surrounded by people who aren’t also interested in expanding themselves, your business will suffer, too!
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to grow a good network, and these are some things I’ve learned along the way.
- Attend high-level professional and networking events.
The higher the quality of the events you’re going to, the higher the quality of your network. By finding events that are really focused on professional networking, you know that you’re in rooms with people who care about growth in the same way you do. These are people you can learn from and collaborate with, and they’ll inspire great ideas you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
- Use meetup.com to find local events related to your industry.
Online forums and networks are great resources, but it’s also important to cultivate a local network. I use meetup.com to meet people locally who are on the same wavelength, and when I travel, too. When I moved to Barcelona, I went on a day trip with a women’s networking group. Through that, I made two business contacts, one who may turn into a client and one who’s referred me clients.
- Find professional conferences in (and related to) your industry.
When I first started freelancing back in Portland over a decade ago, I started attending local professional events. Often they weren’t directly related to my work, but they always gave me new ideas. If you’re a marketer, maybe you could find useful information and contacts at an American Institute of Graphic Arts event. Or if you’re a designer, maybe American Marketing Association events could help you find new clients. Stepping outside of your zone of expertise exposes you to fresh new ideas, and this is a great way to do that.
- Join Facebook groups.
It feels strange to say this, since I’m not a big fan of Facebook when it comes to professional stuff. That said, many Facebook groups are a great way to get in touch with people who you might not otherwise meet. Search for groups related to your profession, interests, and hobbies, and see what is out there. You might be surprised what you find!
- Seek out Linkedin groups.
Compared to Facebook groups, these are inherently more professional and focused on building out your network, but they do tend to be smaller. See if you can use these to identify interesting business contacts that you can follow up with individually.
- Join a Mastermind group
if you’re ready to invest more significant amounts of time or money. A Mastermind is a group of people that come together to elevate each other’s network and business. It’s usually higher-end, and a lot of coaches operate Masterminds that charge a small fortune. You can find cheaper ones, or even create your own! You just need to come up with some rules and ideas – look around online for guides – and then set regular meetings (in-person or virtual). It’s especially interesting when groups bring together people from different industries for some cross-pollination of ideas.
- Hire a coach (or join a group coaching program)
If you’re not sure where to grow next and want someone who’s gotten where you want to be, hire a business coach! Not only do you access your coaches knowledge, but oftentimes you’ll get access to your coaches network if you join a group program or online course. You coach can probably also recommend ways to grow your network you haven’t thought of yet.
Ultimately, the goal of growing your network is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, create higher quality contacts, and create a supportive network (especially if you’re new to consulting, or your existing networks don’t understand your decisions) where you can go when you are tired, overwhelmed or stuck.
If entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would do it… the truth is, you’re going to have days where you question why you started working for yourself. You’ll have programs or calls or projects that don’t go well and you’ll not be able to figure out why, and you’ll want to rip your hair out.
It’s on days like that when you NEED a supportive friend who get’s it to talk to – not your mom or bestie from high school who’s going to tell you to get a real job.
If you don’t have the right support system, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful because you’ll give up.
Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Start elevating your network now.
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