Beat the isolation: 5 ways for a Virtual Assistant to network
Does networking make you feel a bit out of your comfort zone? If it does, don’t think you are alone. I remember when I first starting networking – it was scary, it was not something I did before starting my company in February 2014.
Since then, I’ve been to over 300 4Networking meetings plus countless other networking meetings. I’ve learnt to recognise the ones I thrive at, the ones that suit me and the ones that don’t. Remember every networking event you try won’t be right for you. The thing is to find the one that fits with your personality and style.
Also try thinking about it this way. With every opportunity, every person you meet you are networking. Networking shouldn’t be about collecting a stack of business cards, bringing referrals and being all “salesy”.
For virtual assistants with a home-based business, time is valuable. Making time to meet others is valuable too. Sometimes, just being in the right place at the right time can benefit you and your business.
See my article on “You are the 5 people you spend the most time with” to help you understand why networking is all about the opportunity.
Networking is an opportunity to share or learn something. Simply meeting other business owners, you find out what’s going on, learn from each other and get to know a whole bunch of people you can pick up the phone to and ask for help.
Think about how much time you have and choose your networking events wisely. Decide what you want to get out of it, go with a positive mind, be ready to listen and ask questions. You’ll find it work wonders for your business.
Related Reading “Why I drove for over 6 hours to attend a networking meeting”.
If you enjoyed a conversation or chat, follow up with an email and say how nice it was to meet. People will remember you for taking an interest.
And when someone asks what you do it’s your opportunity to surprise and delight. Have your answer ready. Try to tell people how you add value to other businesses rather than list all the tasks you do.
5 ways for Virtual Assistants to network
Virtual Assistants networks Online or Social media
There are hundreds of Facebook communities out there to join. Get involved in the conversation, ask a question or offer help. Look at Twitter too, especially the popular weekly Business Hours. It’s a great way to get your business known online in your local area. For example, search for the hashtag, #stockporthour or go to @stockporthour. With over 2,000 followers, have a browse and see how Twitter could work for you.
Where to find Business Network Events to prevent that feeling of isolation
Check your local business pages for networking events in your area and choose a time that suits you. Groups like 4Networking has fortnightly breakfast, lunch and evening meetings all over the UK with 5000+ unstuffy business networking events each year.
Other networking events I know about, who each in their own unique way help to relieve isolation are:
- Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
- Moxie Mingle
- The Chamber of Commerce
- Expos (for exhibitors)
- Local firms
- Business for Breakfast Groups
- Busy Bee Networking Groups
- Business Biscotti Group
- Biz Mums
What other ones have you found? What is it that you like about the ones you go to?
Charity and community events
Volunteering a small amount of time to do something for a local community or charity event is a great opportunity to make new connections. Even if it’s only an hour a week, your skills will be valued and people will remember you for the contribution you made.
Hobbies and interests
Your leisure time is networking. Whether you enjoy walking, drawing, squash, tennis or cycling, you’re with people who share the same interests as you, so you already have something in common and a conversation opener.
Family and friends
Don’t overlook your family and friends as great referrers. They know and meet lots of other people so make sure they can explain what you do.
Don’t think of networking just to get leads or sales. People sense when you’re just on a pitch so listen, let them talk about their topic because you may be able to help them.
Example of how networking benefits a business
A virtual assistant I know was struggling with an IT issue. Not a major issue but it was niggling away at the back of her mind. She kept going back to it, trying to fix it and had already spent way too much time trying to fix it and even more time thinking about it. At a local networking event she got talking to IT specialist. She called him the following day, he fixed the problem and gave a nice discount because he met her at networking. There you have it. Time and money saved and a new contact to go to for help
Want to get started or need networking advice?
Talk to Rachael, Area Leader for 4Networking North West (Macclesfield, Cheadle & Stockport meetings specifically). The relaxed, fun and friendly business networking with three 10-min business appointments at EVERY meeting. Find meetings locally, regionally and nationally, or swap advice and biz with 50,000+ members online.
Remember when I started out, I felt uncomfy, no idea what to expect or any clue on how this was going to help get my business off the ground. Now 3 years on I’ve been to probably over 600 events, I’m on a team running 3 and I can track every one of my customers back to networking, either online or face to face.
Want to try networking with the confidence you’ll know someone there?
If so head over to Rachael’s page “Speak to Me” to find out which networking events she will be at in the next couple of months along with booking links where they are available.
What’s your favourite way to network?
Leave a comment, let me know what works for you.