Networking is often regarded as something that we know we should be doing, but find it hard to fit into our busy schedules. Many contractors and other professionals feel as though networking requires a lot of time and effort, but has no guaranteed reward.
But in an increasingly competitive environment, where contracting is regarded as a desirable career option with potentially large financial rewards, meeting new people and expanding your client base is crucial to the success of your business.
Meeting with your contacts face-to-face and really getting a feel for their business values is much more beneficial to relationship-building than any call or email.
And the benefits work both ways. Everyone at a networking event is there for a reason; they want to expand their knowledge and meet other like-minded people. If other professionals have met you personally and if you've come across well, they are much more likely to invest in your specialist skills in future.
New to contracting?
If you're new to contracting or if you're interested in becoming a contractor, attending workshops or other networking events is a great way to get a feel for the industry.
Not only does it provide an opportunity to meet professionals in your industry and establish yourself as a contractor, but it also shows clients that you are willing to make the effort and are serious about learning.
From a client's perspective, meeting them and showing your passion for the industry will get you in their good books and may even provide you with the leads you need for your dream project.
While listening to what other professionals have to say is important, be curious and make sure you ask the right questions too.
If you know who is going to be attending the event, make a list of the people you want to talk to, and perhaps write down or consider a few questions that you could ask. Make sure you speak to a variety of people, and always conduct yourself in a professional manner - you don’t know who they know or how useful they may be to you in the future.
Keep things light-hearted, and don't be too forward. Try and get the relevant contact details from whoever you speaking to at the end of your conversation, and save the hardcore business talk for later.
For those giving seminars or workshops, they want the audience to interact and well-prepared questions can often help by providing an insight into what they should cover in future sessions.
Maintain your network
Attending networking and industry events isn't just a one off thing or something you do every couple of years.
Networking will aid you in your contracting career and by attending such events on a regular basis, you will be kept up-to-date with the latest trends and news within your sector.
It means that you are continuing to learn new skills and gain knowledge that will be of use throughout your career. It is also crucial that you maintain the connections you create as they are likely to bring you new business.