It’s not what you know, but who you know that can make all the difference to your ability to win work as an independent consultant. I believe this is why so many of us invest in networking, both online and offline, to make sure we stand a chance of either a referral or an opportunity to offer our services directly to those in need of them.
I have seen many business owners post on Linkedin asking for recommendations for networking groups to attend so they can increase the number of people in their community, and therefore their chances of finding new clients.
But I don’t recommend the monthly networking session that I have attended for over five years and here I’ll explain why I don’t think it’s for everyone…
Ours is a monthly networking session for independent consultants and freelancers in Leeds. You can find out more about us here.
It’s not about generating business leads
We’re not the sort of networking group that encourages people looking for business leads. That’s not what we’re about. We have been meeting for over five years and after trying various different formats have settled on one which combines open networking over a cuppa and bacon buttie (if you want) with a structured meeting. We share our successes and achievements, ask for help with business problems, and invite guest speakers to offer insight into topics ranging from pricing to social media and ISO. This year’s sessions range from “Consultants and Twitter” to “Contract law in the age of email” and “Speaking tips”.
It’s not about selling
Getting to know people and what they do better is at the heart of our networking sessions. We encourage people to keep coming along to our monthly meetings to share their expertise with the group either by helping others who may have a business problem they have some experience with, or by short presentations which showcase their work.
We don’t put any pressure on people to make referrals or pass work to each other. But it does happen. I have picked up several contracts as a result of referrals from members who believe I can help their clients and who are happy to recommend me to them.
It’s about listening and learning
If you visit a networking meeting the chances are you’re looking to make some connections, to promote your business and, in some cases, to check out the competition.
You’re probably not looking for ways to find out how you could improve your business, or information that could help you be a better, more informed consultant.
I have learned a huge amount through my regular attendance at these sessions – and all for free! I’ve also been able to practice my presentation skills, and fine tune the content of these presentations, with a willing and very supportive audience of consultants with oodles of experience. Whether I have been giving short presentations on how to use social media at a monthly networking session, or contributing to the larger events we have organised as part of Leeds Business Week, I have always found the group extremely supportive and helpful – giving me tips and feedback to help me improve.
So, if you’re looking for people to sell to, or for people who can become referrers of your business, our networking meetings might not be a good use of your time.
If you’re looking for a place where you can pick people’s brains about how to be successful as an independent consultant and where you can learn about things ranging from law to mindfulness to marketing, then please do come along to a meeting.
I guarantee you won’t regret it!