My remote business support is relatively new in terms of activity, but I’ve been inactively working on the idea of working for myself for years (and sometimes I wasn’t even aware that I really wanted to do this). I’ve been thinking about the idea of networking and have found that traditional advice of networking within your immediate circle is not a good idea. By immediate circle, I mean everyone you already know – and I know what I’m saying goes against the norm when it comes to business advice but it’s been my solid experience.
Let’s have some context
I stopped working in October which was also a busy time in terms of exams (I was writing my Level 4 Credit Management exams) but within a week I already knew that it was now or never. I had to get started. In between study breaks, I worked furiously to build the beautiful, candy-coated website you see before you today – yes I’m extremely proud of my work, thank you. I worked day and night, and it was less than 2 weeks and a few days after writing my exams when I realized that my website was ready! This was a scary thought because it meant several things, namely:
- I had nothing to do (no studying, no full time employment)
- I no longer had any more tweaks to add to the website, it was perfect
- I didn’t know exactly where to begin
Luckily, I’m strong-willed and am not the type to easily give up.
I start researching, reading, learning and growing – In the first week of doing this I have learnt to do things I never even thought of thinking about doing! I was impressed with myself and had every right to be because this meant that I actually could make this work. I am making it work – and it’s sort of working by itself.
Networking – Should you network with the people you know and who know you or are you better off with strangers?
The answer is yes and no at the same time. I know it’s an insane response but it requires intuition on your part. I’ve ignored my intuition and in all those instances I’ve ended up feeling as though I’ve made a mistake. Not about my business, but about trying to network with people within my immediate circle. Here’s why:
- They believe they know everything there is to know about you and are immediately unimpressed by what they know
- The don’t really see you as a professional “anything” and this includes past colleagues
- The idea of working remotely is foreign to them and they immediately try to quantify it in their heads by minimizing your capabilities
- They immediately try to file you in a special box where you’re probably just a typist who does admin
- With your past colleagues, the amnesia they face when it comes to your skills, training in capabilities is astounding! You suddenly become this incompetent entry level, unskilled person. The job you performed when you were employed with them is suddenly something you’ve never done. You’ll come across comments such as “So your life should be easy, all you do is admin work”. This person knows for a fact that you are a specialist in your field and on top of that, you are multifaceted.
- You don’t get the support you would have given had the roles been reversed. Let’s face it, people are jealous and complicated creatures – you never know when they’ll flip. When you’re excited about a certain project and how it is coming out, you immediately want to share that excitement with someone. The response you get empties your “good vibes” balloon immediately because they can’t bear to think you can do more amazing things than they can.
- They don’t understand what remote business support means and when you mention the word “virtual assistant”, it becomes worse – you then immediately get back in the “just admin” box
I could go on but I think you should have an idea by now.
What you should do when it comes to Networking
- Use your intuition, pay attention to people in your circle and read them. This will give you an idea of who to network with and who to not network with. One of my clients is an old friend who works and lives in another province! This would blow the minds off of those who don’t believe one can be a business asset and work remotely.
- Figure out who you can speak to about your business – whether it’s for thoughts, advice or to brainstorm. Remember that they may not be happy with you working on your own terms and seeming smarter or braver than they are.
- Connect with strangers – SOCIAL MEDIA. These people don’t know you personally, they know you as a product and they are your greatest supporters
- Connect with like-minded people. Find people in your industry (strangers again) and actually learn something from people who are not hung up on you being smarter or better than them. These are your people.
- Use social media, but don’t try to make people you know follow your pages or like your posts (and I learned this much later) because you’re helping them put you in a new box – one you won’t like. You’re now “the nuisance who wants to be followed on Instagram or Facebook” – to everyone I know and have asked this of, I sincerely apologize. If I knew then what I know now I would take those pleads to be followed and liked back – simply because, what I actually need as a business is an authentic like and follow. I need authentic interest and not care that I have 3 followers because as long as they’re authentic, they’re my market and industry. Having a million followers, a million irrelevant followers is completely useless!
- Start email marketing, social media marketing and online marketing in-between projects. Yes, I’m already busy working and working on projects even though I’m not a full month into the business
Here’s an interesting article about how to network with people you don’t know (Yay, strangers!)
You know what you’re bringing to the table, and what you have to offer. This should be enough to give you confidence (not arrogance) in your dream and its success. You should not need a friend of a friend to like something you’ve posted, something they can’t grasp themselves simply because it’s expected of friends. Put processes in place early on, use the right tools to get you on solid ground from the word go and live your truth. Trust the processes you’ve put into place, follow your own journey .If your journey has only 3 authentic followers and supporters, make it an epic adventure anyway. Focus on your focus and remember, you’re working on your own terms and fueling your own dream – you’re the engine that runs it all! Now go out there, and remember… networking … networking with the right people … and networking with relevant “friends”.
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