These days, it seems like almost everyone is trying to become an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s estimated that in the United States alone, around 550,000 people dive into the entrepreneurial world each month.
There are plenty of reasons behind entrepreneurship's appeal. After all, what could be better than being your own boss, doing what you love for a living and taking total control of your schedule?
While these are very real benefits to becoming an entrepreneur, there’s also no denying that running your own business can be very stressful — and in some cases, lonely. Running a solo business out of your home doesn’t always lend itself to many social opportunities.
In my own experiences as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that reaching out and taking advantage of networking opportunities has made a huge difference. This isn’t limited to face-to-face contact, either.
For entrepreneurs, seeking out both in-person and digital relationships can lead to new work opportunities — but more importantly, it can help you avoid the mental and emotional burnout that can cause would-be startups to fail.
Here’s a closer look at why reaching out and cultivating new relationships is so important for your business endeavors.
How Networking Makes a Difference
While most of us look at networking as a way of opening up new business opportunities, it actually has a far more important benefit: helping budding entrepreneurs achieve peace of mind. Research has consistently found that developing quality relationships — including in a work setting — is associated with better physical health and improved happiness.
It can even help us respond better to stress.
When I spoke with Nick Peroni, founder of Ecom Empires, about this subject, he explained, “It can be really hard to try to tackle a business-related challenge on your own. When you can talk things over with a mentor or fellow entrepreneur, it becomes so much easier to think clearly and not get overwhelmed by the situation.”
Ultimately, having strong relationships in place will make it easier to confront stressful situations. Talking things out with people you know and trust will help you find new solutions to your business problems. Even the simple act of reaching out to new people can help you build confidence for future client interactions.
Of course, networking can also have a more tangible impact on your business. A mentor or friend could point you to new ideas or opportunities you might not have known about in the past. Networking can help you find new business partners who will take your company to the next level or refer new clients to you. It can make it easier to find talented people to join your team.
Regardless of whether your efforts result in a new business opportunity or a friend who you can share ideas with, networking will provide improved outcomes from your entrepreneurial efforts.
Finding Networking Opportunities
Knowing that networking can relieve stress and help you improve your business is one thing, but how do you actually find networking opportunities? While social media has made it easier to reach out to new people in the business world, conferences and other networking events continue to be highly attended for a reason.
In reality, networking opportunities are everywhere. When I spoke with Michael Phuong, Director of Conversion World Conferences, he explained, “While industry conferences make it much easier to find likeminded people, every event you go to has the potential to be a new networking opportunity. You never know who you might meet at a sporting event or charity auction. While it may require that you get out of your comfort zone in order to make these new connections, the results are well worth the initial effort.”
Widespread use of social media has also opened up new digital networking opportunities — a major blessing for those who may not have the funds to travel to an expensive conference.
Professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy to connect with other entrepreneurs, or you could try engaging with big-time influencers on Twitter. Even those relationships founded in the digital world can provide invaluable advice and emotional support.
Of course, whenever you interact with others, it pays to be authentic. People can tell when you’re only talking to them in the hopes of advancing your own career, and in reality, these types of networking efforts aren’t going to bring you peace of mind when the going gets tough.
Take a genuine interest in the lives and businesses of those you interact with so that you can form real friendships that everyone involved will value in the years to come, regardless of whether or not it results in a direct sale. Combine this interest with your passion for your own work, and you’ll make a lasting impression on those you meet.
While it’s true that networking isn’t always easy for the solo entrepreneur, it’s clear what a powerful impact it can have. As you seek out networking opportunities and form genuine relationships with others who are trying to make it in the business world, you’ll be able to create the support network you need to achieve lasting success.
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