As we get older it can become more difficult to meet people. This is especially true after becoming a mom. When you’re consumed with the day-to-day tasks involved with parenting and running a home, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to get out there and make new connections.
Being a self-employed mom can make it even more challenging to get out there and meet people — particularly if you work from home. Meeting new people and networking, however, remains a crucial ingredient in the recipe for self-employment success.
So, how do you fight the urge to stay home in your sweats and instead pump yourself up to get out there and socialize? What are the actual benefits of networking? And, how do you find networking opportunities as a self-employed mom?
What are the benefits of networking
Networking is all about connecting with other people to share information and form new relationships. While networking offers a ton of benefits, it can be really intimidating. It can be hard to force yourself into a new social situation. Trust me, I get it.
I’m an introvert and I’m not fond of striking up conversations with strangers; I’d rather stay home and talk to my toddler. However, I’ve seen the light when it comes to networking. The value of connecting with like-minded people can truly change your business. And, as a self-employed mom, it’s up to you to get out there and make things happen if you want your business to thrive.
You may have heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.”
Ummm, nope! They won’t.
It’s more like, build it and your mom or your partner might show but no one else will because they don’t know you exist.
It takes work to get noticed. It takes work to find your first client or make your first sale, and it takes work to expand your business. Networking — meeting people and making meaningful connections — can speed the process along and you should consider it part of the job.
Networking can help you get noticed
So maybe just building it isn’t enough, but if you invest some time and energy into networking you will have a much better chance of getting someone’s attention. Getting your name out there is the first step to making a sale or finding a new client. Meeting people in your line of work, handing out your business cards, and making memorable connections will help to elevate your business.
Effective networking isn’t just about meeting people, it’s about meeting the right people — people that you can help and people who can help you. Proper networking allows you to target individuals within your industry or line of work rather than wasting your time pursuing the wrong connections. As a mom, you know that time is your most limited and valuable resource, so don’t let it go to waste.
Networking provides you with new ideas and perspectives
If you’re feeling a bit stuck or stalled in your business, networking can help. By talking to new people, with different backgrounds and unique perspectives, you will no doubt come up with some amazing new ideas for your business. And, with the right networking opportunity, you will probably leave feeling recharged, motivated, and brimming with new leads.
Networking can be good for your confidence
If you really don’t like networking then here’s what you need to do: network. I know, it’s not what you want to hear but, it’s true. The best way to feel confident in meeting new people is to put yourself in situations where you can practice meeting new people.
Good networking events are designed to help you connect with others. They provide opportunities (targeted group sessions) and activities (city tours, theme parties) that facilitate more deliberate connections. Attending a networking event is easier (and way less awkward) than going to a park or a pub and trying to make a new business connection.
At a networking event, everyone is there for the same reason — to meet new people! So, be the brave one and strike up a conversation — you never know where that discussion might take you.
Actionable networking tips for self-employed moms
Hopefully, now you can see the value in networking and you’re ready to use it as a tool to take your business to the next level. So what’s your first step? Where do you go? How do you network effectively?
Find networking opportunities
Not sure where to find networking events? You can start by checking out sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to see if there are any relevant events planned in your local area. You can also do a simple Google search with the terms “networking events in New York/ Denver/ Seattle … (wherever you are located.)”
Social media is another useful resource. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can be used to search for local networking opportunities. Or, you can use them to create your own networking event and invite people. As an added bonus, once the event is over you can use these platforms to stay in touch and learn more about the people that you met.
Also, start following people and companies in your industry on social media. Connect with them, comment on their work, make a virtual friend (and potential business connection)!
Join groups specifically for self-employed moms
As a self-employed mom, who better to connect with than other self-employed moms? You already have two huge things in common (self-employment and momming). You can find a number of extremely active and helpful working mom groups on social media. For instance, search “self-employed moms” or “working moms” on Facebook and you will get tons of relevant groups, some of which are local and allow face-to-face opportunities.
These groups are a great way to meet new moms who are experiencing the same joys and struggles associated with self-employment. They are also a wonderful place to ask for advice (both business and mom-related) and to find valuable business connections. Some groups have specific self-promotion days where you are able to share your services with the other hundreds or thousands of members in the group. This is a very effective way to advertise your product or service and find new clients.
Make a plan
You don’t want to go into a networking event without a plan. You should enter with a goal (or two or three) in mind. Goals that are ambitious but realistic.
- “I want to find three new clients.”
- “I want to sell enough products to cover the cost of my conference fee and flight.”
- “I want to connect with ______ (specific person here).”
- “I want to connect with someone from ________ company.”
Perfect your pitch
When you attend a networking event you will be asked again and again, “what is it that you do?” or “what brings you to this event?” And while people are asking because they are genuinely curious, they don’t need to hear your life story.
Come up with a succinct pitch (20 to 30 seconds) to share with new connections. This should include what you do (what value you offer, what problem you solve) and what makes you unique (how do you solve the problem in a new or different way?). And, because you are at a networking event, you can also include what you hope to get out of the experience.
Go for quality over quantity
Networking is not a competition. It’s not about how many conversations you have or how many business cards you collect, it’s about the quality of the connections that you make. Focus on getting to really know people and set the foundation for real relationships that will stand the test of time. Also, be real. People can see through a phony persona and no one wants to start a relationship (business or otherwise) with someone fake.
Cut yourself a break
If you’re totally brutal at your first networking event and you end up standing in a corner and not talking to anyone — don’t worry. It will get easier. Give yourself a break, but don’t give up.
If you find face-to-face networking to be too intimidating, ease yourself into things with some online networking. Join a Facebook group related to your line of work and start forming virtual connections.
It’s all about baby steps, so pick one small networking related task and get started today.
–By Jessica Martel