If you are like most people, you hate networking.
The idea of walking into a room and schmoozing a bunch of people hoping to find an ideal prospect probably sounds horrible.
But networking doesn't have to be that way.
There are other ways to approach networking other than just 'working the room' at a networking event.
My goal in this post is to share with you just a few ways to expand your network without feeling sleazy about it.
Lets rethink networking
In Alan Weiss's book Million Dollar Consulting he proposes the idea that networking by 'working a room' is a complete waste of time. While it can occasionally lead to a prospect, it is generally a crapshoot of going to event after event hoping to meet someone who may be a right fit.
Instead Alan proposes a new idea of networking.
Instead of looking at networking as something of quantity, look at it as something of quality.
In order to generate steady income as a freelancer, you don't need new clients every month. Instead you need a few good clients that keep feeding you work.
One strong connections is worth more than a hundred weak connections.
How do you make these strong connections?
It starts by fanning out from your best clients.
Think about the past clients you worked with, who are the best ones you have enjoyed working? Who had a positive experience working with you as well?
Chances are if you enjoyed working with them, you will enjoy working with their friends and colleagues as well.
So make the ask.
Ask your best clients if they know anyone else who may be a good fit and could benefit from your services.
This ripple effect with just a few strong clients can lead to a consistent flow of work that keeps your pipeline jammed full.
How l landed the dream client
When I was starting my first company, there was a definitive point where everything changed. It was the point when I met one client who opened up the doors to a world of new opportunities and a steady flow of work.
Meeting that client, and the friends of that client was all that I needed to build a successful pipeline of high quality work.
How did I meet that big client?
Through another client who had hired me in the past. He was invited me to a private party and made an introduction.
Once client leads to the next, who leads to the next, and you just keep going up the ladder.
Are networking events useless?
While I will admit that I am no longer a big fan of 'working a room', I wouldn't say that it is a completely useless strategy.
Throughout my career, I have met quality individuals and landed sales from 'working a room'.
This is a tactic that isn't for the bashful, but it can be an effective method to expand your network and meet new people.
The key with 'working a room' is to still remember the same thing. It is about quality, not quantity.
Don't be that guy who jumps from person to person just trying to hand out a business card. If you find a quality connection, stick with them and lead that into an ongoing relationship.
If you don't have a network of great clients quite yet, then working the room can be a great way to begin expanding your network.
Networking doesn't have to be in person
Over the past year, I have been traveling the world through 13 different countries. I have had few business meetings along the way.
Yet this year, my network has grown exponentially.
How have I grown my network without being in person?
I have marketed myself online attracting new people toward me.
I have networked in online forums and groups.
I have started a podcast, The Creative Freelancer Show, which is an incredible networking tool.
And I have just stayed in touch with my existing friends and network.
Even if you can't meet people in person, you can still expand your network online.
The bottom line
Stop thinking about networking as a numbers game.
Start thinking of it as connecting with people.
A few quality connections is worth more than a stack of 1000 random business cards.
Forget the quantity.
Focus on quality.