I’m sure that networking is one of the most stressed-over aspects of being independent.
As a sovereign professional, as in business in general, everyone says you must network. Maybe it’s a terribly reserved, British thing, but networking sounds so mercenary, so manipulative, so transactional. That perception is only perpetuated by the soulless, transactional approach taken by some networking organisations.
Networking shouldn’t really be like that and Bill Barnett’s post on the HBR blog (Lessons from Successful Networkers) is helpful. Considering two contrasting but highly successful networkers, he concludes:
“Finally, both Steve and Baxter are completely genuine. They don’t try to do anything heroic or outside their normal interpersonal styles. It works because they’re comfortable and honest — even when the opportunity presented isn’t right for them. They know what they’re doing is good for everyone involved.”
Being genuine is the key; find a way, and a platform that works for you and then invest for the long-term. Networking is not instant; it’s about getting to know people, helping them where you can and helping them to know you.
Ford Harding’s Rainmaking is a great book on marketing for professions and has a useful chapter on networking.