We love being a small home-based business. We are able to set our own hours, are specialists in flexible working, and don’t have to contend with office gossip and chatter. However, working from home also brings with it feelings of isolation and a head full of ideas with no one to share them with. Where do these ideas go? Probably into the ether because you don’t have a sounding board to go to.

This is why we love networking. We don’t go to many networking groups but have selected a few local groups and attend regular meet-ups. We believe in the empowerment of women so go to a female networking group. We find the level of support is different from other more corporate events. I guess our advice would be to think about how you network. Are corporates your target market? Would a corporate event add any value to you or your business? In our experience, corporate events are mainly about sales whereas smaller networking meet-ups are more about support and meeting like-minded business people. Yes, we go armed with our fabulous business cards (we always get complimented on their ‘professional’ look) and relish meeting new business people and discovering their business ventures. However, it’s not all about business networking, sometimes it’s great to have much-needed personal contact with other like-minded individuals. Only when you become a sole trader do you realise how different the self-employed are from employed staff. We are never fully off-duty and may find it difficult to completely switch off from our business day. This is why networking is so important, we need to embrace the difference and support each other, whether that is with advice, ideas or by signing up for a product or service.

We wonder what an eavesdropper would make of a business-to-business conversation at a networking event. Stilted conversations, often awkward initially, slowly develop into business relationships that could live on well into the future. That initial meeting is key and if your business is in its infancy it can be a stressful experience. Are they taking me seriously? Am I professionally dressed? Are they a potential competitor? Could they use my product? All questions that run through business minds during networking events. The point to make here is that we take something from every conversation by being open to new ideas or suggestions. Who knows where this initial conversation will lead?

Rest assured, we have all had moments of doubt and insecurity. Those feelings are human after all, being in business doesn’t turn you into an unfeeling robot. These feelings fluctuate and so what starts off as a positive day could end up being a ‘I can’t do this’ afternoon. Self-employment is hard work, no one can dispute that. The support of other business people is what gets us through, that sense of community is invaluable. Someone should bottle the warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we receive great support from our networking community…..priceless!