Starting your own business as a nutritional professional is exciting. You get to set your own hours and help your clients make lasting positive changes in their health. You are also doing it solo, which can make drumming up business and networking a bit intimidating.
Don’t worry about networking alone. We’ve got you covered with how to navigate networking opportunities without a colleague by your side.
Practice Introducing Yourself
Whip out your phone or fire up your computer’s movie-making software. Record yourself introducing yourself and then watch it. While it might be painful at first, the best way to recognize your habits, from a lot of “umms” to gestures, is to record, watch, and record again until you feel confident.
Be sure to include what you do, who you work with, and where you are located or how you work. Keep this info short so it is easy for people to process. But don’t be so short that they don’t know how to continue the conversation.
Attend Networking Events
This one might sound obvious, but that’s because there are events specifically designed for networking, and then there are also other networking opportunities, such as getting a table at a health fair. Do a quick search online for networking events in your area, and you are bound to find a bunch, especially if you live in a metro area. A lot of businesses host free and open networking events as part of their community relations. A great place to look is with your local chamber of commerce too. After all, they want their community’s businesses to thrive.
These events do not have to be specific to your industry either. Building connections, spreading the word that you are open for business, and getting yourself out there and meeting people is a great way to garner support for your work and expand your network. It’s also a great confidence booster and reminds you of who you are, what you do, and why you are great.
Arrive at the Right Time
Walking alone into a networking event that is already roaring along is intimidating and harder to break into. Show up right on time when the room is usually quieter and other solo-networkers are arriving too. Instead of posting up against a wall, sitting at a table, or diving into food immediately, grab a water and stay close to the entrance so you can be visibly open to conversation and also see people as they walk in.
Talk, But Not Too Much
Remember that everyone came to network. They want you to talk to them, especially that wallflower in the back. Don’t sit or stand around waiting for someone to come to you. You’ve rehearsed your intro, so break out a warm smile and say hi. Try chatting in the food line or greeting someone who just walked in.
Also, know when to move along from a conversation. At a networking event, it is perfectly okay to say hi, chat a little, and move along to another person. Some people will get a follow up from you, and others will not. Do not feel obliged to stick around longer than you need to.
In addition to attending official networking events, sign up or ask to give presentations. Freelancer and small business owner groups often have weekly or monthly gatherings where you can present yourself to the whole group.
Try calling your local businesses and asking if you can come in to give a presentation. A great way to make this happen is to ask people in your network for a contact in their company’s human resources department. Even better, ask them for an email introduction. Present yourself as a welcome contribution to their employees’ health and wellness and perhaps negotiate a special deal. Request a meeting and ask to make a presentation to their employees.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Networking can bring up a lot of awkward moments and is a bust sometimes. Whether you are starting out or expanding and growing your business, don’t be afraid to fail. You do not have to like everyone you meet or click with them.
Expect the Unexpected
Remember that when you network with someone, you not only add them to your network, you also get added to theirs. Perhaps they might not seem interested in your services, but they understand your work, have respect for you, and know a bunch of people who would want to do business with you.
Go in open-minded and do not worry too much about immediate results. Keep track of who you want to follow up with, follow up, and stay positive.
Have an Idea of What You Want
Being open to what may come from a connection does not mean you cannot have ideas. Are you looking for individual clients? Hoping to fill a specific cohort of clients? Want to meet fellow business owners for support? You can network for different purposes or be open to them all. Knowing what you want ahead of time will help you create connections and know what to chat about with people.
Be Easy to Follow Up With
Business cards are great, but business cards with QR codes and digital business cards are even greater. How many times have you collected a bunch of business cards only to leave them sitting around your desk? Or worse, lose them in your car or carrying case?
Save yourself in your phone contacts and text or directly share your info with people immediately, especially if you are highly interested in following up and staying connected. You can also be savvy with the “notes” field in your own contact info. Include the name of the networking event, your website, and social media handles, and say thank you for the connection.
Whether you receive a business card from someone else or add them to your contacts, include a little note to yourself about how you met them and what you talked about. That way, you don’t have to worry about remembering all the details and you can move right along to more networking.
Find a Mentor
Another excellent way to build your network and learn is to get a mentor who has an already established business. Your mentor does not have to be a nutrition professional either. In fact, it might be helpful if this person is in a complementary business, related industry, or works the same way. For example, massage therapists, private practice psychologists and psychotherapists, personal trainers, and yoga teachers are all in health and wellness. They will understand your industry. But anyone with a successful small business offering services will too, such as a writing or business coach. Even the owner of a local coffee shop might make a great mentor.
A good mentor is someone who you can relate to, is comfortably willing to spend time offering advice, and can offer some business wisdom. A great mentor will also be your champion and can help you grow your network. That coffee shop owner might be open to you hosting your own weekly networking event!
When you cannot get to in-person events, network digitally. Build a following on your social media by setting up a content ecosystem: post on your blog, share the posts on social media, and be social. Actively contribute to the conversation. Pretend that you are at an in-person networking event and go out there and chat with people!
Also, try joining Facebook groups. Some of these groups are just sales funnels, but some of them are also very practical, very helpful, and easy to join. Join a bunch, follow along, and just like in-person networking, don’t be afraid to leave them and move on when they are not a good fit.
LinkedIn is your best friend for following up and keeping people in your network. Connect with them easily and stay in touch. You can also create a page for your business and post all of your blog content to LinkedIn as well.
If You Cannot Find It, Make It
When you can’t find the event you want or the online group you want, make it. Carve new pathways and opportunities to draw your network to you. Try creating a group that fits your niche, such as diabetes health and wellness professionals. Or make a group based on who you are, such as freelancing dads or boss women.
Whether attending an official networking event, presenting a pitch, or creating your own group, get yourself out there. Practice introducing yourself, know what you want to gain from your network, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Make connections and grow your business!