When someone mentions networking to me, I immediately think of the highly structured and formal physical networking events that I was often invited to as a new business owner.  Whilst the thought of a 1-minute elevator pitch delivered to a room full of serious, grey-clad business professionals, and having dozens of identikit business cards pressed into my hands doesn’t exactly leave me feeling overjoyed, I know that there is value in networking groups and that what doesn’t necessarily work for me works for a lot of other people.  I also know that when you do find a networking club or community that you do ‘click’ with, it can work wonders for your business!  But that’s not the kind of networking I’m talking about in this blog – today, I’m talking about networking with peers.

Many traditional business networking organisations refrain from having too many members from specific sectors in a group, with some even having a single space reserved for a VA or OBM and preventing competitors from joining the community.  Whilst I appreciate that this may appear to help to reduce competition, for me, some of the most valuable relationships I have with business owners are with people with roles almost identical to my own.  For me, networking is about collaboration, not competition – there are more than enough opportunities to go around out there – and it’s with the support of fellow VAs, OBMs and Freelancers from the sector that we can find, service and maintain these opportunities.

John Donne said ‘No man is an island’ – and no VA is either.  We need to build relationships with our peers for so many positive reasons:

1.)   Because they understand the unique pressures and demands of the job – whether it’s a family friend who wants to do the same ‘side hustle’ as you (without having the appropriate skill-set), or being forced to answer the door to every parcel delivery driver in the county because you are the only person ‘not working’ (aka ‘at home during the day’).  We all need someone to have a little rant to occasionally, it’s cathartic! And who better to chat to than someone who knows the struggles first-hand?

2.)   Because sometimes you need a sense check – contemplating some new insurance or investing in some new software? Someone in your community has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt AND is happy to talk through their experiences with you so that you can avoid a few of the potential pitfalls that they have experienced.

3.)   Because they might be able to help talk potential solutions to a customer problem (generically, of course!) – occasionally, a customer problem might stump you, but talking the issue through with a peer who offers a similar service to you might help you gain clarity and find the answer! Just be sure to keep things generic to ensure that you’re not accidentally sharing data.

4.)   Because you need someone to support you – and you need to trust them! You are a human being, and as such can occasionally fall victim to coughs, colds and viruses; you might also fancy a holiday every now and then. Both of these are 100% acceptable, but to manage your business through illness and absence you need someone (or a team of people) who can help you. Networking with your peers is a great way to build rapport with people so that you can find someone you value and trust to rely on as an associate (if they have capacity!).

5.)   Because social interaction is a key part of workplace happiness – even if you don’t miss the communal bathroom/kitchen dramas of an office, it’s likely you will occasionally miss having someone to say ‘Hello!’ to as you sit down at your desk or make a cup of tea.  You might miss the fun of the office ‘Secret Santa’ or the informal drinks after work on a Friday.  Working remotely, it’s never going to be quite the same, BUT you can still build positive working relationships if you find a supportive and like-minded community of freelancers.  Take VIP VA – we have regular in-person meet ups for both members and non-members, helping to bring people together to chat and build positive and long-lasting relationships. If you’d like to find a meet up close to you, CLICK HERE to find out more! 

Networking doesn’t have to be all bad coffee, grey suits, and awkward sales pitches. It can be fun, it can be fulfilling, and it can make all the difference in your VA business when you find the right peer AND local business networking groups for you.