The UK contracting sector might well be experiencing a massive surge in demand at the moment but networking for new business remains an essential part of every contractor’s routine and provides security for the future when times might be a little harder. Every contractor knows that feeling of hitting the job boards, finding exciting jobs, applying and then discovering that the job went the same day it was advertised. We all know it probably went to someone through word of mouth or a recommendation. And we all know that networking, as unappealing as it might be, is something we’ve got to do.
These days, there are two different kinds of networking that are relevant to contractors – online and real world contracting. Both are worth pursuing and both are a good source of clients if done correctly. Real world networking involves getting out to local business networking events, power breakfasts, lunchtime meet-ups and any kind of get-together in your local community as well as national business link-ups, trade fairs, expo’s and any national small business events that come along. Online networking on the other hand involves making connections online, not just in the usual job sites where a lot of contractors find work and clients but also in specific networking sites and sites (or forums) relevant to the contractor’s industry.
With that in mind, here are seven essential sites for networking, online and in the real world for UK contractors:
The Federation of Small Businesses (The FSB) – One of the UK’s largest business organisations, the FSB lobbies for small businesses and provides a valuable service for people who run their own businesses, offering support, advice and networking as part of its membership. As well as offering national networking opportunities through its website it also organizes regular local and regional small business get-togethers where people can connect with other businesses in their area. Most of them are free although they do sometimes charge a small fee for dinners or golfing events.
The British Chamber of Commerce (The BCC) – Another place to find out about local networking opportunities will be your local Chamber of Commerce organisation. They will be the first port of call for any local business groups and local business events and will put you in the same room as large businesses in your area. As with the FSB there are plenty of free events and the occasional paid shindig in the evening or at the local golf course.
Meetup.com – Meetup is a broad event-listing website for the UK that covers everything from meditation to marketing, karaoke nights to hiking groups and business groups to networking groups for every region of the country. You can search by region or by city (or even by postcode) and you can find very specific group types for all kinds of business interests and niches in your area. What’s more, if a group doesn’t exist you can set up your own.
4Networking – Founded by Brad Burton, 4Networking is an inexpensive and useful networking organisation that is short on pretentiousness and long on business opportunities. Each meeting follows a simple formula; brief introductions and then you are free to set up 10 minute meet and greets with anyone you think could be interesting and useful to your business (and vice versa). Each breakfast meeting costs only £10.
Business Link – Business Link is a government-based site that offers a search engine and database of thousands of local business groups and events covering everything from Chamber of Commerce free events to national expo events to expensive paid corporate get-togethers (some of which are worth it, others of which may be an expensive con so be careful).
Findnetworkingevents.com – Another database of all the UK’s small business networking events the site does exactly what it says in its name. The type of event and the prices of those events vary massively as they are all organized by hundreds of different organizations but as a starting point it is a great guide to networking.
Linkedin – Finally, the daddy of all networking groups, Linkedin. It seems that almost every business and businessman or woman has a presence on Linkedin these days. With such a massive national and global audience there is no better place for B2B networking and for building your own networks in the forums and groups. Linkedin allows you to upload your portfolio and your CV and to sign up to groups in your niche, meeting other contractors and offering advice (and your services) in order to cement your reputation in your sector.
Video from How Cast