The Covid pandemic has brought on major shifts in the workplace and prompted many workers to reconsider their career paths altogether. Nearly half, 46%, of workers are planning to make a major pivot or career transition, according to a January 2021 survey of 31,092 people by Microsoft.
One pivot many people are considering is a B2B side hustle: consulting, coaching, or virtually assisting businesses large and small. For those who are just diving in, figuring out how to find clients, build a network of mentors, and meet colleagues in the business can be a challenge.
"The rule is you work hot to cold with your relationships," says Angelique Rewers, founder of The Corporate Agent, a consulting firm that helps small businesses land corporate clients. "Start with your network, which is big. It's so much bigger than you realize."
Here are Rewers' tips for building a network and finding clients for your B2B side hustle or business.
"We've known for decades that people buy from those they know, like, and trust," says Rewers. So when you're starting your hustle and building your business, "you have to start with your own relationships."
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Go through your latest phone calls, text messages, and emails, and make a list of the people you've most recently been in contact with or are regularly in contact with. These can be your friends, your neighbors, and even "people that are parents of kids that yours go to school with," says Rewers. Let those be the first people you contact.
Then, message them however you feel comfortable, explaining that you're starting a new venture and offering new services, and would love to know if they or someone they know could use them.
After you've contacted the "hot" relationships, or people you're regularly in touch with, move on to your "warm relationships," says Rewers. "Those tend to be alumni networks," for example.
Check places like LinkedIn or Instagram to see who you were once in contact with, or who you have a personal connection to via your alma mater, former job, or hometown. Then follow the same path as before, finding comfortable ways to let them know you've started a business and asking for strategic introductions to people in their network.
"People always say, 'Let me know if there's anything I can do to help,'" says Rewers. "[Ask], 'Would you be willing to introduce me to a few folks who you think might be interested in this?'"
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Finally, move on to cold relationships ― that is, people you don't necessarily know, but with whom you can create a relationship. "Put yourself in Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Clubhouse discussion groups," says Rewers.
All of these virtual meeting places will help you find people in like fields or with similar interests, who may be able to help you connect with new clients, colleagues, or mentors. Ask questions in public forums, message people who've offered input that's helped or inspired you, or simply read posts by and follow people you think could help you grow.
Making your presence and business intentions known to as many people as possible ― virtually, in person, through phone calls ― will put you on their radar, regardless of whether or not what you're doing is immediately relevant to them.
"You need to put yourself in proximity of people," says Rewers. Ultimately, that "proximity is power."
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