Although it can be easily to view other independent professionals as competition—especially those within your industry—there are many benefits to developing relationships with your peers. Networking with other independents can lead to shared learning, collaboration, and referrals. While differentiating your business services can be a great way to stand out from the crowd, establishing strong relationships with those in your industry is equally important and can lead to the following five benefits.
1. Client Referrals
Occasionally, you may find yourself faced with more work than you can comfortably take on. In these cases, it can help to be on friendly terms with other independent professionals in your industry. If you can recommend a highly skilled consultant who is able to fulfill the client’s needs, you’ll create a win-win situation for everyone. The other consultant takes on a new project, the client’s work is finished in a timely manner, and you gain a reputation for putting client needs first—while not overloading your schedule. Additionally, if your contact finds themselves in a similar situation in the future, your name will be top of mind.
2. Expanded Network
Even though you may work in the same industry as another independent professional, you will likely have different strengths and expertise. Once you develop a professional working relationship with your peers, you can rely on your network to assist when you’re unable to meet specific client needs such as incorporating a programming language that you’re not familiar with. An expanded network is a great way to land referrals as well. If people are aware of your specific skillset, they’ll be able to recommend you when projects come up that align with your services.
3. Tips, Encouragement, and Friendships
Nobody can give you more insight into independent consulting in your industry than a current independent consultant in your industry. When you collaborate instead of compete, you’ll gain valuable insight about clients, projects, and industry trends that you can’t get anywhere else. Additionally, when you’re faced with a particularly tricky obstacle, fellow consultants will understand the type of encouragement you need to get through and succeed. Who knows—you may even develop long-lasting friendships!
4. Opportunity for Growth
If you’re new to self-employment, a reliable network of contacts can be a great sounding board for questions you have. Fellow independent professionals have likely tackled similar situations, and they can provide insight and guidance to help you avoid common pitfalls. Even if you’re not new to running your own business, talking through ideas or questions you have with a trusted mentor or fellow peers can provide a valuable outside perspective or inspire new ways of looking at a situation.
5. Strategic Partnerships
Working with another independent professional is an added perk to having an established network of strong relationships. Partnering with a peer can help you grow your business, share the burden of larger projects, or supplement your skillset when you need specific expertise. Not only will your client benefit from your joint knowledge, a wider breadth of skills, and a quality end product, but you’ll also have the chance to share in a collaborative project, bring new insight to the table, and ultimately create something you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.
If you’re ready to build your network, but want to expand beyond some of the traditional methods, consider joining a coworking space where you can share a work environment with other independent professionals. Often, independents in these sharing spaces form tightly knit communities, much like traditional offices and departments. Most coworking facilities will provide networking-centered events such as happy hours or lunch-and-learns.