Consider it from a purely mathematical standpoint. Your professional network consists of ten people. Each of those ten people have ten other contacts of their own. That means you have direct access to ten potential clients, and indirect access to an additional one hundred!
If you are wondering when you should begin networking for the benefit of your new consulting business, the answer is now. Ideally, your network should be in place and growing before you ever open your doors for business. Having advance clients and prospects gives you a much-needed foot in the door when it comes to starting up a consulting business and getting it off the ground.
When it comes to the how of networking, there are almost as many ways to network as there are potential contacts out there! Joining industry bodies and attending functions is one great way to meet other consultants in your larger field, who may not do exactly what you do, and could provide referrals to clients.
Professional networking groups and chambers of commerce are other ways to access networking opportunities, with the benefit of a larger cross section of members, opening new possibilities for your client base.
Online networking is gaining in popularity, with dedicated professional networking sites, as well as the traditionally social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook offering opportunities to network, grow your business and publicize your company. Or you can start your own network, which provides the benefit of choosing the members yourself, and allows you to choose the venues and frequency.
Conferences and seminars in your field, or the fields you supply services to can be great opportunities to make valuable contacts. Always attend any event with networking potential with an open mind. Try to leave your preconceptions at home and be open to all possibilities. Just because the person you are talking to does not have use for your services does not mean they do not know someone who does!