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10 networking tips for young entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEUR TIPS) – When you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, growth is always on your mind. Networking is one of the most powerful ways to expand your growing empire, so here’s some practical advice to get you on your way.

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It’s time to get out there!

As a budding entrepreneur, you surely have an idol in your industry. This is probably someone who has worked very hard to achieve their position and sits very comfortably with their success. Even the most wealthy and respected entrepreneurs started somewhere, however, and the majority started in the same position as you. One of the ways they managed to climb from beginner to professional is through networking.

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People are the key to your personal and business success. When you network, you’re able to talk with people who have experience in your industry. They can give advice and help you build your trade to a level you may not reach on your own.

“I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking,” says Tom Farley, the president of the NYSE. He argues that networking is one of the most important things young entrepreneurs can do for their careers.

If you’re not sure where to start with networking, then here are a few ideas:

1. Believe in your business

When you’re strongly committed to your business, you won’t seem as young and naïve. You’ll take on the appearance of a confident, successful businessperson. Someone that everyone wants to associate with.

2. Take advantage of service opportunities

Service is free, which always leaves a strong impact on the recipient. Jumping into local events and organizations and offering your time can help you connect with important individuals. People don’t usually turn down free things, and it could be your foot in the right door.

3. Give gifts as a token of appreciation

When someone makes a connection with you, it’s customary to send a thank you card, or even a gift to show your appreciation. Appropriate corporate gifts can send a message of professionalism while leaving a good impression on the recipient.

4. Ask questions of the greats

The wise and successful usually have no problem sharing tips and ideas. When seeking guidance, ask very specific questions, so others don’t have to do extra work in the process. They’ll be much more likely to impart their knowledge when you do most of the work. Take any knowledge you receive to heart, and apply it, so it’s not a waste of your time.

5. Put puzzle pieces together

Networking is kind of like putting together a puzzle. Each connection you make is a piece of that puzzle. Find ways to unite your connections, and integrate the information you’re learning, so it can all create a bigger picture.

6. Have a professional portfolio or blog

On the flip side, sometimes networking is people finding you. When you post a public, professional portfolio or blog, people can view your achievements and will be enticed to make a connection. It saves you time and helps to make more meaningful connections with people who want to help.

7. Follow up

For most people, a single meeting won’t forge a relationship. It takes multiple interactions to create that link, which makes following up essential to networking success.

8. Find your people

Look for those who will have the greatest impact on you, and only associate with them. If you’ve made a connection that’s weighing you down and doing very little to promote your success, don’t be afraid to cut that person loose.

9. Attend conferences

When you don’t have a lot of time for networking on a personal level, go to conferences and other networking events. Many of the people you’ll want to meet will be in a single room, which helps you to narrow down your choices and forge some meaningful relationships.

10. Use social media

Harnessing the power of social media is also a great tool for the time-strapped entrepreneur. LinkedIn, for example, is the ultimate platform for business networking, and you can connect with people on Twitter and Facebook as well. Put yourself out there using this far-reaching online tool, and you’ll see the benefits of your efforts.

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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Entrepreneur

How to spot when it’s time to go full freelance

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Hobby to profession: The new-age entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEURS) Turning your hobby into a career is harder said than done but a few knitters are putting on a clinic on how to do it.

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I’ve often heard the advice that you should follow your passion, and eventually, someone will pay you to do it. But the truth is, turning your hobby into a career is easier said than done. The process by which a person turns a hobby into a business is poorly understood by experts – at least partially because it’s so difficult to collect data on this topic. In order to separate the lifelong hobbyists from the entrepreneurs, you’d have to trace the activities of many hobbyists over many years to understand how their paths diverged.

An MIT Ph.D. candidate has hit upon a novel way to research the transition from hobby to entrepreneurship by following Ravelry.com, a social media and pattern-sharing platform for knitters and crocheters, often known as the “Facebook of knitting.” The site encourages crafters to keep track of and share their projects, tools, techniques, and patterns.

The Washington Post reports that by analyzing over 400,000 profiles on Ravelry.com and interviewing 100 knitters, found through an additional newsletter and three blogs, Ph.D. candidate Hyejun Kim was able to draw some interesting conclusions about what can “cause someone to flip the switch from ‘fun’ to ‘profit.’” Only 1.5 percent of Ravelry users become entrepreneurs who sell their own patterns, knitted items, or yarns. What sets this small number of knitters apart?

Although the internet provided the crucial data Kim needed for the study, it was, in fact, real-world connections and encouragement that turned out to be the tipping point into entrepreneurship for most knitters-turned-business-owners. When asked why they decided to start their own businesses, most reported that they were encouraged by their friends and spouses.

Most of the crafters who became entrepreneurs were already very skilled knitters, to begin with. Kim was able to isolate a number of knitters who joined in-person knitting groups like Stich ‘n’ Bitch. Those who joined a group were 25 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than those who didn’t. That’s because their crocheting comrades would compliment their creations, boosting their confidence and inspiring them to take it to the next level.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that 96 percent of Ravelry users are women. The forces of sexism in the world of startups and the undervaluation and domestication of women’s handicrafts likely combine to give women the impression that their skills and talents are just for fun and shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to make money. Kim’s research shows that when it comes to entrepreneurship, sometimes talented women just need a nudge in the right direction.

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Business Entrepreneur

Teach kids music and they’ll learn entrepreneurship

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sowing the seed of music education and appreciation in your child when they’re young is a great way to produce the fruit of entrepreneurship when they’re older.

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With all the focus sports gets as the petri dish for producing driven adults, I’d like to offer up a different extracurricular activity for your consideration: music. Supporting your child as they learn how to harmonize with others will help set them up for success later in life, as music cultivates many of the characteristics that entrepreneurs rely on every day.

Iteration

Anybody who’s played an instrument or been a part of a choir can tell you that the number one thing you’ll learn in a musical group is that you won’t make it unless you practice, practice, practice. Although in the moment it’s not that great to hear little Timmy or Ginny run through their C-scale a hundred times, a few years down the line when all those hours of iterating result in the lilt of Beethoven through your household, you can be sure that your kid has learned that repeating the little steps helps them achieve large goals.

Showmanship

A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your markets, or your audience, and able to keep their attention so that they come back to you when they need your business. Being a part of an ensemble not only teaches children to be comfortable in the spotlight but to crave putting on a show.

Teamwork

When young musicians come together to play in a band or raise their voices in a choir, they’re learning a lot about how to collaborate with others in order to achieve a goal. When a young alto sings alone, her notes may sound strange without the soprano tones filling out the melody. The duet that comes from them learning to work together and complement each other builds a strong foundation for any team venture your child will encounter later in their careers.

Competiveness

Although music provides a solid foundation in harmony, it also contains just as much grit and competition as the football field. Music groups compete in regional and national championships just as athletes do, and solos offer opportunities to self-select and advocate. Hell hath no fire like a second seat musician who dreams of being first chair.

Self Confidence

Unlike sports, music is accessible to those who might struggle with finding confidence. There are no “best” requirements to play—regardless of height, weight, and other characteristics that nobody has any control over—nearly anyone can pick up an instrument or find their voice. This perhaps may be the greatest gift that you can give your child, the confidence that no matter what they look like they can excel.

As your child begins to consider the different activities that will help them build toward their future, don’t discourage them from pursuing a musical path. When they have to stand in front of an audience of their peers and deliver a presentation with an unwavering voice, they’ll thank you for the years they spent getting comfortable in the spotlight. Especially if they pursue entrepreneurship!

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