What is online networking and how can you be effective at it?

Whenever people ask me what one single activity could I recommend that would change their entrepreneurial fortunes, the answer I always give is to go networking. When I say networking, I mean more than just social networking online, I mean actually meeting people of your industry and meeting your potential customers wherever you think they might be.

I think for a lot of new entrepreneurs, the thought of networking is actually quite daunting, and I can sympathise because this was also one of my own personal fears. In the beginning, I didn’t even think that it was necessary to network and for a while I believed that if you made something amazing, people would just find out about it naturally. I couldn’t be more wrong.

It was in my 3rd year when I still wasn’t making any money that I changed my way of thinking and started to go out networking. This simple act of going out to talk to people changed my entire fortunes for the better because there is so much value to be gained from other people doing the same thing as you, and from people who might be your customers.

My very first networking event was at a local greyhound racing venue and I was invited to a private event where I would be able to meet other affiliate marketers in my industry. At this event I met many people and the vast majority of people in this group were extremely high earners, people making the kind of money I was dreaming of.

Two things happened really, the first being that meeting people in this position helped me to realise how achievable my goals really were. When I met other people who had achieved what I wanted to achieve, it gave me the belief that I could actually succeed.

The other thing I learnt was that people in the industry have an incredible amount of experience gained through their own efforts, and by sharing I learnt so many new ideas that I was inundated with new exciting ways to improve my website and its rankings.

I saw results immediately after implementing many of these ideas and from that point on I realised that networking was absolutely essential to success. It’s still not my greatest strength to this day; however I do it because I know its value to me and my business. You must be prepared to do things you don’t like doing in order to succeed.

There’s kind of a double-edged sword when it comes to online businesses today; whereas on the one hand it is really cheap to get started in online business these days, the other comes back to bite the entrepreneur because the cheapness cultivates an attitude where they just don’t care enough about their new online business to take it seriously.

I think it’s partly because they haven’t had to commit a large amount of capital to set up and so if they didn’t succeed they wouldn’t have lost very much money. For the most part you can get started for a small investment of £2000, which for a lot of people in this position is just one month’s salary. If it failed, there’s not a great loss there, perceptually.

You have to ask yourself this question, how serious are you about creating your own financial freedom through online business? Do you secretly fear failure so much that you don’t even make the attempt, or only give it a half-hearted attempt so that in the event of failure you have some excuse?

Back in a time before the internet, when setting up a business meant having a large amount of starting capital, do you think if you set up a business then you would be so complacent? It certainly would matter if you failed because the amount of investment you were making would be perceived as substantial.

It’s actually amazing in today’s world of electronic communication and marketing, that so many people and I really do mean so many people, just seem to treat their new business venture like a hobby. Online business is not just for fun, it’s not a place where you can just make a half-hearted attempt and you’ll make money, it requires serious commitment of your time and energy.

You need to start right from the beginning, building a solid foundation, treating yourself and your business with the utmost respect.

The first thing you’ll need to consider is your business infrastructure. This is everything needed to run your business, from the legal structure, expenses collection, through to making appointments and schedules. Even if you are working just for yourself at the beginning, making sure you have a good working infrastructure will allow you to grow quicker more effectively.

Remember, an online business is not just for Christmas. If you get it right it is forever, so take it seriously and don’t think of it as a hobby.

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Since graduating from Leeds University in 1997, Eddie Yu has been involved in various Entrepreneurial activities throughout his career, and eventually having built up a part time business between 2001-2003, he went full time in 2004 with Lady Luck Media. Before then, he has worked for British Aerospace, FNX and Derivatech, where he consulted for top tier banks such as Bank of America, ABM Amro and Bank of China. Eddie firmly believes that with social entrepreneurship and technological advancements we can create a world without offices and impact climate change for the betterment of our planet.