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Starting a new business can often feel like something you’re doing in a vacuum alone. This is most especially true if your business is online, but it can feel like that if you’re starting any type of business.

But, the truth is, you’re never alone – you will just have to seek out relationships and network rather than having them built in for you like they are at a job.

Here are ten ways to build your network when you’re just starting your business.

Online Forums – You can meet a lot of interesting people in online forums. Find forums consisting of people you want to start networking with and simply start discussions, answer questions, and be giving. If you find someone you relate to, reach out to them privately.

Mastermind Groups – You can find some really awesome groups sometimes called “inner circles” or mastermind groups which involve working with peers to support and learn from each other. Do a simple search on Facebook for your niche, or use Google Alerts to help you find a group. You can also ask people you already know if they know of any. Sometimes there is a fee to join the group, but consider the fee an investment into your business.

Chamber Events – Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start trying to find networking events to attend. Often you can go to them for an added fee as a non-member before choosing to join. Look for “after hours” events to test out the organisation to help you determine if it’s right for you and your business goals.

Industry Associations – If your business is involved with working in a specific field, or niche, look up associations online. There are associations for almost any type of business under the sun, and there is likely one for you. It doesn’t matter what type of niche you’re in; you can usually find something. Check out the quality of the organisation before joining to ensure it aligns with your values and goals.

Focused Business Events – Starting with a small, focused business event that is limited to just a few people can be helpful in getting your feet wet with larger networking events. Many smaller organizations put on business retreats that are very helpful for people who are nervous about larger events.

Meetup Announcements – This is a great way to find local people who want to connect with people like you. If you don’t see something that fits your business, why not start your own informal Meetup event? You only need locations that will accommodate your needs and a good idea to attract people.

LinkedIn Connections – Networking online and offline can be accomplished through the connections you make on LinkedIn if you’re strategic about who you connect with. Don’t connect with those whom you cannot offer anything and who can’t offer you anything. Stay focused, and remember; “quality over quantity”.

Blog Commenters – If you’ve written a compelling blog post that gets comments that make you curious about the person, check out who made the comments and try to connect with them on social media. Once you have established a relationship, you can reach out to them for other ideas, events, and even joint venture partnerships.

Newsletter/Email List Sign-Ups – People who sign up for your email list or newsletter are prime candidates for networking. Plan a webinar, or even an in-person event, and invite your list members to it. Be sure to have an overall goal and theme for the event, whether online or offline.

Social Media Connections – Anyone you connect with on social media can be a prime candidate for more networking. Just make your networking goal oriented and focus on the quality of your connections over any connection. Nothing is worse than getting those automatic, canned email responses from every person you follow or connect with. Don’t do that. Instead, take the time to get to know the person before reaching out.

Creating a working network requires that you not only connect in these many different ways, but also that you follow up with your connections in a way that makes sense. Just because someone “likes”, “follows” “connects” or even speaks to you at an event doesn’t make them a real part of your network. Following up and building a relationship with them does.

Take these connections and turn them into a true network by reaching out to them, and answering the call to help them when asked too.

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