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17 min read

How Solopreneurs Can Master The Art of Networking

Lee Hopkins on the One-Person Business Podcast

Watch the Episode on YouTube

In the world of entrepreneurship, particularly for solopreneurs, the pursuit of authentic relationships is not just a valuable endeavor but a fundamental one. The ability to connect with others, whether for mutual support, collaboration, or referrals, can significantly impact the success of a solopreneur's venture.

But the path to forging these meaningful connections is paved with questions and challenges. From deciding which networking events to attend, navigating conversations with strangers, and identifying ideal partners, to understanding the elusive "know, like, trust" factor, evaluating the worthiness of potential connections, and maintaining virtual networking etiquette, this journey can be both exciting and intimidating.

In this episode with Lee Hopkins, we dive into these crucial aspects of relationship-building for solopreneurs and provide insights to help you thrive in your entrepreneurial journey.

Be sure to tune in!

Connect with Lee Hopkins

  • Visit www.patternsofpossibility.com to connect and access social channels.
  • Lee has a newsletter geared towards helping solopreneurs be better networkers. Each week he sends out a tip as well as one quality networking event people should try. He also has a free presentation called "Stop Networking & Start Connecting" designed to get people the skills to use networking to get a tangible return on their time investment. You can sign up on his website: www.patternsofpossibility.com.
  • Connect with Lee on LinkedIn.

Favorite Quotes:

"Success is buried on the other side of rejection." - Tony Robbins

 

Going solo in business doesn't mean you're alone! Join our thriving Facebook community group exclusively designed for solopreneurs!  Connect with like-minded individuals who understand the unique challenges and triumphs of running a business single-handedly. Gain valuable insights, discover proven strategies, and unlock the power of networking as you engage in lively discussions and receive expert advice. We hope to see you there!

About Lee Hopkins

Coach Lee Hopkins helps people take their social connections to the next level. Whether you want to build a network full of trusted partners, or make a close friend to share your deepest thoughts with, he can help. He owns a social connections coaching company called Patterns of Possibility where he helps his clients find fulfilling social connections and meaningful relationships with a simple 3-step process.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!

Full Episode Transcript

Coach Lee Hopkins (00:00):

We're all solopreneurs working hard, and you and your story can be really helpful.

Intro (00:08):

Welcome to the One Person Business podcast, the show for solopreneurs, consultants and contractors who are ready to take charge of their business and reclaim their freedom. Join us as we bring you inspiring, invaluable insights and practical strategies from successful solopreneurs and industry experts, empowering you to create a thriving business that aligns with your unique goals and allows you to live life on your own terms. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Carly Ries (00:38):

Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (00:42):

And I'm Joe Rando.

Carly Ries (00:44):

Joe, as we hear time and time again working with the community of solopreneurs and others outside of our own community, we always hear, "oh, you're a solopreneur. You must get lonely", or, "oh, you're a solopreneur. You work by yourself a lot", and we would argue that you should be doing the opposite. This is the time to be building those relationships to really establish that human connection. So we wanted to have an expert in the area talk about that today. We have Coach Lee Hopkins. He helps people take their social connections to the next level, meaning real social connections, not just social network connections. Whether you want to feel more included at work as an employee, build a network full of trusted partners, or make a close friend to share deepest thoughts with, he can help. He owns a social connections coaching company called Patterns of Possibility, where he helps his clients find fulfilling social connections and meaningful relationships with a simple three step process. So Lee, welcome to the show.

Coach Lee Hopkins (01:44):

Hey, thank you so much. It was a beautiful introduction.

Carly Ries (01:48):

Well, thank you. I practiced, but I appreciate it. And like I was just saying in the intro, we do not think solopreneurs should be working alone. For so many reasons. So I want to ask you, why is it so important to find and build those, not only just surface level relationships, but those authentic relationships, especially if you're a solopreneur?

Coach Lee Hopkins (02:13):

Wow. That is a great question. I started my business four years ago, but I was working a corporate job, so I was working two years at that corporate job, and I finally took the leap away from everyone to start and do it on my own as a solopreneur. During that time, I hired a business coach and I worked really hard on what he said. He said basically one task. Put out things on social media, build your business, keep putting out things on social media, and I did that all by myself. So to answer your question, it's important to create these meaningful connections with others because I had spent a year just focusing on one thing because I only had one point of view. I didn't have a community to help me understand what I needed in business. And every time I would go and post something on social media and I would get 2-3 likes after doing it for three or four months. I was wondering what was wrong. But I had no one to talk to. I had no one to talk to about it. So there I was emotionally deflated and really not working well in my business either. So it's really important to get someone to talk to about that emotional piece, but also some insight into what is happening in your business

Joe Rando (03:25):

That could have been a commercial for solopreneur problem solvers events.

Coach Lee Hopkins (03:29):

And that's where I met you at too. I really believe in the connection. Solopreneurs, You've got to meet each other and talk about things.

Carly Ries (03:38):

Absolutely. Okay, so we're talking about solopreneur problem solvers, which is a place you can network, which again, shameless plug, it'll be in the show notes, but how can people figure out where to meet people, where to network, whether it's online or in person?

Coach Lee Hopkins (03:55):

Oh, three words. Trial and error. Honestly, this is what really worked for me. Trial and error. You go to different events and you start talking to people about what it is that you need in your business. You need authenticity, you need openness to figure out faster who you need to meet and how to get to those places. What I did is I actually someone reached out to me after a year of working in my business alone, not really talking to anybody about my business, I caved and I said, Hey, person, I'm just chatting with you. And they mentioned Go to a networking event. That networking event, it was really amazing. I got to meet other people who had the same problems. And it was only because I started to talk about my problems. I got some help. So if you need to figure out which networking events to go to and to talk to someone about your problems, what you're experiencing, what your challenges are, and see if you can get support because people really do want to help you.

Carly Ries (05:03):

Do you have a preference between virtual or in person, or do you think they both serve a purpose?

Coach Lee Hopkins (05:08):

They definitely both serve a purpose, but I love virtual networking because my business is completely virtual. Well, it's not completely, I do in person as well, but most of it's virtual. So I have a larger reach and I could practice these skills faster. I can practice the skills to connect with people faster. Going to virtual events, and you can go to three or four each day and start pitching to people. When I say pitch, I mean you share the value of what you do in your company and you see how it resonates with people. You can do it a lot faster and get better results if you go to two or three networking events during one day and get the responses rather than getting dressed up, getting in your car, driving to an event, having conversation with two or three people because you can't talk to all of them. It's just much easier to do the virtual networking.

Carly Ries (06:08):

Got it. That's a good point, especially from an efficiency standpoint. Well, so question for you. I'm an extrovert. I love talking to people. I love social interactions and all of that, but for whatever reason, when I see the word networking event, I get nervous, I clam up. I'm like, oh my gosh, what am I going to say? These are all strangers. This is going to be so awkward. And that's for somebody that likes talking to people. And I know introverts, I know it doesn't mean you're not social, but for the people that are more shy and all of that, how do you start conversations when you first either walk into an in-person conversation or virtual one?

Coach Lee Hopkins (06:48):

You are coming in with really great questions here. Well, it's really scary. I still get a little nervous when I go into networking events because of the word networking. It has this connotation that you have to be of some value. For me, it was monetary value. I need to buy their services, I needed to connect them to people. And we don't have a network of people. When you're a solopreneur and you're first getting started with this, it can be really intimidating. So what I'd recommend you do is first take a deep breath. Whether you're virtual or in person, take a breath and remember that they're all people and they're all here to talk about their business. They're all here to learn about your business. So I go on with that mindset of that I have some value to share. And it's not monetary value, for example. If you want to go talk to someone, you get your confidence up by knowing that you, yourself can provide value. You can provide collaboration opportunities for people. If you don't have a network of people, perhaps you can work with them on a project. You can help them with brand awareness. You can help them with support and encouragement. We're all solopreneurs working hard, and you and your story can be really helpful. So remembering what value you can provide to them will bolster you before you go into that event. Then when you need to go start talking to them, talk about your business, talk about why you're there.

Joe Rando (08:20):

Can I throw in a technique that I used and I wonder what you think of this, whether this is good or not. I don't know where I heard it, it was years ago. But when I went to these networking events and I was uncomfortable sometimes not knowing anybody in the room at all. The advice was, look for somebody else that looks really uncomfortable and try to bring them in and make them feel more comfortable. It kind of worked because all of a sudden you have a job. It was like I'd see somebody else that walked in alone, didn't know what's going on. I'd say "hey", and all of a sudden you were talking to somebody, kind of built a little more of not standing alone confidence that you're not standing there all alone looking kind of goofy and helps somebody else. I'm wondering what you think about that. Is that good or is that inauthentic

(09:11):

I love it. I think it's really wonderful advice. You both are feeling the same way. You're having the same experience about the event and you go and essentially collaborate to conquer this event. That's how I'm thinking about it. It's not that it's inauthentic. You really are being your most authentic, "Hey, I'm scared here and I just want to talk to somebody who may feel uncomfortable too". And you might be able to talk about those things that make you uncomfortable and support each other through the events. I think that's a really great idea.

(09:44):

The advice was to kind of be the greeter. Appoint yourself the greeter, so a little less of that vulnerability in that role. You're kind of going, Hey, I got this. But it did kind of work. I made some really great introductions. I met some amazing people that way.

Carly Ries (10:04):

Joe, I'm glad you said that. It's actually a good segue into the question that I was going to ask because when you walk into a room, you want to get feedback about your business, of course, but you also want to figure out who can refer me or who would be a good collaborator and partner moving forward. When there are a lot of people in the room, aside from the ones that you're like, "Hey, I'm scared too, let's do this together", how do you identify who are the right people to talk to for your business out of the maybe upwards of 50 people that might be at an in-person or virtual event?

Coach Lee Hopkins (10:36):

In-person or virtual? So it seems a little more difficult. I haven't had that much experience with in-person events or as much experience with in-person as I have in virtual. When I go to virtual events, I'm looking for people who do something similar to what I do. That's a really great place to start if you're very new to networking. If you're not sure about who your collaboration partners are, you go and talk to people who do something that's similar to you and you ask them and you talk to them. How do you get your customers? Who refers you? Doing that process for me, I found out that business coaches are good referral partners for me, and I've also discovered that therapists are good referral partners for me. And that's by talking to other people, asking them where are they getting their referral partners or where are they getting the collaboration for referral partners from.

(11:32):

I think that's the first way to start out. You can go to in-person networking events and do the same. You might not know who you're talking to but you want to get a feel for their business and then start asking them how do they get business. It's usually going to be the same way you get your business.

Joe Rando (11:53):

Great advice.

Carly Ries (11:55):

So I have a question for you. We're talking right now about how to find the people that are worth your time. What if you start a conversation and within 30 seconds, you're like, Ooh, this is not who I want to be talking to. What advice do you have to be like, goodbye?

Coach Lee Hopkins (12:17):

Oh, that happens so much. In person, I would probably start looking around to see if I could introduce them to someone else. You probably want to excuse yourself if you can. Another thing that I like to do is remind myself that perhaps everyone's not really great at networking. They're still learning. And I'd like to see if I can provide some value to them by asking them how I can help them. Whatever they're talking about, I want to say interrupt or abruptly or steer the conversation towards, "oh, I hear that I'm here at this networking event, and one of the things that I really like to do is try and support my fellow solopreneurs. So what are you working on?" Or what are you struggling with? Or how can I help you? What are you looking to do ? Get some information about that and kind of steer the conversation towards you being the person who's helped. So now you're away from whatever conversation that I imagine feels kind of icky, either pitching to you or something like that. You can turn it around by showing yourself as a shining object that provides value for them, that helps them and that is memorable to them. But if you still don't like them after it, you've had an impact on them and you have no idea how they're going to be impacted by that. Perhaps they'll refer you somewhere down the line. Then you can exit after you've completed your task. You can just exit or say, let me introduce you to somebody who can help you.

Joe Rando (14:13):

I struggled so much with ending conversations. How do you end it like that? I like that. Steer it to something is how can I help you? And then once they give you that information, you're like, well, I've got to go help somebody else now. As opposed to being stuck in this endless conversation with somebody that maybe isn't really adding value to either party.

Carly Ries (14:37):

I'm glad we're talking about polite ways to step out. I'm curious about other networking etiquette tips. We could talk about virtual and in person separately, but what are some best practices for leaving an event and staying in people's minds so that they remember you? Are business cards still a thing? Follow up emails? What's the best way to foster those relationships and keep them going so that you can better your business?

Coach Lee Hopkins (15:05):

Yes, business card are definitely still a thing. I was really surprised when I started to go out and do this in-person networking. It's still a thing. So carry some business cards with you and keep them and share them as you need to. But in person, I'm really big on the value thing. You could probably count how many times I'm going to say this here, but something short and sweet. Let 'em know exactly what you do with that's your pitch with the card and looking for how you can help them with a problem. That's what I think really great networkers do. And in my networking journey, when I first started doing this, I'd said that I didn't make sales after a year, but then I started networking and someone decided that they were going to pour value into me, a coach.

(16:01):

I had a call with a coach, coach Key is his name. I'll never forget it because he poured value into me. He said, this is what I have done and this is what worked for me, maybe you want to try this too. I did, and I actually got two new clients because I followed some of the things that he suggested. I'll never forget that. It's important to be that kind of person, and you can do that in person if you're looking to go out and help other people. You can also do that virtually by listening and understanding what other people do. What I would ask or what I would say to your audience, if you are trying to do this and be memorable at a virtual event. When you go to these big events, they usually put you in the breakout rooms and then they pull you out of the breakout rooms and then they'll say, Hey, who has something that they want to share?

(16:56):

This is where you shine. This is where you raise your hand. You're not looking around for anybody else. You raise your hand and you say, "I do", always. I do. Because when you were in that breakout room, you were taking notes and you were looking at other people's strengths, and there's something that you've noticed about them, you're going to share with the group. This is going to make you memorable because it's going to show you as a person who really caress about other people and he will step out of the limelight to let other people shine. You're going to point out something that you noticed about Joe. He's amazing. He runs wonderful networking events. If you haven't talked to him, get on a one-on-one call with him. You're going to do that and people are going to remember you.

Joe Rando (17:39):

I think we're going to be better because I think we have to do that now. Call some people out after they go into the breakout rooms and say, Hey, what did you get out of that?

Carly Ries (17:53):

Lee, it's not shocking at all that your career is built around helping people establish social connections and meaningful relationships and all that. In your bio, we were talking about how you do that in a three-step process. Are you able to share that process or is that proprietary?

Coach Lee Hopkins (18:08):

Oh, it's for everybody. So the three-step process is 1) really understanding who you're looking for. That's the key. It's a bit like marketing, but it's all about you and understanding you. As a solopreneur, if you're looking for, let's say personal connections, then the people will say, Hey, I just want someone to hang out with after you're done with your work. 14 hours sitting at your computer, you want to go out and you have a social life because you need one. But you just say, I just want friends. That's not specific enough. You need someone to play one-on-one basketball with on the weekends. That's a little more specific. It gives us an idea of who to search for. So step one is to figure out who it is that you're looking for. Step 2) go to those places where people are. Where the people are doing the things that you want to do.

(19:05):

Go to the basketball court, don't go to the bar. Go to the Y, go to meetups that people are playing basketball at. That's step two. It sounds pretty easy, but we get ourselves into these ruts where we're really not sure of what we're looking for. It's unlike anything we've had. So step two, go to those places. Step 3) this is the one that we spent a little time talking about. Have the conversations. Be intentional about having the conversations that you need to make the close connections. Don't go to the basketball court waiting for someone to talk to you. You have to be intentional about talking to them. And what I'd like to share is that if you go with intention, it's going to be a lot easier for you to talk. Like Joe said, give yourself a task to do. I want to talk to at least one person and I want to tell 'em about my new Nikes. Do it because you really enjoy Nikes. Go ahead and tell 'em about it and see how they respond. A lot of people don't like that feeling of rejection, and I think that's what stops us with the networking piece too. All of those steps, 1, 2, 3. Figure out who you're looking for. Go to the places. Then be intentional about the conversation. We've applied to the solopreneur piece with networking too.

Carly Ries (20:22):

I'm so happy you threw in this social life aspect. We've been talking about networking from a business standpoint. But yeah, the social life for a solopreneur is so important. Like I said at the beginning, I don't like when people work alone. As a solopreneur, you're going to work alone sometimes, most of the time. So just fostering those relationships, finding those activities outside of work and establishing those hobbies that we all had as kids that we forget about.

Coach Lee Hopkins (20:54):

Absolutely. You really have to be intentional. I'm saying "you" as in "I". I have to really be intentional about doing that too, because I'm working in my business or on my business and sometimes it hits that five o'clock mark or six o'clock mark, and I'm thinking just a little longer. I've just got something else to complete. But no, it's now seven o'clock. It's now eight o'clock, and I've missed great opportunities to actually talk to other people. I missed opportunities to actually get away from my computer and go meet other people. I understand there's anxiety about making your business work, but you're going to drain yourself if you don't go replenish with other people. So being more intentional about going to places. I like to plan at least one outing a week. I like to walk a lot. I live in Chicago, one of the most walkable cities in the us, and I go on walking adventures with people.

Carly Ries (21:50):

Funny, I'm listening to a new favorite book of mine and the current, she's talking about walking her dog throughout the streets of Chicago, and I was literally looking at flights. It's like, oh, Chicago sounds so dreamy. Just walk your dog through the streets of Chicago. That's awesome.

Joe Rando (22:06):

I thought you meant flights of stairs. You can go up and down stairs walking the streets. I was talking about this the other day on a podcast. It's like three dimensional. You've got streets that cross, but they're separated, it's just wild. It's a great city. I love Chicago.

Carly Ries (22:36):

Well, Lee, I love this business you're creating. I love that you're establishing these relationships for people and finding success with that. I have to ask, and we ask all of our guests this question, what is your favorite quote about success?

Coach Lee Hopkins (22:48):

My favorite quote about success was from Tony Robbins. He has a lot of things that he says, but this is one that I really like. "Success is buried on the other side of rejection." I love this quote because so many times I've just been afraid to tell people about what I do because I was afraid that they were going to say no. After I started to tell people, people would say no, and I didn't die.

(23:17):

I was like, I'm all right. I'm doing all right. So I continue on and then I start getting people who were really interested. Instead of people rejecting me, I start getting eyebrows raised like, Hmm, that's interesting. I land on this really cool podcast where I talk to Carly and Joe.

Carly Ries (23:38):

Lee, this has been so wonderful talking to you today. If people want to learn more, if they want to hire you, where can they find you online or wherever?

Coach Lee Hopkins (23:46):

You can find me at patternsofpossibility.com. That's my website. I also host monthly events, "stop networking and start connecting". I host all kinds of events to help you level up your relationships with others. You can find me on social media at Patterns of Possibility. I'm on TikTok and LinkedIn as well.

Joe Rando (24:06):

I love that name by the way, Patterns of Possibility. I think that's a great name.

Carly Ries (24:15):

Well done. And thank you so much for coming on the show. I think you've just shed light on something that a lot of solopreneurs struggle with, but maybe don't talk about a lot. I really like that topic. Thank you, come back anytime. And listeners, thank you so much for tuning into another episode. We will catch you next week on the One-Person Business podcast. Have a great week,

Joe Rando (24:35):

And don't forget to hit the "Like" button and subscribe and set up the little alarm on YouTube if you're watching on YouTube so you can get notified when we put out new podcasts.

Coach Lee Hopkins (24:48):

Thank you for having me.

Closing (24:52):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes running a one person business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures. At Lifestarr, we're creating a one-person business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at community.lifestarr.com