Networking is something that all of us are involved in today, in one way or another. Some through organizations like the Rotary Club, others through social networking sites like LinkedIn.

We have different motivations for networking. Some are trying to establish connections for their career; some are establishing networks in the hopes of selling something; others are establishing networks of people with common interests.

Whatever the motivation, tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have made it incredibly easy to build large networks of people, some of whom are only connected in an online way. That is not to ignore the offline networking organizations either. Meeting people face-to-face is still the strongest way of building a connection, in my opinion.

One thing that you might not have considered yet is that your network probably includes many individuals who operate what I call “just me” businesses. Solopreneur is another term for them. Often these are people with incredible skill sets that run very successful small businesses and can meet your needs…but you just haven’t discovered them yet.

I am extremely fortunate with the network that I have. From my network, I have been able to find a technical editor for my book, Tom Myer, who is a best-selling author. A graphic designer, Ilene Haddad, who has done great work for IncSlingers on some of our client projects. And most recently, Jennifer Cunningham, who creates wearable art and has an Etsy store. She made me a pin with my Twitter handle on it so that I don’t have to keep writing my handle on conference badges.

Without spending time developing my network, I would never have met these and many other very skilled people. When I have either a personal or professional need my first thought is always “who do I know?”

Another great thing about shopping your network is that often people will return the favor later, either by buying from you or recommending you to others in their own network. I’ve seen this happen many times. I’m not saying that is the only reason to go shopping in your network, but it is certainly a benefit.

I find that because you have a connection with those individuals they try harder, put more effort into a project and you see great results. Usually you have already communicated with them at some level, and have established a rapport that takes a lot longer with vendors that you arrive at via Google or some other non-personal search.

So, are you shopping your network?

Image credit: linder6580