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Being a sole trader can be a lonely business. Many of our visitors to SiGNAL and the Bordon Hub can testify to it, and this is one of the most frequently cited reasons for joining the Hub, attending networking events or using our free coworking space.

It’s not just about having someone else to chinwag with over a cuppa, it’s also about support. While networking events are an opportunity to do business with others in the areas, they’re also a chance to get ideas and inspiration to drive your business forward.

One thing business owners often lack is support from colleagues. Family and friends may be helpful at times; but unless they have first-hand experience of running a business or working in your sector, they don’t always understand how to support you. Here I’m going to outline the kind of support that’s available through the Hubs, and other organisations around the country.

Networking for business support

“Networking” covers a multitude of activities including online and offline events and communities. It’s advisable to try a few options out, and then invest a bit of time with your favourites to establish yourself within a group. Here at the Bordon Hub we hold a weekly talk (offering business advice and inspiration) with an informal networking session at the start. This gives attendees an opportunity to meet other sole traders and business owners in the Bordon area and build professional relationships.

Of course many people do try to use these events to talk about their own business, and promote themselves. Conversely, we find the most success networkers (those people who pick up work from these events), are the ones who use them to find out about other people, and share tips and advice.

If you would like to try out one of our networking events the first one is free; so you can decide if you like the format and general vibe of the Hub.

As well as “real life” networking events there are plenty of online networking groups. Many of these exist as standalone websites, but perhaps the most successful are on social media. We have a Facebook group where members and interested parties can share tips, ask questions and support each other. Feel free to become a member of the Bordon and Alton Business Hub and start networking online.

Coworking – more than just a desk

If you miss the office environment at times, and would like to dip in and out without the overheads of your own premises, coworking could be just right for you. There’s a growing movement of coworking spaces offering somewhere to work, with the chance of an interesting conversation or the opportunity to make a valuable business contact.

For those business owners who work from home, or for anyone who doesn’t have a permanent base, this can be particularly attractive. Here at SiGNAL Bordon our coworking space is free! Turn up Monday to Friday between 9 and 5, sign in and pick your desk.

Collaboration – create your own team!

Both networking and coworking are great for encouraging collaboration between local businesses and sole traders, and I’m sure other organisers have witnessed the blooming of successful business partnerships at their events too.

Through our business hub network we’ve seen members team up to produce an eBook together, and others combine forces so they can pitch for more lucrative contracts. This is a really valuable outcome from building good relationships with other businesses – particularly for the micro or small business owner. If your business is just a little too small to go for those bigger clients, perhaps collaborating with other business owners will allow you to win those larger accounts?