How often as a small business or freelancer do you get yourself out there and do proper face to face networking? Not the ones where it’s people that do the same job as you, that’s too easy, I mean the broader stuff where there’s a real mix of professions. Are you one of those that tucks yourself away, never ventures out and are convinced that it’s not really worth the effort? Do you see those invitations on social media posts about local business get togethers and there’s a small part of you that thinks, erm maybe, but then you swiftly move on to something you’re more comfortable with…..that lonesome cuppa in your office with the [cat] [dog] [fish] (delete as appropriate!) and your laptop.

Well, I’d like to suggest you reconsider. For your benefit of course not mine, although I’d like to share my experience to try and help convince you.

In the early years of working for myself I’d admit I took the easy, lonesome-cuppa option. It’s comfortable right? No effort required. But if we’re honest no effort equals no reward does it? So I started to explore the various local networking opportunities, which I must say is not for the faint hearted. The mere volume of options is enough to put you off. You might need to dig a bit deeper to find out the purpose of a group, and even go along to a few to see if it’s going to work for you. All this takes time but is worth the perseverance trust me. Over the years I’ve tried a few. The smaller more business focussed ones, the topic-specific, the women-only, the seemingly men-only! Although at each and every one people were lovely, very welcoming and interested in what the world of voiceovers is all about, I never quite felt it was the right fit.

Until I stumbled across Creative Coffee (Leicester)!

Creative Coffee is a monthly meet up (usually the last Wednesday of the month). The aim is to connect the creative community to businesses, academics and each other in a simple and friendly way.  It truly is a super-chilled environment where people exchange ideas, foster innovation and kickstart relationships – all from a relaxed café environment. Alternating between inspiring talks, table expert discussions and informal networking it’s a great mix to suit regulars and newcomers alike. I’ve been a number of times now, enjoyed the various talks on a wide variety of subjects, really loved the relaxed networking, sharing of ideas and knowledge and even found myself feeling like, dare I say it, I’ve finally found my fit!

So why bother? Well in my opinion it’s invaluable. Of course you increase your connections and raise your profile, that goes without saying, but you also have the chance to engage with those connections in a way that’s not possible from the comfort of your office chair.  You get to explore and share knowledge, learn about opportunities (and provide them too if you have any), inspire and be inspired by hopefully like-minded individuals – the list goes on!

So if you’re local to Leicester/shire and think you’d like to experience a bit of the Creative Coffee vibe then you can hook up on Twitter @CCLeic or Facebook – Creative Coffee Leicester where details of future meetings are posted. It’d be great to see you there!

If you’re not local and have been toying with the idea of taking yourself along to a local group, I’d say go on, do it! It might not be the right one to start with but you’ll find your place eventually as I’m convinced there’s something out there for everyone.

And if you’ve found your fit that’s great – why not share the details with others? You might just encourage someone to give it a go and help them benefit as you have.

Us creatives have quite a lot to offer – so let’s get ourselves out there – wherever ‘there’ may be for you.