When you’re just getting a business started, it can be tempting to over-rely on your personal network for business leads and financial support. However, it’s important to preserve your personal network for the times that you really need it for personal support.

It is possible to run out of human resources, so to speak. You don’t want to constantly ask for referrals and invitations, only to find that your friends are avoiding you. Diplomacy and strategy is key, so that you can protect your personal relationships while organically generating new leads through your network.

Be Casually Vocal About Your Business Without Selling

Don’t constantly ask for referrals, leads, or participation. Networking is an art. Simply include your work in conversation, so that people are aware of how you are doing and what kind of business you run. Keeping people in the loop without overtly selling allows your friends and family to refer you without resentment.

Diversify Your Social Media Use

Use your personal social media for business and personal use. Getting too one-sided in either direction can either keep people in the dark about what you do or, on the other hand, cause them to block you. Make sure to spread out professional posts from your blog or website between posts about your family, friends, children, and pets.

Periodically and Personally Ask for Referrals, One Person at a Time

Don’t blast your friends and family with a mass e-mail. Instead, decide if there is a certain person who may be a good link to new leads, and let that person know that you “had an opening” in your schedule and could take on one new client. Ask if that person knows anyone who needs your service. Sometimes, your personal contact will not refer you, but instead hire you!

Keep Some Friends and Family Members Strictly on the “Personal List,” and Refer Them to Other Professionals if They Try to Hire You

In some cases, the divide between personal and professional can be extremely important. Some personal trainers, for example, will not do sessions for family members or close friends because of a lack of objectivity. If you are an accountant, you may not want to get involved with the money of your friends and family. Be aware of which relationships you want to keep 100% out of your business.

Create a “Para-Personal” Network

These are friends of friends and almost-friends. You meet them at the gym, in line at the book signing, or at the coffeeshop that you both patronize every day. In some ways, these relationships are more flexible and accommodate more professional pressure than truly personal relationships. The risk and cost of asking for referrals is lower in these relationships than in intimate ones.

Give as Much as You Get

Make sure to attend the events of friends and contacts, and stay engaged with them on social media as well. Promote others generously, and you’ll find that you not only reap personal rewards from being involved in the lives of others, but you’ll also meet dozens of new potential leads each month simply from diversifying your network and attending different events.

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Local Unit Lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. I enjoy writing and interviewing people making a difference in the World. Former Assistant Editor NY Times. NYU Alum living in sunny California.

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