You might think of me as a fairly gregarious entrepreneur who delights in inviting strangers on to this very podcast for conversations about life and business. But…

In many ways, I’m a walking, talking introvert meme.

I’m a bit of a loner.

I would much rather do things on my own than rely on others for help. Parties, conferences, and even coffee dates make me anxious and sweaty.

And yet… the relationships I’ve developed as a small business owner are some of the deepest and most valuable I’ve experienced in my whole life.

Moreover, those relationships have been key to any and all success I’ve experienced over the last 10 years.

Despite knowing this, I still find networking and relationship-building to be difficult. But I work at it. I work at it and work at it and work at it.

This month, the members of The What Works Network have been talking about how they meet new people, expand their professional networks, and nurture their existing relationships.

I am constantly in awe of the people who dedicate time each week for virtual coffee dates. I am blown away by the members who are always on the lookout to create new work with friends and colleagues.

These are incredibly effective networking strategies. But it doesn’t mean they’re the networking strategies that will work for me.

For me, there are few instances when the ethos of what we do here at What Works is more apparent than when it comes to networking. You see, it would be easy for me–and other loner types–to say that traditional forms of networking don’t work for me.

The challenge is in discovering what does work for me. The value is in sharing it.

What works for me is showing up with work I believe in–even if it’s a simple post on social media–and inviting conversation. It’s asking you, as I have been in every episode, to connect with me on Instagram, and tell me your story. It’s being willing to jump into the middle of a conversation on social media because I know I can shine.

I’m at my best when I am sharing my work outloud and in public, inviting conversation on that work. I am doing my own version of networking when I turn comments on blog posts, Instagram pics, and podcast episodes into deep friendships that support me and my business.

And in the process of doing it, I build relationships, meet new people, and connect more deeply with people I care about.

These things still aren’t easy for me. But I can do it and it works.

Of course, this strategy might not work for you. It’s a bit weird and totally me.

That’s okay. I hope what we can agree on though is how utterly essential expanding your professional network and maintaining your relationships is to the success of your business.

Because it’s true.

If my approach doesn’t work for you, what does? Well, we asked 4 members of The What Works Network to share what works for them when it comes to expanding their networks and nurturing relationships with colleagues.

Each has a her own spin on the type of relationships she values, how she puts herself in the best position to take advantage of her relationships, and what puts her at ease when talking business with others.

I’d love to know what works for you when it comes to expanding your network and nurturing your relationships. Shoot me a message or tag me in a post on Instagram and let me know! You can find me @tara_mcmullin.

Prefer to read? No problem. Find the entire episode in article form by clicking here.

This episode features Marie PoulinChristie MimsCarol Coxand Andréa Jones