This is a question asked at VA Forum recently and the person posting the question specifically wanted to know if everyone was getting all of their business via LinkedIn (where the forum is). There were a variety of answers that responded with some saying yes and others saying no.
I believe the answer is that it would be unusual for ALL your business to come from the one avenue, even if people are using it as a networking tool. Why? Because they should be doing a variety of networking, rather than just in one place. I’m a firm believer in face-to-face networking as well as online networking. Networking locally means you get to learn about what is happening with business locally, how local govt may, or may not be supporting small business, how locals are dealing with economic factors, you can locate local resources and services for your business (such as computer support, printer and cartridge suppliers, office supplies, Accountant, etc) and become the person that others come to locally when they need assistance. And no person should be staying inside their own four walls full time. We all need to be getting out and about, stretching our legs, getting fresh air. But apart from that, networking with others will invariably generate referrals and word-of-mouth marketing, especially once you began doing work for others.
Sometimes it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg, which comes first? The networking or the client? But the client has to find out about you first and that means you have to be visible and be heard. Only way for that to be possible is for you to hang out where the prospective client hangs out. Local social and business groups, i.e. Rotary, Lions, BNI, Chambers of Commerce, local council, school, sporting clubs, churches, other types of activities. Where people congregate they also talk, and through that process at some time, people are going to ask what you do. Make sure you spend more time finding out about what they do so you can build up a picture in your mind how you can help them through your business. The same applies online. But don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Make sure you do a variety of networking in different places and spend time letting others get to know you. It will pay off!