There are two types of communities you can get involved in. You can involve yourself in a community of your peers, or a community of your audience.
In terms of peer groups, there are peers with whom you are in direct competition and those who offer complementary services to yours. Both can help you get clients but the complementary group will be more beneficial to you because they are not direct competition. Consider that when you get involved in any particular group.
Business focused groups, mastermind groups, industry focused groups and so forth all exist to help you educate yourself further and provide connections. You can get clients through word of mouth when a peer group member feels you would be right for a position because they have come to know you. Peer groups also offer opportunities for joint venture (JV) partnerships which can widen and expand your audience.
Audience or niche groups are the best place for you to spend your time because you can find groups full of your ideal clients. You can locate these groups by looking at local meet-ups in the area, searching for groups on LinkedIn.com, and searching for and joining message boards devoted to a particular niche.
The key making niche groups work is to join the group, freely answer questions for them and let them come to see you as part of the group. Let your signature line speak for itself, and do not try to sell your services at all. They will come to you when they see that you offer what they want via your normal sharing mechanisms.
Understand the Pros and Cons
Be a free and open source of information regarding your niche. This is how people will get to know you and trust you and start seeing you as someone to refer to others or hire. There can be problems with choosing to spend more time in communities of your peers than in communities consisting of your niche audience. Doing so can result in a problem finding your ideal clients and being stuck in a bubble of competitors.
You want to focus on spending more time in communities that are made up of your ideal audience than with your peers but you want to also participate in peer communities so that you can become known as a community expert.
Finally, when you join either type of group you want to realize that when you first join, you are the new person and you are unknown. No one is going to trust you immediately - whether they are meeting you in person or online. Take the time to get to know others before offering your services in any manner, and get to know the culture of the group. Let your business card or your signature line do the selling for you. Make participation your goal and more clients will be the result.
Let Behind the Scenes Solutions organize and schedule your first online community.