You’re ready to take the leap and hang out your shingle. You’re all set to start working. Bring it on.

So, where are the customers? Hopefully, as you’ve been preparing to set up shop, you’ve been spreading the word near and far about your new company, networking like mad.

Some people are born to network. They’re the ones who are still friends with the kids from grade school, have more Facebook friends than anyone else you know, and always start a conversation with the person sitting next to them on the bus.

Then there are the rest of us. We’re the ones who would drive to the supermarket in a snowstorm before asking a neighbor to lend us a cup of milk, and bury our noses in a book to avoid talking to the person next to us on a plane. We are definitely not natural-born networkers.

Well, we still have to get our names out there and find clients, no matter how much we’d rather pretend we don’t have to. The good news is that, if you really think about it, you already know people who can help you spread the good word.

Get the word out

It’s possible that you have some contacts from previous jobs, especially if your new business is in the same industry as your past employment. If so, that’s a great place to start. Call those clients, or send them an e-mail, and let them know all about your new business. If you e-mail, include a link to your website and as much pertinent information as you possibly can.

Outside of business, think about every person you know. Your family and close friends might not be actual business contacts, but they’ll surely be willing to talk up your company with other people in their own networks. They might be able to send some clients your way, or recommend you to prospective customers.

If you are selling a product, give your friends some samples of your delicious cookies or beautiful stationery. Ask them to show your stuff around. If you have a service business, ask people to recommend your repair shop for their auto needs. My stepson recently opened a deli, and relatives from around the country are sending old friends his way. It’s made a huge difference in his revenue.

It’s okay to talk to strangers

This might not be your favorite thing to do, but it’s time to start expanding your network outside of your comfort zone.

Joining your local chamber of commerce or business council is a good way to meet new contacts. It will also give you the opportunity to connect with people in fields different from your own, which may lead to some great business relationships. You might meet another entrepreneur who needs a new heating system installed in her building, and would love to give you the job.

A welcome respite

Aside from the obvious business advantages, networking can also help you on a personal level. Running a business can be extremely demanding, especially when you’re starting out and have so many questions. Meeting like-minded people, particularly those who’ve been there and done that, will give you a great resource for advice and suggestions.

And, if you’ll be working alone, perhaps out of a home office, networking can be a lifeline. No matter how much you love what you do, there will be days when you simply have to talk to someone other than yourself. When those days loom, plan to meet someone from your network for coffee. Look at the business council’s schedule and see if there are any meetings or events coming up.

You never know – the need for a little human interaction just might lead to another business opportunity.