The first thing every successful business needs is money. Whether you’re a first time entrepreneur looking to turn your dreams into reality or an established business looking to grow and expand to the next level, every business relies or has relied on investors for support and resources at some point in its journey. Convincing people to believe in your vision as much as you do isn’t easy, but the payoff is well worth it.

So how do you go about finding investors? The first step is to understand your needs and clearly lay out both what you are looking for and what you can offer. You should always have a solid business plan backed by hard work and data, as well as a well practiced pitch. The market is competitive, and it can be tempting to accept any offer that comes your way. Don’t. Take your time and remember that the relationship flows both ways.

Are you looking for an equity or angel investor who will provide funds in exchange for a share of the profits and partial ownership? These are often the most flexible types of investments, but the downside is that you are relinquishing some of the control over your business. Are you comfortable letting major investors  Other investors may simply loan your business money for a particular purpose, such as updating your equipment. If you have a proven record of success and a shot at high returns in a short time frame, you may also look into venture capital firms. Tailor your search to the investment model that makes the most sense for your business.

Once you know what you are looking for, it’s time to begin networking. Make a profile on AngelList and promote it with everyone you know. This website will let you include lots of specific information about your company to pique investor’s interest. Make sure you send a personalized note to everyone who follows you or interacts with your [profile, and follow up by asking for a meeting.

Curate a thoughtful list of investors you would like to approach. Be targeted and specific in your approach. While it can be tempting to cast a wide net, it is ultimately a waste of your time. Instead, develop a list of investors you truly think would be a good fit, who have a history of supporting projects similar to but not in direct competition with yours and who you believe share the values and goals of your business.

Leverage your existing network as much as possible. Ask friends and fellow entrepreneurs to help you build out the list, and to help you identify people who don’t belong on it. People you know may have suggestions you hadn’t thought of, or valuable insight about which investors are difficult to work with or not actively seeking new investments. Just as with a job interview, you are far more likely to secure a first meeting with a personal recommendation, so search for any mutual acquaintances who can offer an introduction. Make it easy for them by providing a few sentence pitch for your business that they can forward on.

Finally, build a strong platform by establishing a name for yourself as a thought leader. See if you can get guest-blogging gigs on reputable, industry specific sites. If you can prove that you know what you’re talking about and how to be heard, you may find the right investors coming to you.