If anyone asked me what is the most important part of my business, I would say networking, Now I am sure the visual that comes to mind is a room full of business professionals with business cards and name tags. That is one way to make connections, however I don't find that the most effective or practical way of getting your name out there. I see everyday networking as consistently posting to this blog, as giving out business cards to those I meet, and as conducting myself in a business manner everywhere I go. I can tell you that it will feel fruitless at first. You will feel like you are shoving your business into every conversation and annoying those who are misfortunate enough to land a conversation with you. Even if it feels forced in the beginning, over time people will start to associate you with your trade, and that is where the seeds planted in conversation come into fruition in the form of referrals and word of mouth. Here are a few tips on making sure that you are on top of your networking game:
1. Make sure you have up-to-date business cards, and actually carry them with you. I have a cell phone case with slots for credit cards so I always have my ID, my credit card, and 3-5 business cards. This makes it easier to whip out a business card quickly, versus getting my purse, digging for my larger wallet, and finally fishing a card out to the potential client or business contact. Makes you seem more prepared and smooth in your delivery.
2. Find a local creatives group that shares your love for small business. I am part of The Rising Tide Society here in Dallas, and there are branches in all major cities in the US. The group is for any small business owner in the creative field. The best part about Rising Tide, is it's free, the meetings are only once a month (we meet in the afternoons or evenings, on Tuesday's), and if you are too far or too busy to attend, they post the curriculum discussed on the website and local Facebook group.
3. Collaborate! You aren't the only one just getting started. You aren't the only one trying to be their own boss. Grab coffee with someone from a creatives group and discuss marketing, pricing, business models, and struggles. The point is having someone you can bounce business ideas off of. I can't count how many times I have come up with an 'amazing' idea for my business, bounced it off someone, and have them poke necessary holes in it and help me come up with a more realistic option. This also cultivates relationships that expand your network!
4. BE APPROACHABLE! This is the most important one for me. If you seem unfriendly or too shy to speak to anyone, how do you expect to expand your business. People = Business! If you want to be your own boss, you have to make connections yourself!
Just arm yourself with business cards and a positive mindset and make it happen. You are wonderful and will only get better with practice!