Are you one of the many creative business owners who hear the word networking and feel uncomfortable? Business networking can be easy, even for introverts like me, and it can help you to grow your business faster than you can on your own. In this series, I’ll be sharing tips for using networking to expand your creative business.
Networking Business Strategies – Part 1
So, what is business networking anyway?
I like to think of networking your business as purposefully communicating with other people. It doesn’t mean talking obsessively about your business, or jamming unsolicited business cards into the hands of everyone you meet. Networking helps you grow your formal and informal connections, and these connections can help you solve problems and bring resources to your business.
Some creative business owners find it easy to chat with strangers about any topic, including their own businesses. But some of us find meeting new people, succinctly talking about our work, or engaging in extemporaneous conversation challenging. If that sounds like you, consider practicing with a friend or colleague first, or joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters.
Where do creative business owners network?
Networking business opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. You can, of course, network wherever you have the opportunity to talk with other people. But many creative business owners find it easier to get started networking at more focused events, like professional conferences or meetings organized by local Etsy teams, Chambers of Commerce, and business associations. There are also many opportunities for networking online, which we’ll discuss in the next post.
If you’re new to business networking, here are 3 tips to help you get started:
Set a Small Goal for Your First Outings
A good business growth strategy is to plan to introduce yourself to 3 people and to learn more about their businesses. Many novice networkers focus on talking about themselves and end up boring others. Unless the people you meet are asking engaging questions about your business, spend as much time as possible learning about them. If you have helpful information to offer, or know someone who would be a good connection, ask for a business card so you can follow up – and then do it.
Try Out Different Types of Networking Events
You may find that you enjoy talking with people at events where there is a speaker or workshop topic that serves as a conversation starter or that you prefer the more informal environment of a happy hour.
It’s easy to chat with people and then lose track of them once you get home or to decide immediately that you don’t “need” a particular contact. But, you never know when you might want a referral to a graphic designer or when that electrician will want to buy some handmade jewelry for her sister. A great networking strategy is to build time for follow up into your networking schedule by clearing an hour from your calendar the day after an event to send out emails, add people to your contacts, or to connect on social media.
In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about how to network online for more business growth opportunities, so stay tuned!
If attending a conference is part of your networking plan, then you may enjoy this episode of the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show: 10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your First Blogging or Social Media Conference.
What business growth strategies do you have to share?
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