So I've spoken on this subject before and time and time again it becomes more obvious to me that networking as a small business is something that has to be part of the job that I am doing. For a long time I've been neglecting the fact that networking with photographers in the wedding industry is beneficial and that there are more to get out of it than to compete against.
I think loneliness is part of who we are when we are sole trading. Sitting at your computer day in and day out, trying to learn about marketing, social media and new angles in wedding photography is lonely. I've met a lot of people lately who would agree with me on that. For me personally, it takes a lot of courage to come out of my shell and just be honest about the issues that I'm facing in my business with other photographers. To my surprise people are always willing to help and the more people I meet, the more help I get. At the end of the day we're all in the same loneliness boat.
So here are a few ways you can network with others...
1. Meet with other photographers, or if you're a personal trainer, nutritionist, make up artist or someone else entirely, meet with the people who do exactly the same thing that you do.
2. Go to networking events. There are always a few on meetup.com . Follow up with people you met there the next day and invite them for coffee or lunch. Pick the people you can clearly see how your businesses will benefit each other in the future. There is no point in choosing to network with a carpenter when I'm a wedding photographer. A much more beneficial relationship would be a florist, stationary person, event planner or even a personal trainer!
3. Join business groups on Facebook and be active in conversations, ask for advice and see how you can help out others.
4. Organise your own Small Business group and have meet ups that will take place twice a month where you will discuss your goals and set new ones every two weeks. This way you are held liable for your goals and with the circle of small business owners you'll be able to get more insight into solving your issues.
5. Venues is a big thing and not just for photographers. I'm sure personal trainers can network with venues on different bases.
6. Creative shoots (photographers, stylists, florists, cake makers and others), bringing the creative team together for networking and portfolio purposes. But make sure you are setting your expectations right from the start.
7. Meet 1 or 2 new people every week for a coffee or lunch. Make sure you know exactly why you chose that person so that you have a 'give and take' connection. This way you'll build a foundation of people that will start promoting you in the future and vice versa.
You'd be surprised how your thinking is going to change once you start networking. Those connections can be so intimate and so supportive. Everytime someone will ask you for a recommendation you will know someone who can help out or suggest a group of people to choose from. And that is powerful.
So go on, be brave... Open up and meet 1 person this week for lunch :)