Networking can feel super daunting as a creative, especially if you work from home as a solopreneur or have a relatively small team. Is networking something you really need to do when you own your own business? And if it is, how can you make it feel less corporate and icky to you?
Networking used to remind me of passing out my business card to random strangers at work/social mixers and professional conferences. I’d never use any of these contacts because I’d lose half of the business cards before I even made it back to the office the next day.
But, you can define the terms for what networking looks like for you! From LinkedIn connections to Facebook groups, you can choose where and how you show up to share your expertise with the world. It could be attending Chamber of Commerce meetings or meeting with a fellow creative that happens to be visiting your town (or one nearby!).
Networking is important not only for business, but also for our mental health, and it can totally be fun!
We’ve all grabbed drinks after work and written it off as a business expense, but is that really networking? According to the dictionary, networking means “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” You are probably already doing this on Facebook and Instagram when you randomly share an app that’s really been working for you or ask around to see who’s the best at setting up Dubsado for photographers. But, how can you have a system around it where networking happens organically and frequently without the heavy lifting?
Now, if networking still has you worried because you feel awkward, I have a secret … You ready? We ALL feel awkward. Starting conversations is awkward until you get to know someone, so go into it telling yourself that they feel just as awkward as you. It’ll take the pressure off.
Also, just be YOU! Everyone appreciates a genuine interaction. Networking doesn’t have to be about business. It’s truly about making connections, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to find common interests outside of the work that you do.
Once you’ve made a genuine connection with someone, dig a little deeper and share some struggles. Not only will your transparency make them feel more comfortable to share their struggles with you, their weak area might be your superpower and you’ll get to share all of the magic with them. Or, they might be a great referral partner for others who need you. Being a connector, especially while networking, will make you a resource for your colleagues.
Not everyone you meet while networking will be your cup of tea, and that’s ok! The relationships that you value should be nourished, so keep in touch. A quick email saying how great it was to connect or a $5 gift card to Starbucks to help them push forward with their goals really goes a long way in nurturing these new relationships.
So, get out there and get started relationship-building!
P. S. I’ll be building some new relationships in just a couple short weeks at the Creative at Heart conference. I’m so excited to meet some new friends, learn from awesome educators who are really doing their thing in business and life, and share my accounting expertise in the Know Your Numbers sessions. Will I see you there?