Networking. The word itself seems as though it has this stigma on it, but why? It’s just a word, right? This is where my answer gets weird, yes it is just a word, and yes the stigma surrounding it is there. If you look up articles on networking you will find many articles on how to network and networking for introverts and probably everything in between. While I am all for getting out there and going to the meetings, today I want to talk about having others help you network for your small business.
When I was in high school, I told my parents that I wanted to go to school for broadcasting. They thought I was crazy, but they started talking to their friends and realized that they in fact knew and a handful of people within the industry. My parents friends were outside of my network, but not that far out of reach. After graduation I reached out to their friends and was able to talk to a handful of companies, I probably would not have been able to get in the door otherwise. So after making my rounds of talking and even working for some of them, I started figuring out how to use my network to grow my business. I’m sure you have seen many times online somewhere that you can’t make it as a photographer, and while I am still building my brand and company you can do it.
I started out with taking photos for many of my family’s friends and even using my family to build my portfolio. Then my break into getting people who don’t know me! This is the amazing part of networking, I wanted to start shooting sports and it was hard to find my in with local teams. My mom one day got an email from a parent on my sister’s high school soccer team asking if anyone knew a photographer. I took the parent’s email address and reached out, I did 6 collages and 1 package of action shots that year! The parents of my sister’s soccer team were not in my network, but they were in my moms. I learned that I need to use my mom, dad, and sister’s networks in order to spread the order that I was a photographer and I am here. This brought me to asking my family to network for me, NO I did not stop building my network on my own. I continued to build and add their networks to mine.
I still go out to networking meetings and I have my favorite groups to meet with, but now I have more people networking for me too! My network has grown and so has my network’s network. I know this sounds funny, but as I get new clients and repeat clients they network for me. I have two favorite examples, the first one: I did a senior session for Lauren last year, she was one of my athletes that I had been working with for a few years. She had a lot of fun during her session and told her entire soccer team. I showed up to one of her games and when she saw me, she yelled across the field hello and said that’s my photographer! My second favorite, is a friend of my sisters did a snowy senior session with me. Maddy loved the pictures and posted one on Instagram, a friend of hers saw and loved the picture too and wanted to have their own session. We booked a family session with them and they love the pictures and gallery I did for them.
I will continue to network and grow my network with the help of my growing network and new found partners in networking.
I hope you are going to start networking within your network, too!