Building a business from the ground up is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience, especially when it's surrounding your biggest passion in life- but there can also be many challenges along the road including getting started and seeing growth. You may already know what it feels like to pour your heart and soul into your work- spending long hours learning and improving, OR you may not even be there yet. If you're still in the dreaming/planning phase of your business, this is your sign to get out of your comfort zone and take some leaps of faith. It's time to stop dreaming and start doing, my friend!
Early on in my wedding photography career, I learned that "doing" often begins with getting out of your comfort zone- This is where we accomplish the best growth. It’s a mindset that constantly comes back to me. When starting out, getting uncomfortable and creating opportunities to introduce yourself, network, and show your value to others can blast you further and faster than you ever thought.
The power of Networking...
50% of your business growth is your skill, leadership and amazing service- the other 50% is your network, word of mouth and how you market yourself. In the beginning of your career, building your network can quickly bring more business opportunities. Whether you are in the creative industry or not, your circle of people is one of your best tools. You’ve probably heard people say it before, “It’s all about who you know,” but they couldn’t be more right. People are full of resources and opportunities you may not have access to if you didn't know them, and those people are all around you.
“Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. When you invest in your relationships — professional and personal — it can pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your career. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.”
But how do you reach people? How do you build a relationship with them?? In early 2018, I started focusing on how to build a network- how to get my name out there and build connections with the right people. I knew that the more people in my circle, the better I could serve my own clients by being a resource to them!
1.) I went to businesses that shared the same clientele as me but NOT in the same industry as me. Places I knew my clients also went to. For example, clients that hire me as their wedding photographer are also hiring florists, planners + invitation designers. I introduced myself (this might be intimidating for you but they need to know you exist!!) and let them know that I was a photographer in the area who was building her business and specialized in weddings and couples.
2.) I offered these businesses photos for FREE to show my value and skill, (but discounts work too). And did my best to go above and beyond at it. I knew having them as part of my network meant that they could bring me valuable business and vise versa!! So I went to places I knew that I would be confident recommending to my clients. But first, I wanted to create a trusting relationship.
When you build strong, professional relationships within your industry, where you can bring each other new, potential clients, this is called Cross Promotion or Cross Pollination. Building a network with the right people is a WIN/WIN.
Did every business I approached take my offer? No. I was shut down many times. But the few places that did take me in made it more than worth it. I made new friendships, was introduced to bigger and better opportunities, and gained more clients!
More ways to grow...
1.) Interact with fellow creatives in your area on social media! Like and comment on their content, cheer for them, become their friend.... If I ever shoot a wedding, I always ask for vendor information. Who's the florist? Cake decorator? Caterer? Wedding coordinator? Venue owner? These are more people that I can add to my circle and tag in my photos.
2.) Have work to show. Build a portfolio that has all of your best work. If it's not work you want to be doing often, don't put it on your portfolio. If you don't have a portfolio yet, start by sharing your knowledge in a different way. "Tips and Tricks" post, mood board, educational reel or tiktok...etc
3.) Use your social media or website not just to show your work, but who YOU are. No one can copy that. People want to see the person behind the biz. It brings depth, personality and uniqueness to your brand. If you aren't posting, you are missing out on the opportunity to be seen by more people. It also will show that you spend a lot of time in your business and that you take it seriously.
4.) Be proactive and never stop learning- even if it means reaching out to someone else for help. Staying on top of your craft will allow you to grow so much better, stronger, and faster.
I realize that not every one is a photographer and that it may work differently for a lot of people. But I know that the idea of networking is something everyone can put into action!! Some of these things can be implemented into your game plan no matter what kind of journey you're ready to jump into. I hope that this helps you and inspires you to go after the things you love whole heartedly without fear. If this was helpful to you, I'd love to know..... -Adrienne