Building a business from the ground up has it’s many challenges, but watching it grow is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Especially having a creative business that thrives off of daily effort and spending long hours improving and learning your craft. Almost like raising a child, you have to be present every day, putting your heart and soul into making it the very best it can be. Early on in my business, I learned that you often have to get out of your comfort zone in order to accomplish the best growth. It’s a mindset that constantly comes back to me - I even wrote a whole blog post about it that I’ll link below.
When starting out, getting uncomfortable and taking opportunities or introducing yourself even if it’s intimidating can blast you further than you ever thought.
2 ½ years in, and almost ALL of my best growth has emanated from people I’ve met & connected with. Whether you are in the creative industry or not, your circle of people is your best tool. You’ve probably heard people say it a billion times, “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. But how do you reach them? How do you build a relationship with them?? Let’s dive in….
“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.”
Last year around this time, I started focusing on how to build a network- how to get my name out there and build connections with the right people. Not only because I’m a people person at heart, but also, I believe that the more people in your circle, the better you can serve your own clients by being a resource to them! For example, if a bride comes to me saying she hasn’t booked a florist yet, I can say, “Hey I know someone!” or “Here’s a list of vendors I know and trust.”
I love meeting and working with other people, but I have to admit that approaching them first and introducing myself seemed a bit intimidating at the time. Especially being newer in my field and not feeling as established in my own business yet. I wanted these people to know who I was but I just had no idea how to get in front of them. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about potential clients- I’m talking about other creatives and vendors in my area that work in my industry….. I was anxious to grow my circle, make connections and establish a name for myself!!! And if you think that I just walked into those businesses and shook their hand saying “Hi, my name is Adrienne Neiman and I’m a local wedding photographer in Amarillo,” ……….
then you’re absolutely right. Buuuuuuut here’s how.
1.) I went to businesses that shared the same clientele as me but NOT in competition with me. Places I knew my clients also went to. For example, clients that hire me as their wedding photographer are also hiring florists + invitation designers. But not only that, I thought about where my ideal clients like to shop at. For example, local boutiques and spas.
2.) I offered these businesses something for FREE. 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 become their friend and gain their trust.
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? I want to give these people credit under my photos when sharing because we all worked as a team! These are more people that I can add to my circle.
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.
3.) Show up and be as present as possible on social media. Not only sharing just 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 shows 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