Networking is and always will be the most important thing for your entrepreneurial journey and success. Every single job I’ve ever landed (aside from my modeling/acting gigs) has been through referrals by friends or a friend of a friends. If you are an entrepreneur, you know we are constantly searching for new work 24-7. We have to hustle hard day in and day out to ensure we have a roof over our heads and food on the table (even if it’s only Mac & Cheese or cereal for now).
I cannot stress enough how important networking and collaborating is. Long gone are the days of putting an ad in the local newspaper in hopes someone will see it and call you on their rotary phone to hire you. The best way to land new business and sustain being your own boss is through word of mouth and building personal relationships. Networking gets you jobs. Make sure people know you are a freelancer and that you’re available. The benefits of networking will start adding up quickly.
1. Network every time you step foot outside your door
Every moment is a moment you should network. Be prepared all the time and have zero excuses, be open to talking to as many people as possible. If you are shy, timid, scared, etc work on those skills or else you will never make it. You are your brand, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to everyone you can (without being overly eager). Tell everyone you meet what you do. Have a stack of business cards in your wallet. It’s a missed business opportunity if you don’t have them on you. We are so much more than what we see. Talk.
Some people think business cards are a thing of the past. Out of sight, out of mind, but a business card is a great way to come front of mind at a future time when they’re getting ready to throw your card into the trash. Or, make a unique/aesthetically pleasing business card that people won’t want to throw away because it’s so dope. (Check out the mini business cards on Moo.com). I don’t even stick to just business cards, because in my eyes a lot of people give out business cards so people tend to have so many they don’t really pay any attention to them. I like to get some postcards printed from Printivity to go alongside my business cards so I have something a bit different to hand it. It makes your business stand out and a postcard is a lot harder to lose than a little business card. Sidenote: Even though you should give your business card out, don’t trust that they will reach out to you. Always ask for theirs to make sure you get their contact info.
2. Build your circle with other like minded freelancers
We are not each other’s competition nor should you have that mindset. If you do, it will hurt your business. We all want to succeed and the only way to do that is by helping and supporting each other, we must share our knowledge with each other. I want my people to win just as much as I want to win. And I’ll only have people in my circle that want me to win as well.
As entrepreneurs, we know the struggle and the hustle that goes into building our empires but we also know the fulfilment we get and the joy it brings. We need to lift each other up and be family in the darker days. Not many people get what we do, so keep those who do, close. Many collaborations come from having these people in your circle. Listen and learn from them. You need to know people who can refer work your way. Connect your contacts. Introduce your circle to your friends. Make your circle bigger.
3. Refer your circle to gigs
Pass work to those in your circle. Remember when I said all the jobs I’ve landed have been through friends or friends of friends? That’s why this is SUPER important. In my circle, I have photographers, hair and makeup artists, designers, models, artists, industry people etc and anytime someone mentions to me that they are looking for ‘X’ I immediately give them a name or three. Most people want to hire people they trust and word of mouth is the most reliable. Then when they land work through your referral, they refer you. So on and so forth. It’s a domino effect.
You refer them, they refer you. We all get work, we all make money. We all grow our businesses.
4. GIVE (& take)
Emphasis on GIVE. Help others often. It will eventually be returned ten fold. Always offer to help or give advice and be sure to respond to those on your social media channels. By giving to others, it allows people to see your abilities and that you’re willing to share the knowledge. This is a perfect way to strengthen your network. Give back first, reap later.
5. Stay in touch with people you’ve networked with
Don’t let these relationships dry up. Usually when you network with people you don’t necessarily get work right away. Reach out to them every so often to stay on top of mind. A quick email checking in is a perfect way to remind them about you. Ask them to coffee. Continue conversation. Ask what they are working on and offer help. Strengthen your relationship with them. Expand your connections through them. The more people you can reach the more opportunities there will be.