Does the word “networking” make you wanna throw up in your mouth a little?
Yeah, me too.
To me, networking is a room full of tight smiles and nervous laughter. It’s shaking someone’s hand and explaining for the fifteenth time what I do for a living, while the other person tries to look over my shoulder for someone more interesting to talk to.
I can describe this scene very precisely because it’s exactly what I had to do in law school. From the very beginning, we were encouraged to go to “mixers” held by fancy law firms. No one really wanted to be there so everyone drank too much and the whole time everyone was desperately trying to seem interesting (or interested, depending on the person).
So when I kept hearing that “networking” was one of the things you HAD to do to get your business off the ground, I just shuddered quietly and hunkered deeper into my solopreneur world.
That is, until I tried some low-key, introvert-friendly ways to network… and stuff magically started to happen.
In fact, networking has brought me some of my most important clients.
So, the bad news is: YES, NETWORKING IS VERY IMPORTANT.
The good news, I’m sharing FOUR TIPS to help make it less excruciating.
Here’s Part 1, which has Tips #1 and 2. Watch out next week for Part 2.
Don’t make it about you. Make it about THEM.
Think about writing an email to an almost-stranger, bragging about how important you are and why they should get to know you.
Kinda gross huh?
Now, if you’re thinking, “Shinah… I would never do that.”
Then how about this email?
“Dear So-and-so - I love your work. I’ve always dreamed of doing exactly what you’re doing with your life. I would love to take you out to coffee and pick your brain. It would be such an honor to meet you.”
That email’s not so bad right? But what do you think the chances are that this person will actually respond to you and say yes? They’re probably a busy person who gets these requests all the time.
No matter how nice this email sounds, it’s still all about YOU. How YOU feel. What YOU want. The value that YOU would get out of this meeting.
Now instead, think about writing to that person just to tell them that you find them inspiring and that they have helped you to overcome or achieve something very specific. End it with a sincere thank you and that you don’t expect any response. You just wanted them to know that they’ve made a difference in your world. (You can even add that if they ever need a testimonial/ customer review, you’re more than happy to provide one.)
That feels a LOT better right? You can write one of those emails every month or every week right?
One of the smartest things I did in my first year of business was send a sincere Christmas card to Sonja Rasula, the founder of UniqueLA. UniqueLA is a huge pop-up market that helped me put my business in front of thousands of people, just months after I got started.
In the card, I told Sonja about how UniqueLA had helped me connect with workshop partners, find an audience and land really impressive clients. Of course, Sonja LOVED hearing that. Who doesn’t like to hear a flattering testimonial about how their life’s work is making a difference?
Sonja never responded to that Christmas card, but a few months later, she asked me to do some lettering at an event she was throwing with Nike. That led to more events, which lead to a small event planning duo seeing me, which led to me doing calligraphy for friggin’ DOM PERIGNON.
Find ONE person that can connect you to other people.
You can do this using the advice from Tip #1. You can also just start slowly, by leaving sincere comments or even direct messaging them, on Instagram.
For me, that person was Sonja. She invited me to a free event for small businesses that she was hosting. There, I met Nicole Miyuki, a lovely soul in the lettering community who everyone adores. As soon as I met her, she shared my business card on her Instagram Stories, telling people to check me out. Well, of course people adore her! She genuinely loves to help people out and CONNECT people to each other.
Within the year, Joyce invited me to join a group coaching program that was EXACTLY what I needed to grow my business. (Then we went to Disneyland together). Dianuh and I started meeting up every month and even working out together. And a few months later, they invited me to join them for a bomb-ass conference for online entrepreneurs that I NEVER would have found on my own.
At that conference, I met Becca from The Happy Ever Crafter, who is a leader and connector in the lettering community.
If you’re seeing a common theme here, it’s this: once you start putting yourself out there and making a few connections, things start to snowball. If you picture a computer network, that’s exactly how it works. You’re in the center, and each person you meet is a potential to meet another few people, and those people offer even more chances to connect to opportunities that could really propel your business forward.
Next week, I’ll be sharing Tips #3 and 4 - even more concrete ways to start getting out there and making connections. Even if it terrifies you.
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