Here’s Part 2 of my tips for making networking less sucky, especially for us introverts. Check out Part 1 here.
Be open to networking events, but choose the right ones.
This might be the HARDEST one for us introverts, but it’s the most important.
Eventually, you DO have to put yourself out there. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to a huge “Small Business” meet n’ mingle in a hotel ballroom where you’ll meet tons of realtors and accountants and local restauranteurs.
Instead, look for a lettering meet up or an event focused on creative entrepreneurs. The Rising Tide Society has local chapters everywhere and it’s an amazingly welcoming place to meet local event planners, social media freelancers, photographers and other creative folks.
One of the best networking events I ever invested in was WorkSesh by Bossladies. Instead of just a one-off event, this was 20 creative women meeting once a week for a whole month. I was overwhelmed by the thought of talking to every single person, so I just focused on getting to know the people that I felt the most drawn to. I was the only hand letterer in the entire group. At one meeting, I brought my calligraphy tools and offered to write people’s names on little scraps of paper. Everyone loved it and it made me stick a little bit more in their minds.
WorkSesh honestly didn’t feel like networking. It felt like finding a creative entrepreneur support group. So look for networking opportunities that are intimate, focused, and offer multiple chances to get to connect with the same group of people.
Also, BONUS TIP: Don’t limit yourself to networking events in your industry. If you only go to “calligraphy” networking events, all you’ll get is opportunities to collaborate with other calligraphers. Which is great! But if you also mixed in some networking events for wedding professionals, then you might connect with people who can give you actual, paid work!
Don’t dismiss people because they’re not immediately “useful” to you.
This is one of the ickiest parts of networking for me - sifting through people until you find someone who might be of value to you. So don’t do it that way! I’m not saying you need to spend a whole hour chatting to the first person you see, but try to be be genuinely friendly and interested in everyone you meet. You never know who’s going to end up connecting you to something great!
Months after attending WorkSesh, one of the women that I had met there offered me a fantastic opportunity. She wasn’t an event planner or wedding coordinator or brand manager. She was a family and marriage counselor. We connected even though there was no OBVIOUS link between our two businesses. But it turned out that her husband was a key employee at Apolis, who happened to be looking for a calligrapher to collaborate with.
I’ve been working with Apolis ever since, customizing over 1000 of their popular jute market bags, gaining lots of exposure for my brand and earning tens of thousands of dollars from the partnership.
At one of the live events I did for Apolis, a Jo Malone executive happened to see me. So I ended up getting hired by Jo Malone to do engraving gigs for $150/hr. And a couple months later, an Anthropologie planner reached out to me to do live calligraphy at one of their store grand openings.
So I hope this real-life look into my business life has convinced you how important networking is.
And you can TOTALLY do it! Even if you think you suck at it.
The thing is, networking is just like anything else. It takes practice to get good at. The more conversations you have, the more you learn about how to talk to people, ask engaging people, follow up, and cultivate a true connection.
So put just ONE of these four tips into action this week! Write a sincere thank you to a business leader you admire. Find a local, intimate networking event you can join. Send a DM through Instagram.
Networking is made up of lots of tiny actions. So just take it one step at a time and watch the magic happen =)
CREATIVE BIZ & CALLIGRAPHY ADVICE, STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX
If you liked this blog post, you’ll LOVE my weekly emails.
Every Wednesday, I send a helpful calligraphy tutorial, small business tip, inspirational story or useful freebie, exclusively to my Crooked Wednesdays Email Club.
It’s kinda awesome - just click below to join!