Networking tips to help you create real connection
Support systems are important. And, while I’m sure you might read this and agree without pause, I want to challenge you a bit—because as photographers trying to build a business, we often operate in isolation even though we know things are easier when you have a strong network to lean on. We are laser-focused on a wedding day to ensure we don’t miss a shot. We edit our galleries sitting alone at our desks. We typically only communicate with the wedding planner our couples hire—it’s not a terrible way to build a business, but it’s not a great way to build your network.
Strong professional relationships don’t just happen. And, even though you might end up getting lucky and connecting with a few people, that luck will only take you so far—you still have to put in the effort to foster a true relationship. Today, then, I wanted to take some time to focus on those very important support systems we all need as wedding photographers. Read on for the networking tips I took to heart and used to build strong relationships with other wedding vendors in my area.
Networking is where to start
Regardless of what comes to mind when you think about networking, it is what you need to do in order to build relationships with the other business owners in your area. Because, you can’t expect people to find you on social media or love your work so much they track you down. You have to take the same initiative you put into marketing your business to couples into connecting with other vendors. But the key is to be focused in what you do and who you engage with (again, just like with marketing). Here are my networking tips to help you do just that:
- Building relationships isn’t something that can be rushed. We tend to think we know someone because of what we see on the internet, but true relationships take time
- Do not send the same templated message to a lot of people. You should be doing some research about them and (at minimum) customizing your template to be personal to them
- Be cognisant of who you are trying to connect with. If you are 2 years into business, trying to network with someone 10 years in is just not the move
- People don’t always have the time to grab coffee—they can barely grab coffee with friends. So you should expect to pay professionals for their time and knowledge if you are trying to meet up or schedule a call
- If you are looking for a mentor, know it is a big ask! You shouldn’t be approaching anyone about this kind of commitment unless you really know them
When you are looking at ways to meet people, you should think outside of the traditional box. Of course, you can attend an organized networking event, but it can also be reaching out on social media, via email, and introducing yourself at weddings. A few words of wisdom for anyone thinking about the latter: if you are assisting or second shooting for someone at a wedding (i.e. representing their business), the wedding is not the place to try and build your own brand. In addition, everyone is focused on what they need to do at a wedding, so being really helpful and doing your job well is the best way to make an impression.
Build trust and add value
Speaking of making an impression, it’s imperative that you build trust and add value to the relationship you are trying to build—they are a two-way street, after all. The most fruitful business relationships are ones where each person is adding value and acting as a support system, so take the time you need in order to truly understand someone else’s business and how you can support them. Doing so is a surefire way to build trust! The best way to start is simply by sharing words of encouragement. Anyone can like a post, but not everyone will make the smallest amount of effort to say, “You posted X and it resonated with me because Y.” That’s special and extremely appreciated.
And, while I know I mentioned this before, it’s worth a bit of reinforcement: You should pay people for their time if you’re looking for business advice.
It’s an ongoing effort
True relationships (the ones that create real support systems) take a lot of time and effort. And, while I’ve shared a lot about how to make sure you are on a productive path, I also wanted to take a moment to discuss things you can do over the long run.
- Reach out to your contacts (in advance) when you know you are traveling to their city. This is perhaps the most important thing to do when you are networking with vendors who are in your destination markets
- Consistently send thoughtful messages and comments on social media because this is the easiest way to stay top of mind
- Send old-school holiday cards at the end of the year. Most people will not make the effort to do this, so it is a great way to stand out
As you work to build your network and professional relationships, just be sure to focus on the people before you jump into the “transaction” of what they can do for you. Because, the easiest way to burn bridges is to take and not give back—and I’m confident that isn’t the impression you’re wanting to make.Want to find the easiest way to build your community as you build your brand and business, but don’t know where to start? Let’s get you the jolt of inspiration you need with a 90-minute mentorship call! You can share your stories and goals with me and we’ll make sure you’re networking in the right places (and with the right people).