by Lisa McGrimmon
Networking in business does not have to be the intimidating ordeal that many assume it to be. These tips will help you network effectively and with ease.
Networking to promote your craft business does not have to be a highly formal or daunting task. So many people assume that effective networking in business consists of donning your best power suit and glibly chatting up anyone and everyone who might be able to impact your business. In fact, that image is very far from the realities of good networking.
Good networking is neither insincere, nor aggressive. To start some effective business networking, all you need to do is find opportunities to develop positive and mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded people.
Help and be helped.
Networking is as simple as that.
When you think of it that way, networking in business is a lot more manageable than you might initially think.
If you are nervous about the idea of networking, start small just by talking to your close supportive friends and family members about your business. Your goal is not to sell anything to them, just to practice talking about your business.
I booked my first jewelry home parties by doing this. I didn't even have to directly ask people to host the parties; they volunteered as soon as I told them about my new business.
Talk to other artists or craft professionals at art shows. When you're selling your crafts at an art show, make a point of talking to the other artists. Start with people selling non-competing products. Strike up a conversation just for the sake of being friendly. You'll be surprised by how easily that can lead to trading information about shows and business strategies.
Make it a give and take interaction so you each benefit from the experience. If you made a good connection and have a few things in common, exchange business cards. Email the person, or connect with them on social media once in a while to stay in touch if it feels appropriate; be sincere, don't just contact them when you're looking for something for your business.
Consider joining your local artists' guild or council. You'll find great opportunities to develop real, mutually respectful and beneficial relationships with like-minded people. They'll be able to give you tips on local art business resources, and you'll have the inside track on the local art scene without ever having to put on a power suit or make a single cold call.
Gather up your courage and push your boundaries a bit. If you feel a bout of shyness coming on in the midst of a business networking opportunity, ask yourself, realistically, what do you have to lose?
Happily, I took my own advice when I was at a big craft festival near my hometown. I went partly for fun and partly because I thought I might find something or meet someone that would benefit my business while I was there.
After attending a presentation by the publisher of a popular craft magazine, I really wanted to talk to her about submitting an article. However, I'd never had an article published in a magazine, so a big wave of shyness was holding me back. After gathering together my courage, I went to her booth and struck up a conversation with her husband. After a couple more conversations, I was writing an article for her magazine, and thrilled that I hadn't let my shyness hold me back.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter make it extremely easy to network online. You can get your craft business networking started by liking my Facebook page here and joining in the conversation. :)
Look for ways to connect with other professional craft artists, particularly those who run businesses that are related to yours but don't directly compete with yours. That's where you can give and receive excellent support and maybe even find an opportunity for a profitable business partnership.
Remember to keep it authentic. People can spot a spammer a mile away on a social site. Spend some time building relationships and sharing good quality information or thoughts. Give as well as receive to build up positive and mutually beneficial relationships.
I hope I've dispelled some of the common myths and fears about networking in business, and you're ready to start networking for success. Leave your power suit in the closet, forget the glib one liners, and approach people with sincerity and an openness to work towards mutual benefits, and your arts and craft business networking efforts will be a success.
Networking in Business for Craft Professionals