Fresh off a wonderful lunch with a colleague, I decided to come back to the office and blog about the importance and value of networking in business. My colleague has run into some serious barriers in her business. She's either been confronted with people who essentially want to pay her $20 to write an entire magazine article or $10 for a newsletter or get no business at all. First, readers and business people, do you have any idea how insulting it is to pay a highly educated, skilled professional $20 for an 800-word article? While some folks don't value writers and think we do this out of sheer passion and love for the craft, the truth is we have to eat. People pay their babysitters more than $20. So faced with either being devalued or not finding work, she was considering a move back to corporate. I decided to give her the "chin-up-young-grasshopper" talk and discuss what she could be doing to avoid the collision course with the worst-case scenario. Those of you business people out there who are struggling with lack of work, these tips apply.
Relation Building Once Solely Known as Networking. You have to get out of your comfort zone, get out there and network. People do business with people they know and like. If someone has a dollar to spend who do you think they want to spend it with? The unknown business owner they have never met and don't care about or the friendly face they see at least once a month at their networking event? You have to get out there, shake hands, and make friends. It sounds like what they tell you in college, doesn't it? People hire people the know and like.
Show up. It's not enough to go to one event and disappear. You have to consistently show up. Show your face. Give people a chance to get to know you. Maybe they don't have business for you yet, but perhaps they might know someone who needs your services. Again, who are they going to recommend? The woman they've never met and saw in an advertisement or the good friend they've come to know and care about from their networking group?
Follow up. It's not enough to show up. Make sure you have a follow-up mechanism. I use my weekly newsletter to stay in touch with people. Most readers just enjoy reading it and following me. But here is the essential truth: maybe this reader doesn't have a project right now, but maybe a year from now, they do. Who are they going to turn to? The publisher and PR specialist they've never met or the woman who consistently entertains and informs them each week with valuable information?
Consistency. Finally, whatever you do, be consistent and persist. Keep showing up and following up every week or month. You don't have to overtly sell. You can just be the familiar, friendly face or the woman everyone turns around and smiles and says, "Michelle! Good to see you!"