Of the over 100 actions I’ve taken to build my new business this past year, eleven of them revolved around networking.
When you see the word networking, does it conjure up name tags, handshakes and fake smiles? I used to think that way, but it has become a favorite activity and an organic part of my business model.
For instance, early on in the pandemic, when we were locked down, I spent a lot of time learning the craft of wool appliqué, aka Penny Rug pillow-making. Because so many of us resorted to zoom for communicating with loved ones, invariably I’d offer a show and tell of my latest work. Gathering with others – professionally or personally, virtually or IRL – is networking, whether you label it or not. The feedback I received was gratifying and motivational.
“You could sell those!” was the overwhelming response.
I had no intention at the time of doing any such thing. But as inventory accumulated and the praise got more insistent, I started considering the possibility. These points of contacts, with people in my own sphere and the ones I got connected to, all contributed to my new business success.
- A good friend in the city makes her living on Broadway running costume shops and maintaining wardrobes for the players. She loves all things tactile and gave me genuine, positive feedback on my work. “These pieces have to be seen by many.” She constructed my first few textiles into pillows with her sewing machine and offered me invaluable advice on backing fabrics, marking utensils and even how to get persistent creases out of the wool.
- Another friend and client who heard what I was up to referred me to her colleague, the sales director for a luxurious line of designer wools. No amount of googling or linking in could have gotten me to this woman faster or more lovingly.
- This same CT connection introduced me to another acquaintance who had recently moved to my neighborhood – 3 blocks from me! – who became a fast friend and culture-seeking buddy. We’ve visited each other’s apartments, seen each other’s work, and exchanged valuable resources.
- A marketing expert I admire recommended following through on any four outreach strategies you like–blogging, newsletter, coffee dates, etc– consistently, to reach your audience. One of my selected activities is having a weekly visit with someone new or in my realm to catch up. This has been easy since most of us have been around and are hungry for connection. It’s mid-May, and I’ve already had zoom or in-person meetings with over 30 different people. It’s uplifting, energizing and fun. If I haven’t yet reached out to you, and you’d enjoy a 30-45 minute conversation, LMK. I’d love to meet!
- I love field trips – going places I’ve never been-so visiting an artist friend in Bushwick combined missions. Seeing someone in their environment (zoom is terrific for this as well) feeds my brain in a way that lattés at Starbucks misses.
- A surprising vehicle for networking has been the comments section of Instagram. I do believe I’m making new friends through this medium. A big tip here is to frequently comment on someone’s posts in an admiring, supportive and friendly way. Over time, these begin to feel like, well, friendships. In the less than six months I’ve been actively socializing on this medium, I’ve gotten to know several new men and women through their photos, likes and comments.
- A woman who heard me tell my story over zoom got in touch right afterwards and suggested I call her good friend, Johnny. Which I did. I shared visual information with Johnny who referred me to several of his interior designer pals who I’ve now been following and interacting with ever since.
Each of these bullets represents at least one action taken. Behind every action lurks indecision, resistance and fear. Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art covers that territory magnificently. But, when you’re in the action-taking business, and you overcome those obstacles and let go of the results, magic happens.