As many folks who’ve been small business owners for awhile can tell you, running your own business, especially if you work from home, can be incredibly isolating. While many of us often make connections online with other photographers, we can often find ourselves existing in a daily bubble made up mostly of culling and editing, sometimes alone at night one the rest of our families are in bed.
And so, building business relationships is more than just a needed business task. We need these relationships to shake us out of our bubble, drag us out of our houses, and get us back into clothing other than our PJs for more than just the few times a week we shoot or meet clients. The plus side to creating new relationships will be a network that can nourish your business and your local community.
Talk to Everyone
Your first step in building industry relationships is the simplest: Say hello! Say hello to everyone you come across, even during non-business related tasks. Introduce yourself, and get curious about them – and be genuinely interested in their responses. Think outside the box – some local businesses might not seem industry related at first, but you may have a good connection you can create for them, or vice versa.
At a wedding, make a point to exchange contact information with other vendors, and then follow up! Even a simple email letting them know you enjoyed working with them can go a long way to helping lay the foundation for a lasting business relationship.
Join A Networking Group
In most major cities, there are dozens of opportunities for business networking that you can tap into. It might take a few visits to find the best fit for you, but keep searching! Sites like meetup.com will help with finding groups, as can asking other small business owners (the ones you met above just by saying hello!). Don’t limit yourself to purely photography industry groups – business networking groups that have a variety of types of members can help you expand your thinking and your business.
If you live in an area without a group, consider starting one. Start casually, with coffee dates and a round table format.
Find Shared Workspaces
As more and more people start working from home, more and more shared workspaces are popping up. These co-op style workspaces often offer board rooms, meeting rooms, desks and even offices for rent on a casual or ongoing basis. Something as simple as working at a co-op desk once a week can increase the number and quality of your business relationships considerably – and getting out of the house and into a new space can boost creativity, especially if you find yourself in a mid season rut.
Set A Goal
Create a goal for yourself when it comes to making and nurturing business connections. Maybe you will send at least one email to another small business owner a week, and commit to one social event a month. Add these goals to your calendar, and hold yourself accountable! Unlike many other business tasks, this is one that will pay off in both your business and your personal life.