I have always been a huge cheerleader for networking. Back in hair school, I would volunteer to do photoshoots with other industry professionals and while that didn’t bring me any financial benefits, the networking was invaluable. Those same people would then go on to recommend me to their friends, hire me for late projects, and bring me to even better networking events. After photoshoots I moved on to fashion shows and runways where I got to meet designers, makeup artists, photographers, and models. The cycle continued. While I only attend paid photoshoots now, the few years that I spent donating my time has come back to me because of networking.
The pandemic presents new challenges when it comes to networking, but it is certainly still very possible to thrive in networking during! My strategy is always to connect with experts and entrepreneurs outside of my niche. For example, because I work as a hairstylist and social media manager, I focus on networking with businesses such as fashion stylists, coffee shops, plant stores, and much more. Essentially, anyone outside of your niche, who still shares your core values, is an excellent person to have as a part of your network. Thankfully, there are a ton of virtual options for growing your network.
For the duration of the pandemic, I’ve taken my networking practice strictly online. One of the biggest assets to this effort has been Facebook groups. I’m in one group called “Blush Boss Co Community” and it’s a group created by a wonderful branding photographer to bring entrepreneurs and business owners together to discuss ideas, share stories, and ask for advice. This group has been a valuable addition to my networking efforts as I’ve met so many great business owners through it. I’ve gained several clients just from this one group, so I highly recommend looking into Facebook groups as a form of networking!
None of these efforts have an immediate pay off, so you have to be in it for the long-haul. I suggest spending a few hours a week joining in on discussions in Facebook groups, Instagram lives, and other online avenues to help you connect to other like-minded folks! These things take time, but the relationships you form through networking can have a huge payoff. I’ve set a challenge for myself to find three more online communities to join, and dedicate an hour a week to participating in them for the next six months. I may not see results from this effort for upwards of months, but that time is never wasted. Even if in the short-term all these discussions offer is inspiration, that’s still valuable to my business.