A lot of people in my network describe themselves as creatives.
I'm not really artistic or crafty or a “maker” in any sense (I can barely “make” microwave dinners), but I like pretty things, know my way around photoshop, and get paid for my photography and styling skills… so apparently I am creative.
Although much of what I do on a daily basis is “creative” I don't always think of myself that way.
You see, I started my career in finance – high net worth wealth management to be specific. Many people who meet me now are surprised because my day-to-day seems so different, but in reality I use the same business skills – I just leverage them in different ways.
Sometimes I wonder where I would be now if I had started down a more creative path earlier… would I be more confident in my creative abilities? Would I have a more impressive portfolio of work? Would I have more social media followers? Maybe.
It's easy to “what-if” the time away, but it's probably more important to acknowledge and be thankful for the path that has led me to where I am now. It if weren't for my career in finance, I wouldn't feel as confident about business skills that are ESSENTIAL to being a creative entrepreneur. Specifically….
As a financial advisor, one of the biggest parts of my professional education was sales training. Consultative selling to be specific. I spent years understanding why people buy things and how to sell to them by providing solutions to their problems. In the past decade I've sold everything from $100,000+ investments in long-short hedge funds to $10 costume jewelry, and while sales is not my favorite aspect of running a business, I get it, and I'm not scared of it.
I'm not sure how anyone really successfully runs a business without networking skills. Whether you're connecting with other brands / influencers online or in person, you need to be willing to put yourself out there and tell people what you do (in a non-annoying way). You never know when you will meet someone who is looking for someone just like you – or knows someone who is looking for someone like you. Almost every client, collaboration or referral I've gotten has been through networking! (P.S. – read the introverts' guide to networking) (more…)
True life: I am not a big fan of traditional networking. I'm introverted and generally overwhelmed by new social situations – especially with large groups of people that I don't really know. I used to dread going to events but personally, I don't think that networking is optional if you're trying to grow a business. So like it or not, I've developed a system for networking that makes it WAYYY easier for me to feel comfortable connecting with new people!
So figure out why you want to network in the first place. Are you trying to find potential clients? People you want to collaborate with? Influencers in your industry? All of the above? Great! Make a list of these people because you'll want to keep track of them. (pssst: you can also get my template at the end of this post!)
Step 1: Step Up Your Social
- FACT: Connecting with people on social media is less scary than in real life. Also, a lot of other introverts are on social media and they want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them! Someone just has to take the first step…
- Assuming you've identified some of the people you'd like to connect with, start following them on social media. For my businesses, I find that instagram and twitter are the 2 platforms that are easiest to connect with people in my target audience, but it could be that your potential clients are on other networks.
- Once you've figured out what networks they are active on, ENGAGE with them! On instagram, engaging with people means liking their photos, leaving thoughtful comments (not mindless “love this!” or spammy “follow me!” comments – genuine comments that show you are actually interested in the content they are posting). On twitter, linking to other people's content (if they have a blog or website) or sharing their tweets using the “quote” option with a related comment are easy, non-scary ways to start interacting. Pick one or two networks that you are really going to be active on and be consistent.
- PRO TIP: Optimize your social profiles to appeal to your target audience. If you are effectively interacting with new people, they will want to check out you out! Make sure your bio clearly states who you are, what you do, and why they should follow you!
Step 2: Connect In Person
- FACT: It is easier to introduce yourself to a person in real life if you have already “met” them on social media.
- Let's pretend you are attending an event and some of the people you have been connecting with on social will be there. For most introverts, the hardest part is actually walking up to someone and saying hello, so try to change your mindset and think about the encounter not as “meeting someone for the first time,” but as “continuing the conversation you already started.”
- Lead with a simple introduction followed by a genuine compliment of their work. For example, recently I ran into the founder of a website that I admire at a yappy hour event (yes #yappyhour, it's a crazy dog people thing) and simply opened with – “Hi Suzanne, I'm Elle from Bitches' Guide NYC, and I really loved that video interview you did with Joe Zee and his dogs!” (Seriously I love Joe Zee and puppies so the video was so fun to watch!) Even if they don't recognize you or remember that you've interacted with them before (not everyone will, and that's ok!), a flattering comment will set the tone and is an easy segue into further conversation!
- If you're anxious about going to an event alone, ask a more extroverted friend to come along as your wingman/woman!
- PRO TIP: Before an event, think of three topics you can chat about with anyone that you aren't “prepared” to talk to – 1 personal (gone on any trips lately?), 1 professional (any fun projects in the works?), and 1 topical (what brings you to the event?).