I have to say I have always been a bit sceptical of Networking. It always seemed to be too much about self promotion and not an area I was at all comfortable with. But recently I have changed my mind.
Most craft business owners work from home with no staff, and that experience can be a little isolating. When you work for a larger business there is always someone around to bounce an idea off, or to ask how to do something. But when you work for yourself, by yourself, the smallest things can sometimes take forever to work out. Add to that the isolation of being in your own creative world, which at first seems idyllic, can lead to feeling lost.
Joining business networking groups can be a great way to fuel your creative fire. Many networking groups are full of self employed individuals who relish the opportunity to share ideas with others and support the entrepreneurial community around them.
In the last week I have joined two networking groups. One a womens’ based business one, and one a craft specific one. I attended my first meeting for both of them. And I have to say they were not all what I expected. There was very little self promotion, a lot of business card swapping, and a genuine interest in each other and how we can help each other to succeed.
I know at both meetings I learnt a lot, and I hope taught a bit. I realised that the temptation of a craftpreneur is to potter along in our own little creative world. Occasionally we will ‘network’ in the online world via blog comments or Facebook likes or Pinterest pins, but nothing can replace the benefit of face to face contact.
If you are feeling alone on your journey, I would encourage you to join a local networking group where you can share your experience with other like minded individuals. You will learn a lot about other people and how they run their business, but who knows you may be able to help someone move past their stumbling block. The friendships and connections you make may be the key to your future success. For example, today I met a photographer, who offered her services to the group to teach us how to create better photos. Now you may pay a couple of hundred dollars for that experience if you were to pay someone, but here is someone willing to help out her fellow crafters. It’s a very generous offer, and one that I hope will come back to her ten fold.
In the world of online relationships everything is condensed into one or two sentences, which just isn’t enough sometimes. If you can find the time, join a local networking group where you can really connect with others and share ideas. Your business will become richer for it – I guarantee you!
I would love to hear about your networking experiences – good and bad! Leave a comment below to let me know how networking may have helped your business. Feel free to plug any great networking groups in your area!