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11 Steps to Better Networking for the Graphic Designer

What kind of emphasis do you put on networking in your business?
Networking is a very important part of almost any business and it’s no different in the design business. In fact, I have generated thousands of dollars of revenue for my business with this one strategy alone. It’s a powerful approach to build any business, and it’s one that can keep continuous work coming into your business year after year.

But even with all the obvious advantages and benefits of effective networking, I see a lot of designers missing out on future work because of ineffective techniques. Here are 11 tips to remember about networking when you want to get the maximum amount of work into your business.

1. Networking is not and event – it’s an attitude.

How you view networking is critically important to the kind of success you can expect from it. Networking isn’t just something you plan to do at scheduled times or allocated to ‘networking events’. Networking is something you should be doing constantly when you meet people.

Networking effectively can generate thousands and thousands of dollars for your business. A key benefit of networking is that you can actually build momentum when you do it. Which means it becomes easier and more profitable the more you do it.

However, many designers look at networking, as an event instead of an attitude and this is where many designers miss out on future work that could have otherwise been theirs if they had only approached it with a purpose driven attitude.

As owner of your own business you are always “on”. Which means you should always be ready for an opportunity to present itself. And when it does, you need to be ready to act upon it.

2. Put yourself in social situations

People like to deal with people they know, like, and trust.
So be one.

Often when you network you are connecting through your existing relationships to create new ones with other people they know. All for the purpose of identifying people who you can help.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big network of friends to begin with. You have opportunity to connect with more people than you realize. Intentionally seek out new connections with people and continuously build upon your connections with new ones.

Even if you tend to be the shy type – put yourself in situations where you are meeting new people. It could be a book club, sports event, church or a special event. Be open to new experiences and view these outings as a chance to get to know others and their needs.

3. Describe WHO you work with and the BENEFITS they get

One of the most common exchanges at any type of social gathering is “What do you do?” When you answer don’t respond by saying – “I’m a designer”.

When you simply state ‘what you do’, you potentially miss out on a meaningful connection with the person you are talking to – or with someone they know. This response doesn’t encourage more discussion, in fact, it
usually stops it.

Instead, when asked ‘what you do’, respond by saying WHO you work with and the BENEFIT they get by
working with you.

For instance:

“Hi, what do YOU do for a living?”

“I work with business owners to create dramatic marketing material that they use to get more sales and more clients”.

Often a response like this generates the question “Really? How do you do that?” or you might get “Wow! Really? I need help with my marketing! Maybe we should talk?”

The key to getting a response that leads to work, is to answer the question by describing WHO you work for and the BENEFIT they receive, in a way that invites further comment.

4. Be Positive and approachable

If you don’t have a friendly approachable attitude with everybody you meet, you could be missing out on future work from new connections. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you aren’t friendly and approachable, you’re going to make it difficult to attract new people.

People won’t connect you with their friends if your attitude is going to make them look bad. They need to be 100% positive you’ll treat everyone the same – positively. People won’t connect you with people they know if they are unsure how you will behave.

The simplest way to ensure you are connectable to as many people as possible is to always be friendly and approachable. Friendly shouldn’t be an act. If it is – people will detect it and will be cautious in connecting you with others. So be real, genuine and friendly – to everyone.

5. Don’t be desperate when you connect

What do you say when people ask you how your business is ‘going’? Are you saying things that will attract the listener or are you saying things that repel them!

We all stress over lack of work – just don’t pass your stress onto people you meet. Some designers communicate a desperate need for work, and by so doing create a situation that is repulsive to people instead of attractive.

Up and down workloads are a part of business life. But communicating slow periods in a desperate or needy way can actually cost you future work.

Just a note on sounding desperate:

[The ‘desperate response’ is given most often to friends, those you are most comfortable with. As opposed to new contacts. So be on the alert how you are communicating to good friends. And remember that what you say has impact on the future.]

6. Be in demand

If every time you meet people you are saying that you ‘have no work’ you could be creating a negative perception in their mind –

‘Have no work’ = ‘Maybe you’re not that good’

When it comes to doing business, people are attracted to busy businesses because they associate ‘busy’ with ‘good’. The unsaid message is “they must be good because they are busy all the time”.

Being busy creates an impression of being in demand.

So make a habit to communicate that you are busy when asked. Even if you’re NOT busy with clients you
SHOULD be busy doing something in your business!

That something could be creating better business systems, creating a special promotion or general marketing.

Whatever it is – be busy at it. This creates a very positive impression of your services

Being in-demand also creates a sense of urgency with the listener. It subtly tells them that they need to act quickly if they want to secure your services.

7. Always have time for new work

Being in demand is a delicate balance however.

Be careful about communicating that you’re ‘too busy’. Although this says that you are ‘in-demand’, it also says “I don’t have time for you or anybody else”.

So be ready to counteract this response.

Always let the person know that although you are busy – you’re never too busy to help them.

Try saying something like… “We’re really busy right now, but I want you to know that I’m never too busy to help you or any of your friends. I’ll make time to help you whenever you need it – just let me know”

8. Be ready to demonstrate and respond

Never miss an opportunity to demonstrate what you do. Often people I meet introduce me to other people. And when they do its important to assess if they are somebody I can help. If they are, it’s very important to use the connection as a way of creating a next step.

Carry examples with you or keep a presentation package of your services in your bag or case. When you meet a new person and discover that they may need your help, offer them a package.
If you don’t have any marketing material on you, inform the new contact that you have some packages at the office that they might find helpful and offer to send them one. Or print up special web page addresses on your business cards that has valuable information they can view or download.

Presenting samples, information and other examples presents proof of your abilities and moves your connection to the next step…

9. Get their contact info

Asking for a person’s contact information is a simple enough step but it can seem pushy or feel awkward if you’re not prepared to ask for it in advance.

In my early days of networking it was amazing how many people I would talk to but forget to get a business card or detailed contact information so I could follow-up later.

Always try to get a business card if you can. If they don’t have one – always carry a pen and notebook so you can write it down. Make sure to get full contact information including mailing, phone numbers and especially email.

10. Follow up

No connection is worth the above effort if you don’t follow up. Once you have a contact name follow up and stay in touch.

Staying in touch is the first steps in building meaningful relationships.

The best way to stay connected usually starts with a phone call. But sometimes that isn’t always practical especially when you have a lot of contacts and very little time. So stay in touch by putting them into your automated marketing funnel.

When you have a systematic marketing funnel you can automate the contact process making it easier and more reliable to stay in touch.

11. Don’t Sell. Help.

There is one final key to successful networking…

Don’t practice any of the above tips with the idea that you are trying to ‘sell’ people.

People don’t want to be SOLD something every time they meet you. But many people do need help.

So be attentive to the needs of others first and foremost.

That means listening carefully, staying engaged in the conversation, and being attentive to areas where you could help someone (or someone they know).

When you keep in mind that you are in the business of helping people by providing design services, it makes the process of networking natural, enjoyable and even fun.

When the people you talk to sense your genuine interest in others and in your desire to help, they will be more than happy to pass the name of other people your way.

(I give create to for this article)


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