The key to sustained success in professional photography and business is networking. But what does that mean even? How to network? In what way? Where to start? Fear not, I've got you covered.
We live in a digital age; there’s no way around it. There’s no use in denying it we’ll then just appear as crazy as those declaring tomorrow is the apocalypse.
We live in a digital age; people love staring at their phones – hovering over their laptops and tablets – I think it has something to do with the light they emit.
Yet, if we take each moment we encounter of someone too consumed in their technology and strip it down we are left with one common thing: people.
Despite all the seemingly endless amounts of small lights that now flicker about and dance through every occasion stealing the attention of the population we still remain a place of people AND despite the proliferation of the web and social portals the key to success still remains in navigating skillfully through those people.
Collecting a valuable social network of people – not virtually, but in reality. That is where the success in business lies even in the 21st century; even in this digital age.
How you ask?
Meeting person-to-person is still considered the most effective method of networking.
Consider this: thought leader, Business Insider author, and yourhiddenpotential.co.uk co-founder Rishi Chowdhury declared networking as “one of the most valuable uses of my time in terms of return – and not just in monetary terms.”
Yet, he quickly added anyway that “networking is free, most of the time.” Even if and when it’s not it’s often because the networking event is built around other activities or educational opportunities related to your profession.
For professional wedding photographers a perfect example of this is the bi-annual Way Up North convention – one of the largest professional wedding photography conferences that takes place in Europe. The event is always full of renowned speakers providing both inspirational and educational content related to photography and running a business.
Another example appropriate for all types of photographers is the litany of trade shows that surround the photography industry.
But don’t feel as if you only have to attend events that include some form of “photography” in the title. Chowdhury elaborates an important point that is often overlooked with networking events, especially for young entrepreneurs, that is the chance “to learn from more experienced entrepreneurs and investors as well as building useful contacts.”
The best networks are those that include a diverse and beneficial set of contacts.
Building useful contacts will often involve exploring the mutual benefits you can offer to one another and can explore and take advantage of. So while this certainly does include other photography entities it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, limited exclusively to the industry.
After all, that is the true benefit of a solid business network: a group of diverse, qualified, experienced, established people whom you can call upon in times of need, or simply for some sound advice.
But remember the best and most reliable network is built off of reciprocal assistance. Be sure your avenue of aid has a healthy flow of outbound as well as inbound traffic.
At some point we can all use a helping hand, but to maintain a strong network don't forget to pay it forward.
And it’s not only Rishi Chowdhury that sings the song of networking. International protocol expert, best-selling author, and cross-cultural consultant Sharon Schweitzer wrote for the Huffington Post that “[b]y growing your network, opportunities arise, business partners appear, connections are made and trust is garnered in the local community.”
Schweitzer made a point to elaborate on the most effective way to build trust, however. Even in this digital age, “face-to-face interaction is the key for building trust.”
Networking is an essential tool for people in any business, yet for a closer-to-home reference acclaimed photographer and IPS Mastermind co-founder Rachael Boer also elaborates on the importance of networking – specifically in the field of professional photography. She states that if you don’t network, “if your just a ‘lone wolf’ you really limit yourself in terms of possibilities for growth.”
Offering insight into how she approaches marketing, Rachael Boer expanded, “I see networking in two different ways. One, I make a point of networking with other local photographers.
Choose to go-it-alone in your business and you'll likely find yourself with a lot of nothing. Work together and the rewards can be tremendous. A better business philosophy; in the words of Lazlo Bane: "I can't do this all on my own, I know, I'm no superman.
“And there are some people who are a little cagey and they don’t want to meet with somebody local because they feel like it’s their competition, but I don’t have that sense. I want us to be a local community that supports each other and grows and helps each other.
“So I like to have people who maybe specialize in an area I don’t because then I can send business their way, they can send business my way, we can help each other; even just talk shop and share samples and that kind of thing – you can really learn a lot from those relationships.”
We see the essence of networking laid out bare: the mutual assistance it perpetuates, the educational experience it provides, and the overall value it brings.
With that Rachael Boer went on to add how additionally networking serves as an ideal marketing tool:
“And the other way I use networking is just as a marketing effort. I’ll just meet with people for coffee, I go to my Chamber of Commerce meetings, I’ll meet with other business owners as much as I can and just get out of my own studio as much as I can.
“And that’s where I see real benefit in meeting with people. You never know who your next great client is going to be, or maybe who is related to your next great client, or friends with your next great client. So I think just getting out of the house; getting out of the studio, is a really key point of marketing for me.”
Helpful, educational, valuable; networking.
As Rishi Chowdhury so succinctly concluded, “your net worth is only as good as your network.”
But it is essential to bear in mind – yes, even in the 21st century; the age of the internet – the way to assure the most reliable, trusted, and dynamic network is still, in the words of Sharon Schweitzer, through “eye contact, an air kiss, bow, fist bump...handshake, and solid conversation,” not shares, posts, tweets, and likes.
Rishi Chowdhury, “The Importance of Networking,” Business Insider, May 26, 2011, accessed June 1, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/the-importance-of-networking-2011-5?IR=T.
Sharon Schweitzer, “The Importance and Value of Business Networking,” Huffington Post, August 03, 2017, accessed June 1, 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-importance-and-value-of-business-networking_us_5983209ae4b03d0624b0ac65.