Why is building a network vital for business success? Because you can’t do it on your own.
Every successful freelancer, entrepreneur, or all-around business man or woman needs a useful network of contacts to be successful. This is as true in web design as it is in journalism, as true in the business of web start-ups as it is if you’re trying to start your own fair-trade coffee shop.
Building a Network
Your network has to be built. What does that mean, to build a network?
It means you have to contact real people and establish working relationships with them.
This process can be difficult because it involves a lot of time and persistence on your part. It involves tons of emails, phone calls, and meetings, making deals and seeing those deals through to the end. It involves rejected proposals and pitches. People are going to judge you and try to use you. They’re going to respond to you late or ignore you altogether. They might even belittle your ideas—or worse: steal them.
In the end, you’ll have contacted ten times as many people as responded to you. Don’t be discouraged, that’s part of the game.
Ideally, you’ll have found a group of people with needs similar to your own; you can help them as much as they can help you, and in different ways. Some of them might be competitors, which is good because it keeps you on your toes. Others might be editors or project managers that help you find work. Others still might become friends.
Everyone builds their own network in their own way. However, here are a couple tips that will help you along.
- Don’t Be Shy. So what if the person you’re trying to contact is famous and you’ve never met them? So what if their website says they’re busy and they don’t respond to most of the emails they receive? If you’ve got a good idea, I guarantee they’ll want to hear it. If you never ask, you’ll never know what the answer is. And even if the answer is “no”, that’s better than not asking at all.
- Start with Emails. You don’t necessarily have to meet someone in person or talk to them over the phone to make a good contact out of them. Often, especially in the business of web design and development and other technology-related industries, they prefer to be contacted by email.In your email, be friendly and get right to the point. No one likes to have their time wasted. If you want to land a meeting with someone, be persistent. Here is one technique that helped an author land an interview with Dennis Crowley, co-founder and CEO of Foursquare.
- Have an Idea. Which leads us into another point: don’t email someone just to say hello. That’s a waste of their time and yours.Your emails should be pitches and proposals, which are essentially ideas in actionable form. Some examples: I have a guest post for your blog; you should hire me for a specific project because I have a special skill to offer; I want to interview you for a book I’m writing; Your website is outdated and could use an update and my team has the fastest turn-around time and the best prices on the market.Don’t forget to have a resume, references, and samples on hand if they’re requested. People love quick responses!
- Keep in Touch. Once you establish a working relationship with a person, remember that upkeep is important. Contact them right away if you have a new idea. If you don’t, update them on the success of a different project they may be interested in. Even ask them to promote a product if it’s related to their business. Maybe people keep twitter accounts for just that purpose. If they know you and your work has spoken for itself, they might be willing to do you a favor, but don’t forget to offer a favor in return!
Whatever happens, don’t let good contacts get stale, and always be on the lookout for new ones. It’s worth the effort.