Networking is one skill I practice almost as much as photography, and I’m glad Bryan is letting me share his column this week. Networking is the most important thing you could do to grow your photography business–but if you did that, then you’d have a bunch of clients making demands and trying to give you money. It’s much better to have no clients and stay home watching television (until the cable gets cut because you can’t pay the bills). I’m taking a page from Ben Stein to show you six ways to ruin your networking life.
A great way to network is at networking events held by your local chamber of commerce. There will be lots of local businesspeople there who know lots of people who need your services. So whatever you do, don’t go to these events. There are also other events, like Pecha Kucha Night, where you’ll find opportunities to meet new people and build relationships. The last thing you should do is meet people doing business with the people you want to do business with–that would bring clients and totally ruin your La-Z-Boy schedule. Just stay home.
Ask Everyone for Business
Despite your best efforts, if you do find yourself at a networking event where people are trying to build relationships and eventually share referrals, the best thing you can do to ensure that no referrals come your way is to hand everyone your card, tell them you’re a photographer, and ask when the best time is to come do a new headshot–just assume the sale and set people up for an appointment. This heavy-handed approach will turn people off so thoroughly that not only will they not hire you, but they’ll never send their clients to you, either. Asking everyone you meet for business is the best way to not get any, and especially not get any referrals. So if you find yourself trapped at a meeting where everyone else is getting to know each other and helping others have a good time and finding like-minded people who they’d trust their clients with, you can get back to your TV fastest by asking for business.
Be a Freeloader
Networking events are hosted by people and organizations who like helping their fellow business people, right? That means you should sit back and let them serve you. Make sure that you never offer to help set up. Never offer to man the registration table. Never offer to help clean up the chairs or the food table. And never ever stick around until you’re almost the last person there making sure everything is cleaned up. These people like serving others and you wouldn’t want to take that away from them. Besides, they could get the idea that you’re helpful and trustworthy and they might think referring their clients to you would be a good idea which would ruin your plans to watch the Seinfeld marathon on TV next week.
Be a Rolling Stone
A rolling stone gathers no moss, right? If you went to the same group more than once they could get to know you and like you and then they’d send you referrals. It’s much better to go only once to a group and then roll on out the door to the next one. If you want to ruin your networking life, then you should never attend the same group twice and certainly not regularly. I attend my Chamber of Commerce networking meeting every week and I can tell you that I’ve got no time to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 anymore and my networking life is doing great. No, it’s much better to flit from group to group, never building any lasting relationships.
Be Deaf to Passion
This one is easy to mess up, and you can easily start networking well if you foul it up. People who run their own businesses are usually full of passion and they’re the kind of people who go to networking events. Sometimes the passion is related to their business, and sometimes the business allows them to pursue their passions (they clearly don’t know what they’re missing on TV). One of the best things you can do to get to know people at networking events is to discover what their passions are and get them talking about it. They’ll probably ask about your passions, too, which probably include photography and they love sharing clients with those who are passionate. So–you guessed it– shut up about your passions, and steer the conversation away from their passions. Talk about the weather, talk about politics, talk about the color of the carpet, but stay away from topics that matter. Don’t say things like, “So what are you passionate about?” “You’re in real estate, but what is it that you love to do in your free time?” “You’re a house painter but you established a business in Uganda to help the locals support themselves? How did that come about?”
Questions like those will lead to people getting excited and remembering that you cared about their passions and you definitely don’t want to be remembered.
To sum things up, if you want to ruin your networking life, you just need to be forgettable. If people start seeing you at lots of events and find that you’re a likable and helpful person who has passion for their work, then they’re likely to start sending you referrals which means making more pictures for people who want to pay you and then you’ll have no time left for binge-watching the latest historical drama from the BBC. If you must go to events, be sure that you never go to the same one twice and never get to know anyone on a level deeper than what it says on their business card. Trust me, if you follow these tips you’ll have a horrible networking life and lots of time to yourself.
Now, quit reading Photofocus and find out what’s on TV.
For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.
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