If you are not working as much as you would like, then I suggest you try networking!
The thought of networking fills some people with horror – but others (including me) love it. Maybe it’s because I spend my days shut in a small box talking to myself that I feel the need to get out and meet people, but I do believe that networking is good for business.
Many creative people, including voiceover artists, shy away from business networking and think that it’s not for them, but I’ve found networking to be an important part of my marketing strategy, and I’m going to share with you some of the reasons why I think you should give networking a try.
First of all though, what is networking?
Your network is all the people you know – your family, friends, and colleagues, your kids’ friends’ parents, members of the clubs or societies you belong to, the people who run the corner shop, your window cleaner…..and networking, is basically taking this to the next level by intentionally going out to meet other business people. By attending networking meetings you can add to the pool of people that know you – and crucially, who know about your business.
There are a number of different ways to expand your network (social media, attending conferences, visiting business exhibitions), but here I am going to concentrate on business networking meetings.
There are lots of different types of meetings – online; in-person; very formal with a rigid format that is the same from meeting to meeting; very informal where you just turn up and chat over a drink; speed networking where you meet a lot of people in a short space of time…When it comes to networking meetings there is no ‘one size fits all’, and what has worked for me and my business, may not work for you and your business. Conversely, things that haven’t been so good for me, might be great for you. Go into it with an open mind and be prepared to try a few different types of meeting before you find what suits you best.
So, why do I think you should try networking?
Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, Voiceover is a lonely business. I don’t know about you, but I rarely meet my clients, and I don’t often even talk to them on the phone. Most of my business is conducted through email, and although sometimes clients do want to book me for a directed session, most of the time they are happy for me to just get on with it. However, I think we all need social interaction, and networking, whether in person or online, helps fill this need.
Secondly networking meetings are a great way to spread the word about what you do. People won’t buy from you unless they know about you. A figure that is often banded about is that it takes 6-8 ‘touches’ before someone will buy from you. Clients need to get to know you, like you, and trust you before they’ll do business with you – and meeting people regularly at networking events provides a great opportunity for that to happen. At many meetings you’ll have the opportunity to speak to the room for 30-60 seconds. You’ve got a captive audience to tell who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for – you’re the centre of attention for up to a minute – and people get to hear your voice!
Thirdly networking events are great places to find suppliers. I met my accountant, my website developer, and the graphic designer who made my business cards at business networking meetings. In all of these cases, I didn’t employ their services the first time I met them – I got to know them first over a few months and several meetings before I decided that they were the right people to help me. And guess what? It’ll be the same when people are thinking of buying from you! Don’t go into a networking meeting expecting to come out with lots of sales – it takes time – people will buy from you once they’ve got to know, like and trust you.
Fourthly, if you attend local meetings you’ll get to find out what else is going on in your area. You might find out about other networking meetings, expos you could attend, useful business workshops that are coming up, or even grant funding for businesses in your region.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and there is definitely some truth in this. I wish I had a pound for every time somebody has said to me ‘You’re the first voiceover artist I’ve ever met!’ I never tire of hearing it though, because if they’ve never met someone like me before, then they are going to think of me when they come across someone who needs what I do. Similarly, you might be a brand new voiceover artist with only a couple of clients, but if you meet someone at a networking event who needs your services and has never met a voiceover artist before – guess who they’re going to come to? (Once they’ve got to know you that is).
If you’re not convinced yet, I’ve been a voiceover artist for almost 9 years, and full-time for 4 of those. I reckon I can trace at least 30% of my work back to networking in one way or another, and I’ve met virtually all of my suppliers this way.
The best part about networking is being able to help other people. The more people you know, the more introductions and referrals you can make. If you can connect two people who go on to do business together – it’s a great feeling – and also you’ve then got two grateful contacts who want to help you out. What goes around always comes around!
If you want to get regular hints and tips about networking, and hear stories of how other people have used networking to grow their business, then subscribe to my podcast! You can listen to ‘Small Business Big Network’ wherever you find your podcasts. Here’s the link to it on Apple podcasts – and don’t forget to leave me a review!