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Network without a face-to-face meeting.

Networking is an essential element to grow your business. In part 1 of this two-part series, I shared advice for getting out and interacting with people face-to-face to promote your design business.

But to many people, the thought of networking is intimidating. That’s why I suggested you don’t think of it as networking, but instead think of it as relationship building. When you adjust your mindset, it alleviates a lot of the burden that comes with trying to grow your business.

However, meeting people face to face isn’t the only way to network. There are other ways to build those relationships. Here are some less intimidating methods of reaching out to people.

Network with Email

You may not realize it, but every time you send out an email, you’re building relationships. And since relationship building is a crucial element in your business’s growth, you should consider upping your email game, especially when you’re just starting.

The best advice I can give you as a new design business owner is to email everyone you know. Not just family and friends. I’m talking

  • Former co-workers
  • Former bosses
  • Other designers
  • Printers
  • Former classmates
  • Your neighbours

Email everyone in your contact list. Let them know you’ve started your own design business and explain how you’re helping people solve their problems through your design services. Then ask if they know anyone who could benefit from working with you.

That’s a secret trick to networking. Don’t ask if they need your services, ask if they know anyone else who does.

This way, you’re asking for their help, which goes much further towards relationship building than asking them if they need a designer. It’s implied that if they need a designer, they can hire you.

Email is also an excellent way to grow an established design business. It can never hurt to reach out to people. Just change your message from “I started a design business” to “I’m looking for new clients for my design business.”

Don’t just ask them if they know anyone who could use your services, ask them for that person’s contact information so you can reach out to them directly. Most people won’t give you that information, but it shows them you’re serious, which will make them less likely to delete your message and instead ponder your question and possibly forward it on to someone.

Network with Social media

Networking is all about building relationships, which is the driving force behind social media. The trick to networking on social media is to interact with people positively. Join groups and communities where the type of people you want to work with hang out and help them.

If you work in a niche, then you’re all set. Join niche related groups and start engaging. If you don’t have a niche, try to figure out the type of client you want to work with and go to where they hang out online.

Once you find a group, start interacting. Answer people’s questions whenever you can. Leave comments on people’s posts. Post useful information and tidbits that will benefit people. Let people know you're there.

For example, as a designer working in the podcast niche, I’m part of several podcast-related communities. I scan those communities regularly for people asking questions about podcast artwork, or websites, and I try to answer them in the most helpful way I can.

I don’t offer my design services unless it’s directly related to their question. Instead, I offer advice free of any sales pitch. I’m building relationships.

On Instagram, I comment when people post their new podcast artwork. My comment usually goes something like this.

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know how much I like your new artwork. I design podcast artwork and websites, but you obviously don’t require my services. Good luck with your new podcast.”

Why do I bother when they already have artwork? Because maybe that person has their cover art done, but they still need a website. Seeing my comment may make them check out my website and hire me.

That’s what happened with one of my clients. She saw a comment I left about her friend’s new podcast artwork and reached out to me for help with the social media branding for her show.

The other reason I do this is that from time to time, someone will ask a question on facebook or LinkedIn such as “does anyone know where I can get my podcast cover artwork designed?” Inevitably, someone usually ends up mentioning my name before I get a chance to reply. Why? Because they’ve gotten to know me through my interactions in the group.

And when the person who asked the questions receives a dozen different designer names, I’m hoping they recognize my name from all the times I’ve helped other people in the group.

I’m building relationships. And you can too, all it takes is a tiny bit of time and the willingness to help.

Network with a Newsletter

Another great way to build and strengthen relationships is with a newsletter.

Andrew, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, has a fabulous newsletter he shares with his clients. (you can see it here)

In every issue, he shares useful business advice that may or may not relate to his services. He also shares some personal information about what he’s been up to lately and talks about a project or two that he’s recently completed. He always finishes his newsletter with a question. This question allows him to engage with his clients should they answer it.

A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with current and past clients, which in turn will keep you front of mind should they hear of someone who is looking for a designer.

Networking with printed material

If you're running a design business, you should have a business card. I know, I know, we’re living in a new world where you can tap a button on your phone and someone’s contact information is instantly added to your contact list.

Don’t get me wrong. I love how easy to use our phones. When I was at WordCamp Ottawa, a presenter asked us to open LinkedIn, and with the press of a few buttons, I connected with over 40 WordPress enthusiasts in attendance.

But still, there’s nothing like having a conversation with someone and then handing them your business card. Or better yet, giving them several cards and asking them to share the extra with people who would benefit from working with you. Let them do the networking for you.

Business cards are not the only way to network with printed materials. You could try postcards, door hangers, pens and such. Anything that can be picked up is a form of networking, relationship building.

Get out there and build relationships.

So there you have it, four ways to network without having to meet people face to face: email, social media, newsletters and printed materials. Get out there and spread the word. Build relationships and watch your design business grow.

What's your experience with networking?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Font Macherator

According to the FontSpring website, The Macherator is the most robust font detection tool available. It offers powerful technology and features under the hood and allows you to match OpenType features. Something WhatTheFont doesn’t provide.

I’ve been using WhatTheFont for years. I have the app on my phone and have used it several times while I’m out and about and spot an attractive font. However, WhatTheFont is not infallible. There are several times it couldn’t identify a font for me. That’s why it’s nice to have Matcherator as a new player in the game for font identification.

If you want to give it a whirl, visit https://www.fontspring.com/matcherator

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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