Your personal brand plays a key role in the types of relationships you build both online and offline. The people you spend the most time with play an incredibly influential role in who you become and how you view yourself and your goals. Who is in your network?
“You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”– Jim Rohn
I’ve also heard the quote “your network is your net worth” which whether you like the quote or not, rings true. Who you know can help you grow.
Since starting my business in 2009, I discovered that there are other types of people I need in my life to keep me motivated, especially when it comes to business. Others who have been in the trenches (or are currently in the trenches with you), who you can bounce ideas off of, share ideas with, get a fresh, objective perspective.
Here are 5 types of people you need in your network to have a better chance of long-term success:
5 Helpful People You Need in Your Network
- Mentor: The person you turn to for wisdom and direction; often an expert in the area you’re interested in
- Connector: The person who is great at helping you connect with the right people and helps you move your business forward
- Collaborator: The person you partner with to complete a project
- Clients: The person who consumes your product/service
- Supporter: The person you turn to when you need motivation and a listening ear
I met my first mentor after moving to Texas from California in 2009. I had just started my wedding photography business and was excited to meet other photographers and wedding vendors. Thanks to a chance connection made through Twitter (yes, even 13 years ago!), I met Kelly, who I consider one of the earliest mentors in my business.
Meeting Kelly changed my life. She asked me to photograph her workshop for wedding planners. I watched as she grew her wedding planning business as well as a wedding consulting business. More importantly, she showed me what it was like to build a business from the ground up and how to establish yourself in a new market when you’ve just moved.
Since then, I’ve found other mentors both in-person and online. I’m a huge fan of Jasmine Star, who I have been following since 2008. She is the founder of Social Curator, a monthly subscription of social media training, stock photos, captions, and social media strategy – helping creative entrepreneurs show up consistently online. I love how she encourages us to overcome our limiting-beliefs – whether it be about pricing or starting out in a new industry.
The Champion in Your Network
Back in the day, when I worked in corporate, I had a wonderful manager who helped me navigate the corporate world. She helped me get promoted after only working with her for a year.
As an introvert, when attending networking events, I tend to take notice of who is who in the room. I look for the influential person and the people who are in their circle. While it’s always important to make genuine connections (and not just for selfish gain), it’s also important to take note of the person everyone is listening to. Through making some strategic partnerships throughout the course of my business, I’ve been able to work on projects I would have never imagined.
It’s amazing what can happen when you have someone promoting you to their circles. Your sphere of influence can grow through this one person.
Tips for finding Champions:
- When attending meetings or events, identify the person in the room that everyone listens to. This person has influence over larger groups that s/he can introduce you to if you can provide value.
The Collaborator in Your Network
As a photographer, working with collaborators is a great way to try something new and build your portfolio. When I made the pivot from wedding photography to senior photography, I collaborated with some local high schools students just to see if I enjoyed the niche.
When I made the pivot from senior portraits to brand photography, I did the same thing, collaborating with some business owner friends to see what it would be like. The key to a good collaboration is to make sure both parties are receiving something of value.
Even as an established business, I have collaborated with other small businesses. I recently collaborated with an SEO marketing expert who helped me with my website and I photographed her brand photos.
We both benefited from the exchange – she identified errors and problematic parts of my website (that I had no idea about!) and she had updated, high quality images for her website, social media, and marketing.
Tips for finding collaborators:
- Partner with an entrepreneur within your industry on a project that appeals to the same type of customer.
- Identify a business you already buy from that could benefit from a product/service you offer. Since you’re a current customer, you should have a good idea of how you could exchange products or services.
When you position yourself as a helpful guide that helps clients overcome their problems, then people will be eager to work with you – repeatedly. The trick is knowing the right problem to solve for your ideal client.
Clients are the life-blood for any business. Many people in your current network may not be a client right now but could be in the future, given the right timing, pricing, etc. So if there’s someone you really want to hire you, nurture that relationship first so that you stay top-of-mind.
And once someone does become a client, think of small ways to thank or surprise them. No matter what price point they’re paying, make every client feel like a VIP – their referral power will pay you back tenfold.
Running a business is hard! Often, it can feel lonely and sometimes draining. You feel like you’re the only one going through your struggles. There are so many ups and downs in entrepreneurship. Some days you’re on Cloud 9 when you book that amazing client or make that awesome same. And some days, you feel like you’re failing and flailing without a clue of what you’re doing. It’s in those moments that you need your person. You need at least one person you can lean on, whether it’s your partner/spouse, friend, sibling, business bestie, or industry colleague.
Supporters are your rock. They encourage you when things feel dire, celebrate with you when you hit goals, and listen when you need to vent. Supporters will help you get through the tough spots of entrepreneurship.
Your Network: Next Steps
Don’t worry if you don’t have all these types of people in your network yet. It comes with time and putting yourself “out there” to grow your network and circle of people you spend time with.
I think it’s worth saying that you should fill your life with people who bring positive energy. I’m not talking about toxic positivity – like rainbows and unicorns. But I’m talking about people who are generally positive and uplifting. Energy feeds off like energy. So when you’re having a negative moment, it’s helpful to have someone who can help bring you out of that.
So where do you find these people to expand your network?
- Networking Groups
- Facebook Groups
- Small Business Meetings
- Industry Events
- Social Events
The possibilities are endless. It really depends on you doing the heavy lifting of putting yourself out there, talking to other people, and making real connections. But like any relationship, it’s not going to be immediate. It’s a lot like dating. You can’t force it. A budding friendship, partnership, and collaborator will come in time.
It takes work, but it’s certainly worth it.
HELPFUL RESOURCES TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BRAND PHOTOSHOOT
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