Networking for fashion designers can be tough to stomach. But when you’re starting a clothing business, making contacts you can rely on, and who can rely on you is critical for your success. Here are Jane’s sure-fire tips for networking, especially for people who hate networking.
When you think about networking, what comes to mind?
Drinking warm beer from a plastic cup smiling at people? No, that was college.
Drinking warm white wine from a plastic cup smiling at people and handing out business cards? Aha, that’s more like it.
And if the idea of networking really does make you want to vomit, read on…
I mean, what do people do with all the cards you hand out? What do you do with all the cards you collect? Going out on a limb here, I’m gonna say… um, nothing.
They don’t get thrown out right away. That would be rude. They just get put in a big pile on your desk. Or get crushed at the bottom of your purse -for a few weeks -or maybe a few months only to remind you of how you should feel guilty about doing nothing with them.
There must be a better way…
Jane’s Brain Tips on Networking… and they’re guaranteed Not To Make You Vomit…
What I call networking is about real relationships, not winning a business card popularity contest. It’s about having someone to call when you have an industry-related question. You want to build a “network” of people you rely on and who can rely on you.
I can just hear you asking… How do I do this, Jane? I don’t know anybody!
1) Pick one (or two) industry related groups and commit to attending regularly. Get on a committee and really get to know some people. This way you’ll have a small group of people who know you and (hopefully) like you – a real asset.
But beware…joining a group only for the contacts is a bad idea. Be sure you’re interested in what you’re doing or it will be painfully obvious to the group – and pretty lame.
2) The point of “networking” events is NOT to meet as many people as possible. The point IS to meet some people with whom you will follow up. I suggest you get the other person’s card and write something about them on it for you to remember later. The day after the event, “maximize the relationship” by getting in touch with the people you met. Don’t just write an email, “Great to meet you last night. Would love to get together sometime.”
3) Send them something useful for their business or their life – an article, a YouTube link, a restaurant recommendation; anything that pertains to them that they’ll appreciate. (Check the back of their card to see what you wrote about them!) Then make a note in your calendar and schedule a date to reach out to them in the future. Which leads to my next point…
4) Dig a well before you’re thirsty. This phrase (from Harvey Mackay) is telling you to be a resource for other people before you call them asking for help. If you make it a habit to help people out without asking for anything in return, it will come back to you.
And the last no puke tip…
5) Once every few months, ask someone you admire or respect for breakfast or coffee. Arrive prepared with questions and try to discover the “secrets” to their success. They don’t have to work in the fashion design industry, you can learn from anyone. It will take about an hour of your time and you might be surprised about how much you’ll gain from these coffee dates. Send a hand-written thank-you note after your meeting.
© 2010 Jane Hamill, Fashion Brain Academy