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My journey – Find your own style of networking

With my wrist in plaster I’m a little behind on my things.

I wanted to share with you the next step in my journey last year. The thing I found the hardest about setting up my own business was getting known. I’d worked in London for 15 years, Leeds and Northallerton for 6 years and York for 4 years. My network in York was quite small, or so I thought.I'd like to share a few of my stories fro the my first couple of months in business.

Get out there

I’m confident in what I do but being fairly introvert, I’m not one to shout about myself. Networking was always something I dreaded. If I stayed in my studio behind my screen no one was going to know I’d set up my own business.

So this is what I did...

Get involved in local community groups and offer your services

At the time Joseph Rowntrees Foundation had a space in New Earswick. They were using it for the community as a space to share ideas and time with other local people. Part of this was ‘Public Office’ , one a week someone would hold a workshop about something to do with running a business. So I did volunteered myself and ran a visual identity workshop. I really enjoyed sharing ideas with other local start ups.

I also volunteered to design their March leaflet.

I’m a member of York Printmakers. When I joined the group last year they where starting to create their logo. Each member was designing a printed letter. I volunteered to design the Y and then designing a logo with these and subsequently design the groups marketing materials.

Get in touch with people you know

What I am good at though is being proactive. I drew up a list of local people I knew that I’d done business with in the past. Not steeling clients but suppliers I’d worked with. It paid off, here’s one example...

Silverwood Exhibitions had made our trade fair stand when I’d worked at Shared Earth. I’d given them the overall design concept and they’d brought it to life. They used 3D designers but had just had a job in for Tackwork's, they needed printed panels designing as the stand would need easily transportable to be taken a plane to an exhibition. This was my first job for them.

Silverwood also do laser cutting. Their clients needed sketched designs translating into vector illustrations to be laser cut. They refer all their clients to me that need this service.

Find networking groups that work for you

Everyone has their own style of networking that they feel comfortable with and it’s important to find what works for you.

I was invited to a BNI event, which is one that works as a referral scheme. I personally didn’t like the way that you that there is one person from each trade in the group and you refer them. It works for a lot of people but not me. I like to refer clients to professionals that I have a working relationship with . For me it’s important that I the other person fits with my style and ethos.

I came across Everyday People and that really does work for me. Sam Agnew organises three talks at each event with informal networking beforehand. The venues are quite often places I’d go and there’s something about it not just being milling around a room that takes the edge off. Now I always make sure there in my diary. I’ve learnt a lot from the talks and have met some lovely people to collaborate with.

Other events I’ve liked are Pure Zest evenings. Here I’d met Juliet Powell from Choice Therapy. We knew of each other and Juliet had been impressed by Sally Duffin’s at Nutrition in York’s branding that I’d designed. We chatted over drinks and arranged to meet up to talk through her design needs. I then went on to design her Choice Therapy Branding.

I’ve met a lot of interesting people at Yorkshire Mafia events too.

Facebook groups are another useful tool. I’m part of Louise Maison’s ‘Marketing Lounge , Rachel Smith’s ‘The Business Grower’ and Elaine Smith’s ‘Natural Entrepreneurs Workspace. Elaine holds a new Wednesday networking group.

What networks are you already part of?

I live a very full life with lots of hobbies and interests. For me this was the easiest way to meet people that needed my design services. I didn’t need to shout about myself, chatting about the new business I’d set up felt natural in day to day conversation.

I knew Janet that owns MI Studio from the cycling group I run Bikes Bakes & Banter. She needed design support for her established Pilates businesses. I’m now designing the fifth in a series of leaflets for her.

At yoga Mike asked me to design the branding for his software development business Mike Royce Consulting. This involved his logo and business stationery.

Nearly one year on and the network that I started last June is growing and growing. So far all the work that I have done has been through someone I know or a referral.

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