Raise your hand if you have ever heard the phrase “It’s ALL in who you know.” Okay, you don’t actually have to raise your hand or those people sitting next to you in the coffee shop are gonna be VERY confused.
You guys. I have heard this phrase my entire life and although I believe it to be true, I thought that I did not know anyone significant enough that could help me reach my business DREAMS! “No one else in my family or inner circle knows much about photography!” (I know. Naive)
Now, my goals for my business are quite lofty, and if you are an entrepreneur like me, you might also have some dreams that feel a little bit out of your league. I have begun to reach my major goals and get opportunities I thought were only for “professional” photographers through some of the most random and unexpected connections. (Wait.. did I just tell myself that I am NOT a professional?!) I told myself that the “top dogs” in my industry were untouchable and that I was too small of a person to reach the lengths that they have reached. “They know higher people. They probably were born into their status or got “once in a lifetime” opportunities that I would never score.”
I would have NEVER known that I had access to these connections if I did not take these 5 steps to creating and fostering key connections.
1. Tell e v e r y o n e WHAT and WHO you are
First of all, how is ANYONE ever going to be able to connect you to someone that they know if they do not know who you are, what your strengths are, and how they can ultimately HELP YOU. This world is full of matchmakers, and introducing yourself and showcasing your skills is the door to your world of opportunity. Think about it, you're only 6 degrees of separation away from ANYBODY. Now, ALLOW yourself to be connected by OWNING who you are.
I had to cough out the words “I am a professional photographer,” the first few times saying it. I felt like a fraud. I felt unqualified. If this is you… STOP READING RIGHT NOW and go order the book “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis on Amazon. (Here.. but make sure to come back ;)
You HAVE to speak it out loud and believe it. Nobody is going to believe it unless you do first.
EXAMPLE: I am currently sitting in an airport in Charlotte, NC waiting for my flight to board. I was getting HANGRY so I ordered a bagel from Einstein Bros. While waiting for my order, I struck up a conversation with a man who asked if I was headed home, going on a trip, or going back to school (lol). I told him all about how I was flying to Germany and then moving to California once I get back because "I am a professional photographer." He JOLTED and said "OH! Do you have a card?! My daughter is a model out in Cali who needs a photographer and I have a few friends in LA who are in the movie industry. Once you get there, I will connect you to them!" ....... I mean.. at that point, I am just laughing at how cool God is. BUT! There is so much power in PROCLAIMING who you are and WHAT you do! I could have kept it at a surface level conversation and been on my way, but because I was open and confident about who I am, he immediately wanted to make connections for me! ME. A total stranger. He did not look at a single picture that I have taken. Humans love to connect. Just give 'em a chance.
2. Start with your Inner Circle
Some of you have heard the story about how my family recognized my talent in photography when I was 16 years old at my cousin’s 4th birthday party. Right then and there, my uncle bought me my first DSLR as an “investment.”
SEVEN years later with a growing photography business, I am sitting on my uncle’s couch in Colorado and he is showing me a book of sharks that was created by Michael Muller. Uncle W begins telling me all about his friend : "The Most Successful Photographer You Have Never Heard Of." Fast forward a few months and I was sitting in a coffee shop in Santa Monica, face-to-face with this talented and incredibly experienced photographer. Long story short, I spent my entire life with the SAME uncle! But it wasn't until I dug a little deeper, asked good questions, and expressed my raw desires in learning from this photographer that some magic happened. Which leads to my next point...
3. Be an ASKER
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. It is perfectly okay to need help or to need something from someone. We have this tendency as humans to feel small and "less than" when we face someone with more experience than us. They have knowledge so valuable that 1. WE WANT and that 2. they want to pass down to people hungry to learn! All you have to do is ask!
I wanted to meet Michael Muller with a burning passion once I learned about him. He has skills and knowledge that would be a trillion times useful for me to learn in a similar industry, but I could easily, and I mean EASILY , let my fear of not “being enough” override that courage to even tell my uncle that I wanted to meet him. Yea.. minutes before Michael walked into the coffee shop in Santa Monica, my heart was racing because I was equally excited and terrified. I knew that this opportunity could move the needle for my business goals and dreams. It was VALUABLE.
Again.. GO read “Girl, Stop Apologizing.” In chapter 4, Rachel talks about believing the lie that you are not enough to succeed and this is one of my favorite quotes to hold onto:
“Not having enough knowledge makes you teachable, not stupid. Not being in shape makes you moldable, not lazy. Not having the experience makes you eager, not ignorant. Flip the script and force yourself to see the positive where you’ve only seen the negative. What are the advantages of not knowing, not understanding, not conquering, not having, not achieving your goals yet?
The yet matters. The yet reminds us that we have a whole week, month, life ahead of us to become who we were made to be.
You are enough. Today. As you are. Stop beating yourself up for being on the beginning side of yet, no matter what age you are. Yet is your potential. Yet is a promise. Yet is what keeps you moving forward. Yet is a gift, and you are enough to get to the other side of it.” -Rachel Hollis: Girl, Stop Apologizing
OKAYYYY time to get off that soap box and skirt to #4.
I don't care who they are; your mother, your uncle, your teacher, a friend of a friend, an executive of a company (ESPECIALLY this one), or a rando. A L W A Y S, always send a "Thank You" card. Let's be real. These days, time is money AND energy. Don't you dare walk away with resources given to you without a proper thank you. This shows not only appreciation, but maturity. It shows that you HEARD them and that their wisdom and time was worth while. A card, a text, a gift. Literally anything, just do it.. This one is pretty short and self-explanatory. It is also the first step to my last point. #5: Follow-Up.
From the initial contact with a person, you are beginning a relationship. When you send a "Thank You," that is a professional step to fostering the relationship. THEN! You KEEP REACHING OUT! Along with a "Thank You," this final step is CRUCIAL. Like.. if you don't remember this step, then they will not remember YOU! Trust me, I know what it feels like to reach out to someone you barely know for advice, to meetup, or for whatever needs you have, especially if they are at a "higher" place in your industry. It feels like you are bugging them. Even as I sit here, I have a text typed out in my notes to one of my new California contacts that is going to be so valuable for me in the future. I want to learn from this person and work with them. I want to be thoughtful, genuine, and straight forward in my message and let them know that I am STILL HERE and waiting for any opportunity that arises. What a weird thing to tell somebody. But this is a type of incremental step that is going to show them that I mean business, I really DO want to learn, and that I am persistent. One day, this relationship with be built on trust, but I have to make the bold moves to get my name in front of their eyes.
"Follow-Up" QUICK TIPS
Do it! Every time. Don't NOT follow-up.
Begin with a "Thank you" and compliment their work or personality.
If you are following-up after a meeting, recall the important points in the conversation
If you promised something, always deliver immediately (ex. a document or contact information)
If you want to work with them in the future, allude to future communication ("I will be in touch," etc.)
YA'LL GOT THIS!!! If I can do it, YOU CAN DO IT! Meet any and everybody that you can!! There is power in your words and power in teensy tiny conversations that build up relationships. There is power in connecting with people and humbling yourself in order to LEARN. There is power in vulnerability. And hey.. if you are reading this, practice on ME! Hit that contact button and let's get CHATTIN'!