It’s not that serious. Feel free to be yourself, love yourself, laugh at the absurdity of our world—it makes networking stuff a lot less heavy, and thus, way easier. People will not answer you, not get you, be weirdos—it’s fine! It happens to everyone. Laugh at it. We live on a ball of energy spinning through space with no real clue why we’re here.
OKAY THEN, now that we have a nice and relaxed context…
When I first started, networking made me anxious. And I’m extroverted. So, I can only imagine what it’s like for the introverts. I was like, HOLY HELL I need the right business cards, a super effective pitch, air-tight confidence, an Excel business plan—you probably know what I’m talking about.
When things actually started to pick up for me was when I became less interested in what I wanted, and more curious about other people. Because, there is really something to be said for just being a nice person to be around.
So loosen your grip a little on what you want out of the conversation, and instead focus on being open and elated for a bunch of different outcomes. The person you are chatting with may not be your next paying client, but they could be the connector to that client, or maybe an editor for your first book..something like that.
So, great—we’re aligned that fun and relaxed actually works better. Here’s some tips for making business friends and actually enjoying the process:
Step 2 (here’s the rest of the “tips”)
Reach out with your own unique personality
I write people on LinkedIn or on Facebook and I am just myself. I send messages like, “Hey! You look cool and I love your stuff! Want to get a coffee or have a chat? Not sure what would come of it, but I’d love your vibe!” Sometimes people are game, sometimes they’re not. But what I find is that if I enjoy the process of networking because I feel calm and free to be myself, I am much more inclined to do it more often, and my business grows.
Ask people what they need and see if you can provide it. You may not get a check for doing this type of thing right away, but it can be very helpful at first because it means you’re talking and connecting with people. You are on their mind as someone in the industry. You’re having conversations. You’re learning by experience. After a while, we all tend to get to a place when working for free doesn’t make sense anymore, but this initial input is gold. Plus, giving is really a beautiful thing, and putting that energy into the universe has it come back to you. You can see business as a transactional and competitive, or you can enjoy the reciprocity—whichever way you conceptualize it, that is what you will find more of.
No need to overprepare
All of those things—the cards and website and copy and pitch and plans—if you need those to be perfect before attending something or speaking with someone, then you’ll probably miss a lot of opportunities. Instead, F it! I went to a networking event where we HAD to bring business cards. I didn’t have any. And you know what? I got creative! I told people, “I don’t have business cards, plus, I just throw them away. Can I have your number and send you a quick text instead?” Do you know how many more fruitful connections I got? Five. And one of those people became a client. If you are jazzed about what you’re doing and have the confidence to skip some prep and just show up, it is surprisingly great.
I’m going to say something controversial here: don’t worry about what you need. More clients? A website build? A partner? Cool—you’ll always need things. This is life, man! Start conversations by being profoundly interested in the other person. This does two wonderful things—it allows you to learn and connect with another human, and allows you to get out of your own head long enough to really shine and be present. Both of those things make big impacts and have someone remember you. I’ve met a lot of transactional robots worried about their own selves. Do I think of them when an opportunity comes up? Not really!
If you’re doing networking like this, you’re probably a pretty hardworking, intelligent, interesting human. Trust that it will all work out. Trust that you’ll be connected to the right people, that people are good and want to help you, and that all you ever wanted is coming your way. This positively not only has you be great to be around, but it manifests what you really want.