Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Networking for Craftspeople

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since I began writing this blog I have been struck by how many craftspeople are failing to put themselves out there!

It pains me to see artists and makers of handmade goods red nosed and shivering as the fickle public idle past their stands barely bothering to make eye contact. Going to markets or selling your goods through the odd shop or two isn't enough to promote a craft business; all sorts of strategic strings have to be added to your bow and networking is one of them.

Networking is vital for lots of reasons, not least for bringing you into contact with people who can inform, inspire, enthuse and chew the cud with you.  You'll meet other professionals in different fields, people you can discuss your problems with informally and who may provide new sources of business at the same time.

Imagine this - chatting over breakfast coffee and croissants to a high street shop manager who might be quite interested to allow you a small corner of his shop front to help pull in customers....or to a small business owner who might commission you to make something beautiful and handmade as incentive give-aways for customers. Networking events mean meeting potential clients. They are not just about boozy fat men in grey suits showing off about their car dealerships and carpet cleaning franchises (not there's anything wrong with those...). They are fun to attend and present business opportunities you might never have dreamt of.

If you are not already networking outside your group of artist and crafts contacts then you should be.
Simply google "networking events" for your area and a vast plethora will appear. The Federation of Small Businesses and your local Chamber of Commerce are quite expensive to join (around £150 and £80 annually in my area) but they provide an array of fantastic help to small businesses for example in the form of legal protection costs, debit and credit card payment discounted transaction fees, a free business banking service with the FSB, discounted roadside assistance and free training...to mention just a few.

There are lots of other kinds of local networking groups and women's ones too and they are much cheaper to join than the Chamber of Commerce or FSB but without the same incentives to join. They put on worthwhile training events though and provide good opportunities to meet other people.

So take my advice, brighten up your (sometimes) lonely, hardworking day and do a spot of networking. And if you are doing so already, tell me about your favourite networking group and how it has worked for you.

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