As my favorite book Never Eat Alone shares “your network is your net worth.” Coming from experience, my own connections have been invaluable to me – and not just because they offer me places to hang my hat when I’m traveling around the country (although that certainly helps!).
If the idea of having a national network seems overwhelming or unreachable to you, I’m here to debunk all of your fears and tell you that it is indeed possible and manageable. Before starting my own business, I worked at a local wedding venue, which allowed me to get to know many of the wedding pros in the region. My local network grew quickly, but when I started my own business, I came to the realization that I needed to branch out to truly capitalize on the market.
Here are some tips that I learned along the way:
Share your expertise
Projecting yourself as an expert in your specialty is the number one way to get your name out there and begin to grow connections. This can be done in many ways and, over the years, I’ve grown my network through guest writing, speaking engagements and simply reaching out to those in need of some help. Guest writing is a great place to start, especially if you’re not a fan of public speaking. Reach out to some of your favorite publications and offer yourself as a guest writer or as a resource for them to use. Be sure to have some potential topics on hand!
With that said, speaking is truly what has transformed my network, my business and my life. I started out speaking at local associations among my industry buddies, but once I began pitching myself to bigger national conferences, everything changed. Not only do you get to know other speakers and some of the industry heavyweights, but you also put your company in front of other professionals who may reach out for help or consultation. You know your stuff – so go on and show it!
It can be easy to feel discouraged when you get a rejection email, but let me tell you – for every keynote speech I’ve given, I’ve received tens of “no thank you”s as well. Not everything will be for you, but don’t give up until you find the right fit. On that note, don’t be afraid to reach out to industry leaders and introduce yourself. For a minimal investment, you have a lot to gain!
Get ready to travel
It probably goes without saying, but having a national network does involve some traveling. Checking out new cities and meeting new people sounds like a blast (spoiler alert- it is!), but it’s important to understand the financial and time investment that it takes. It’s important to ensure that your company is at a stable point where you can take that time to travel, understanding that you’ll probably be taking a lot of work with you.
As incredible the experience is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the costs that come with it – long workweeks, expenses of flights and hotels and changing time zones more than you change your jeans. I find the payoff more than worth it, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you dive in headfirst.
With that, remember to stay positive and keep pushing! If you visualize your final goal and never stop working towards it, you’ll get there in no time.
Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, a wedding PR agency that works with wedding professionals here, there and everywhere. She’s a long-time industry writer, sought after speaker and unapologetic cat lady.