Networking might feel like a dirty word for its connotation of business suits and "how can you help me?" tendencies. But networking, in its essence, is about building relationships - ones that can eventually turn into profitable opportunities. It's easy to hide behind your phone or computer screen these days, but while social media is a cool networking tool and way to build your personal brand, nothing beats making an in-person connection! Follow these tips to learn how to network your way to becoming a rockstar stylist.
Always have cards on hand
Don't buy into the concept that paper is dead; nothing says professional and prepared like a chic business card. Sites like Minted, Moo, Vista Print and Etsy are overflowing with business and networking card options that are reasonably priced. Plus, with all of the options it's easy to find something that fits your style and personality.
You can also connect with a designer for a unique custom design that makes the statement you want. It's a great way to try out something creative, like a mix of different hair tips on the back or a space so you can write recommendations for your favorite products if you just have to tell the person you met they'll love Biosilk Beach Texture Spray.
Once you have your new cards in hand, invest in a nice business card case - also easy to find in wide variety of styles, including personalized options - to always keep in your purse or pocket. It will keep the cards nice and further show that you're prepared to represent yourself.
Practice your elevator speech
Elevator speeches aren't just for the aspiring tech start-up founder hoping to secure millions in investments. Having a go-to spiel about who you are and what you do will keep you from letting nerves get the best of you when you meet someone. Write 1-3 sentences out and practice saying them so it's ingrained in your mind when you're asked what you do.
Create a game plan
When it comes to picking out events you want to attend, set your objectives. Do you want to find more clients? Then find events they would likely be hanging out. Do you want to connect with other businesses for partnerships and collaborations? Then head to more business-related events, like those put on by your local chamber.
Once you've filled your calendar with fantastic opportunities, think about how to network once you're there. It's great to bring a friend along, but it's also super easy to fall into the trap of sticking together the entire evening. If you go with someone else, make sure to take time to split apart. Set a goal of the number of people you want to talk to while there, and if you have access to a list of people who are also going (like an eVite attendee list), you can find the exact people you know you want to meet. It may feel creepy, but trust me, everyone else is likely doing it, too!
If you're on the introverted side, look for people who are flying solo at the event or pairs of people. They'll be less intimidating to approach than a group of five who all seem to know each other - and they're likely in the same boat as you.
There's nothing less appealing than a person who could spend an entire evening talking about themselves. The key to building a great relationship is balance. Don't go on for 15 minutes to answer one question, and ask as many questions of someone else as they do you to show interest. If you're just not feeling a conversation, don't be afraid to gracefully walk away. Shake hands and say it was a pleasure to meet them, then move onto the next person or group.
Be on your best behavior
Whether you're at an official event or just out on your own, remember that you're always representing your salon and/or your stylist career. It's great to let loose, but everyone notices the one who drank one too many Cosmopolitans and talks way too loudly when recounting that story of that one trip to Florida you took in college. That's not the impression you want to make, especially if you're hoping some of these people will eventually want to sit at your styling station.
Seize every opportunity
Every place you go is likely an opportunity to connect with someone new - the line at the post office, that community service event, or even a book club. Don't be afraid to say hi or introduce yourself. Like with official networking events, set intentions in your daily life and other events you do for fun to meet a certain number of people or to give your card out a certain number of times a week. The more people you meet, the more opportunity to build client relationships, build your business, and build great friendships, as well!
If you're just starting out, networking is even more important! Check out this post about building your clientele when you're the new stylist on the block.