Last night I had my FIRST honest-to-goodness networking event. And it was a little nerve wracking! I mean, it’s a little weird, right? You don’t know anyone at these things until you’ve been to them, so the first time, you kinda feel like the new kid at school…except for the fact that your and adult, and your trying to break into a really competitive industry, and half the people there are probably going to be your competitors…yeah, if you guessed that it was super awkward, you’re right!
But really only at first. When my WeddingWire rep, Cathy Ramirez emailed me and said “Hey, how come I don’t see your name on the list?” The first thing that popped out of my brain was a stream of excuses:
I can’t make the time, I have a two year old
I won’t know anybody there, and who needs that kind of awkwardness at the ripe old age of 34!
Why on earth would I want to spend time with my competition!? I know that there are a ton of wedding photographers in my WeddingWire region.
But then, the more I thought about it, the more I started to really take a hard, critical look at my mindset. First of all, networking is something professional business people do. My husband taught me that : ) So there must be a reason for it.
And hey, yeah, I am 34! I can walk into a party and get to know people! It wasn’t hard for me back when I was a teenager, so why would it be now. I’m just a little out of practice…
So then I got to thinking, I DO actually know some people in this industry. I’d met Karen Podrasky a few weeks back; an AMAZING wedding planner who has done weddings all over the valley, and since she was such a blast to hang with, I texted her:
“Are you going to this thing?”
“Yes, are you!? We should carpool!”
Awesomeness. Now I had a carpool buddy and a wingman for breaking the ice.
Then I started texting some of the other vendors I’d met over the past year or so. A videographer, another planner who was hired by a bride who booked me for January; she was going to!
All in all, it was a really wonderful experience. I did “network” some other vendors who could potentially lead to more bookings, sure. But actually, the highlight of the evening for me was meeting other photographers! We’re kind of a weird bunch.
Yes, we are in a business, so yes, we want to make money and yes, we have competition. But we are also artists and moms and dads who really love what we do. It turns out several of us really love to drink wine and tell hilarious stories about our crazy lives too, so that was a major highlight of the night for me.
My old co-workers would be very proud of me that I managed to “PG” down my stories from my days as a crime scene investigator. Let me tell you, those stories always raise a few eyebrows : )
In the end, if you’re new to this business and you think the following when you get invited to a vendor event:
“Eh, it’s awkward and a waste of time and it’s not like I’m going to be meeting potential clients . . . “
Your right about two of those concepts. Yeah, it’s a little awkward, and no, there aren’t any potential clients there. But it is totally worth it. If you’re serious about being “in the business” than you need to do that. You need to dive INTO the business side of your wedding photography world. Know your market. Get to know your peers (even if they are your competition). You’ll learn new and really helpful information and probably end up having a blast with others who also “just showed up for the free wine” but really ended up having a fabulous time!