Networking Your Way to Success
If content is king, then relationships are queen. -Sonia Simone
The next step in your life's work may not be to read another book or spend one more hour practicing.
It may require you to pick up the phone, attend a conference, or buy someone lunch.
This is the really hard stuff – the art of pursuing your dream – what Seth Godin calls “emotional labor.”
And this is the only way you're going to succeed as a blogger.
Why We Hide
Many writers and artists are uncomfortable with this relational side of work.
We're hermits, misanthropes, and introverts. We tend to be a little shy.
Sticking our necks out like this just feels wrong. It reeks of self-promotion.
I can't speak for all creatives (or whatever you are), but we writers tend to not always do well in front of people.
Large crowds intimidate us. New relationships frighten us. That's why we pour ourselves into our work. And that's why we work best up in a cabin in the mountains.
The reality is simple (and scary): We hide, because we're afraid of rejection.
That Evil Word “Networking”
For years, I watched in envy as other writers would land publishing deals or grow their platforms. Not through the sheer quality of their work, but through the relationships they had built.
Their talent, it seemed, was not the cause for their fame. Rather, it was the glue that solidified the already-existing relationships they had built with influencers.
In bewilderment, I would observe this phenomenon from the safety of my desk, all the while wondering why this wasn't happening for me. I got bitter.
Slowly, though, I began to grow curious. And then frustrated. Until I finally did something…
I did things I never thought I'd do:
- I attended conferences.
- I invited Twitter followers to coffee.
- I went to local meetups and introduced myself to strangers.
- I cold-called influencers.
- I volunteered for speaking gigs.
All of this was stuff that was very uncomfortable for me. But I did it, anyway.
In so doing, I learned a lesson: Never underestimate the value of real human interaction.
Not only did I recognize the importance of connecting with people, I also enjoyed it.
Once I got over my fear of rejection, I found that it was fun to meet new people. And worth the effort.
Because stuff started happening for me. I was invited to write for publications and guest-post on sites that otherwise wouldn't give me the time of day.
Eventually, I was even offered a publishing deal.
All because of relationship.
Sometimes, a writer or blogger or creative just needs to get better. She needs to lock herself in her room for a few months and practice.
But sometimes, you need to get out there and meet some people.
Only you know when it's time to do what.
If this speaks to you — if you felt a little uncomfortable when you were reading this — then you need to stop hiding.
You need to start networking. Here's how to begin:
- Quit hiding behind your work. Schedule some time in your day, week, or month for socializing. This is an investment.
- Use social media as the means to an end, not the end itself. Reach out to people on Twitter and Facebook and ask to meet them in person.
- Take a stranger out to lunch or coffee… and pick up the bill.
- Sign up for meetups, mixers, and conferences.
- Start doing favors for people without expecting anything in return.
- Forging the right relationships that lead to successful connections may be some of the hardest and (most rewarding) work you do.
So, yes, this is the part where I tell you to get started.
Remember: It's not only what you know, but also who you know. It's trite, and it's true. Time to start living it.