After a long stretch of minimal new project action this summer, the fall seems to be looking up-minus the "flaky client" mentioned in a previous post. Yesterday was a windfall day, with two meetings set up (one of which was taken this morning), a trip to Portland, OR scheduled for the following week to set up the new apartment of a former client, and most importantly, an invitation to collaborate with a fellow student.
I say this is most important because involves several factors, which I think are key to developing a business and which are sometimes undervalued.
1. Selling Yourself- I try to sell myself whenever possible-it's that simple. During class one day I got the opportunity to explain what I do and how I got into it. It was incredible to hear the reactions of my fellow students who had previously not thought of starting their own business as a real possibility.
2. Networking- This is pretty much the same thing as selling yourself, but I went beyond explaining what I do and actually spoke to individuals about the realities of the business-what they could expect if they got into it and also learning about their background. I had a woman email me saying that she would love to get involved with a project of mine, which I will put into my notes if I find myself in a situation where I need an assistant or collaborator.
3. Collaborating- My fellow student explained that he was approached to do a project by some acquaintances of his and asked my advice on certain things-how much to charge? where do you get your vendors? etc. and then he asked if I would consider collaborating with him. When it comes to business, I don't have a huge ego. I absolutely believe in the power of two (or three or four...) minds coming together. The benefit of collaborating for me is that I will pick up a new project, make a little money, make new contacts, expand my creative repertoire, and mentor a fellow designer, which is a total trip. The benefit to my fellow student is a having a mentor that can guide him in the basic business aspects of the project and give him a boost of confidence in executing his, what are sure to be fabulous based on his work in class, designs.
Speaking of the three tenets above, I had a lunch meeting with my electrician David Bernstein yesterday, and we had a really great meeting where both he and I explained why we were in business, why we liked what we do, how we got in business, etc. Because of that exchange we are now both looking out for the interest of the other. At this point, quite frankly, he could do a lot more for me, but as I grow and establish a larger client base with larger budgets, he stands to benefit as well. It illustrates what I always say to anybody asking about what I do- your vendors and your tradesmen are your best friends. If you've got a good team behind you, you can be a better designer, plus, if you're a decent human being and they like you, they may even promote your work. This has happened several times for me where a vendor has hooked me up with a client.
So if you're just starting-network shamelessly and if you've been in business for awhile and have hit a slump-network shamelessly. So get out there, take two business cards and call me in the morning.