[picture taken from John Haydon]
It is 8.28am, and I am sat in my local cafe; the manager is setting up the till and display area around me, and the church and community centre is coming to life. The notice boards are being written by staff, there are good 'mornings' and 'hellos' from the children coming through the centre to nursery, and there is a general buzz created from the people who use the centre. It is a special place to work; it is a church and a community centre, using the same space. There is one entrance, and everyone is in together. There are events that happen like zumba classes and elderly lunches, and it definitely feels very much like a community.
But what if, like me, you are self-employed? You spend you days crafting in your own home, and really only ever get to meet other people when you do a craft fayre? And even then, you are sat behind your table most of the time!!
For me, recently, looking at interacting with others in the same boat has become a focus- and not in a craft fayre setting, and so how I use facebook is fast changing. I first set up my business page to promote my cards to sell directly to those who 'like' the page. A way to let friends and family see what I have been making, and for me to get potential sales. This was successful to a degree; I had a few sales, however the downside is you cannot see who blocks your news feed, and whether people take any notice of your photos and posts. I am bombarded with haircare products on tv. ... but I don't actually go out and buy them. Why should my cards be any different?
Last month I had a really good think about what I was going to do with my business; mostly which direction to take it in. I decided that I needed to do more for myself and my personal enjoyment, and stop making everything about my work. So I booked on a coach trip to go to the cake show at the Excel in London (which I wrote about in this blog post). It was me and a coach load of people I didn't know. I was scared!! I'm not good at meeting new people and get quite shy! Happily, on the trip was a lady who runs a fantastic local cupcake company called Ems Cupcakes, who I spent the day with, and had lunch and coffee with, as well as meeting some other lovely people.
A week or so later she sent me a message via facebook making me aware of a job opportunity for me she had seen. I was exceedingly happy!!!! After than I began to reflect on the the fact that this opportunity had come out of a chance meeting on a day trip I had gone on just for fun!! And it certainly got me thinking!
Because of this, I became an online member of a facebook group called Women in business! which is part of the wider networking group of women 4 business network, which I am finding helpful. I am using it not to promote work to sell, but as a genuine networking tool that I can use to connect with others in the same position as me.
I have had online discussions with other members about how to present my work to prospective clients, and given my thoughts on various points to others thinking about their own work and business model. I am sharing my blog with the ladies who may find my ramblings either or use, or interesting, and I am getting to know others in a professional capacity, which builds up my network of contacts.
So my first plan of action is finding more groups like this to build connections- and not necessarily just for women, or just for crafters ... Just a way of getting to meet all sorts of people. Whether they are online groups on facebook, websites, or meetings that take place in my locality.
I think when we focus a little less on promoting sales online, and focus on connecting with people, more seems to happen! Sister Diane over at the Crafty Pod has discussed this idea more than once. She shares her thoughts about telling our story rather than plugging for sales all the time, and that connecting with people will in turn make people want to invest in what you create- rather than just picking through your work like they would at a shop.
Its certainly an approach that I will be using more often, and I hope that socialising with people rather than selling to people may be of more use to them too - sharing my opinions and my knowledge base with others.
Having worked as a lecturer, and professional actress before, maybe I will do some public lectures about the subject, maybe I will organise coffee mornings for crafters to just chat and network, or maybe I will get my cards into a store .... Or maybe, all of the above will be possible because I take the time to meet people and just connect.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, I would love to hear what you think about it.
Have a nice day