1) Networking is not randomly handing out business cards to strangers at an event hoping to get jobs. Networking is building relationships and making new connections. Networking is building your local community so that in turn you can help others grow while your business grows.
2) See & Be Seen. Most likely at this point in your career, you are working out of a single city or regional area. This is where networking can/will grow your business fast. People will recommend/refer somebody that they have made a personal connection with way before somebody they simply follow on Facebook.
3) Taking Social Media to the Street. Yes, social media is crucial to building your audience, yet as in tip #2, you are selling locally. Having 10k fans on social media is great but if you live in Miami and your followers are spread out over the globe, that does nothing for putting money in your bank account. Act global, think local.
4) There is the famous statement by Kevin Kelly that talks about only needing "1,000 true fans" to be a working artist. For building a local business I am telling you 100 true connections locally will take you far. In truth, a tribe of 10 trusted friends/connection that recommends and refer you will grow your business exponentially faster than any amount of ad money you could spend on the local level.
5) Let us get into the how. Find two different groups locally to be part of. This may (it will) take time & experimenting to find the right fit for you. Find a group that is solely entrepreneurial focused. I recommend using the website Meetup.com to find a networking group in your city. Second, find a group that is a social/fun/community focused. It could include any interests of your own: hobbies, running club, community clean-up...you get the point.
6) This next one is hard for people to grasp. You do not need to network with others in the same business as you. Yes, it is important to have a small group of friends that you can recommend and refer work to each other. They are trying to build there own business. This is where social media is great if you love chatting with other photographers because you can join a group. When it comes to networking locally you want to be known to everyone in the community. Florists, hairstylists, restaurant owners, startups will refer business your way before long before advertising will work.
7) What to do at a networking event? Listen, learn, share, offer advice. Do not complain or gossip; networking is not business therapy. Show up consistently. Attending consistently will put you on the local map. This is where most people fail at networking. They show up once or twice, hand out some business cards and get nothing. Again, networking is community building, not high-pressure sales.
8) It's a great way to find a mentor or become a mentor to somebody else in the community. There are all aspects of our business that we struggle with and there are all aspects of our business that we excel at. Share your strengths with others and do not be afraid to share your weakness with others. People who consistently show up to networking events are the people who care about growing your community and your business.
9) Side projects & collaborations: You have a skill that others do not. You can create exceptionally... We live in a visual and online world; a great photo is King. Your iPhone can grow you local-connections: When you go to an event, take your camera. Document the event. Take a couple of group shots. After the event upload 5 to 10 photos to social media making sure to tag the people in the photos. Right there you have contributed to their business giving them something to share and talk about and at the same time spreading the message about your business.
10) Create, connect & grow: Blending social media with local networking. Can you imagine walking into a room and people walking up to you telling you how much they enjoy following your work online?
This is successful networking: blending your online work with real life.