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3 Ways to Set Up and Sustain a Referral Network

Photo by: Adam Winger

Everyone is looking for community and support – which means now is the perfect time to set up a referral network.

When you throw tough times on top of that basic need…you can feel an even stronger pull to find community and a solid network of professionals you can depend on. So while you can’t control the circumstances and events going on in the world around you, you can make a solid plan, surround yourself with the right people and find a way to sustain your basic needs as a business.

Here are 3 ways I have continued to set up a referral network and sustain a community during difficult times:

01 | Find and surround yourself with like-minded people to build an ‘emergency’ referral network

As a wedding photographer in the midst of a global pandemic it was clear to me that I would need an emergency team of reliable photographers that could step in for me if needed. There’s a high probability that I could/will get sick, my family could/will get sick or that there are circumstances that occur that are beyond my control. As a solopreneur it’s important to find support you can depend on, especially now. 

A few things I did to ensure my business would be okay if anything happened to me and I couldn’t show up to a wedding/session was to:

  • Look for like-minded photographers that would provide amazing service to my clients and would be someone I could trust behind the AOP Brand
  • Ask those like-minded photographers if they’d like to be in an ‘emergency’ referral network with me and be able to support each other in emergency situations
  • Once our emergency group was assembled, merge everyone’s schedules together to form a solid team and create a reference spreadsheet indicating who could be on call as a backup if needed for which events
  • Ensure that everyone in the group could easily get in contact with each other via phone, Facebook and email

While your business structure may look very different, I highly recommend setting up a trusted emergency referral network in advance and laying out the steps of what will need to happen prior to the emergency ever happening. To me it’s best to have the mentality of WHEN an emergency happens, not IF an emergency happens, so I have a plan that will work. Then, I can run through my list level-headed with a plan already in place.

02 | Commit to attending 1-2 new (virtual) networking events each month to build new relationships

If you find yourself in need to expand your network or to strengthen your network, put yourself out there! Trust me, I know first hand how uncomfortable this can be, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

A few places to connect with business owners outside of the Rising Tide Society that you may have not thought of before are things like the equivalent of these examples from my local area, Athens, GA, for your city and state:

Finding a support network outside of your industry can be a huge benefit to expanding your network in ways that you can’t expect. It might be uncomfortable at first but commit to attending 1-2 new networking events each month. Most networking events have been moved to an online platform allowing you to still connect with others while staying safe.

03 | Follow up with your network… stay top of mind!

Once you set up a referral network and your emergency team and are regularly attending networking events, keep in touch with these communities. If you’re out of sight you can easily become out of mind. Staying in consistent communication with your networks is important so that you are top of mind in these communities should you need something or if someone in your network needs a helping hand.

Here are a few ways I stay in touch with my emergency referral group and networks:

  • Set reminders in my calendar to touch base with these groups once a month. This could be as simple as a “just checking in to see how you’re doing.” The goal of monthly check-ins is to both strengthen your relationships and continue to be top of mind.
  • Set up virtual weekly or monthly meet ups. This gives you the opportunity to stay in touch and talk more casually than you might via email or in group messages.
  • Start planning for future collaborative events when you can be together in person safely. Everyone is craving the opportunity to be with people, create incredible content and get back to our “old normal.” So why not start planning for a future event with your network that is going to help all your businesses grow? This could look like a brainstorming and goal setting getaway and reset, a shoot to create new content, or a feature and blog series to share each other’s work.

While you may be physically isolated and while 2020 hasn’t gone how any of us have planned, we can continue to strengthen our relationships and our businesses to focus on resilience. Just make a plan and stay consistent and organized. Your consistency will pay off and save you in emergency situations that are sure to come! Keep pushing through, friends!

Looking to increase resiliency in your business? Get our Business Planning for Resiliency Ultimate Guide.

Plus, 4 more posts you might like:

Ensure Your Contract Helps Your Business Stay Resilient

Managing Social Media through a Difficult Season

How to Build Strong Creative Relationships for Resiliency

5 Steps to Craft a Public Relations Plan


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