This month’s column goes back to a more traditional way to grow your business network. Joining your industry’s association, while perhaps not having a direct relationship with how your business grows, can be incredibly beneficial to you in many indirect ways.

A tradesperson’s association may offer courses in skill development or safety that you may not otherwise seek out on your own. They may be able to bring in experts in your field from whom you can glean knowledge and ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Belonging to a certification body in your industry will help distinguish you from your competitors, especially in sectors where there are many professionals offering similar services, such as interior design or photography. Often times with this level of exposure amongst your peers, there is even opportunity to work as a subcontractor to larger players in your field, which is a huge bonus when you are just starting out.

I belong to RGD, the Registered Graphic Designers of Canada. Before even becoming a member, I took full advantage of their free events and online tools that ultimately helped me do my job better. After a test and portfolio review, I am now a member and have been able to take full advantage of their impressive annual conference, enjoy a multitude of webinars and reading materials, as well as extend my network of like-minded peers who share the same daily struggles and challenges of working in this industry. I have also joined their events committee, so that I can contribute my own ideas as to how I see the organization working in the future. In this way, I can shape what the association offers its members and ensure that it will continue to be relevant to myself and other designers.

Whether you are one year or 10 years into your business, getting involved in your industry’s association will continue to offer benefits to your own company’s growth. While it may initially seem like yet another expense, you may be pleasantly surprised on the return you get on your investment. Some associations even offer a trial membership, or a free pass to an event, in order to “try before you buy”. Of course, no two associations are alike, so it is worth doing some investigating as to how the organization is run and what they offer their members before you commit.

Have fun researching!