#113: How to Build Relationships, Not a Network, with Anna Hetzel

Today’s guest is Anna Hetzel, from Columbus, Ohio. Anna is the owner and founder of Strange Birds, a business they started five years ago in which they convert copywriting and strategy for websites and community design and strategy.

Anna works with service providers and entrepreneurs who are trying to expand their reach and figure out how to talk to their ideal clients and build more scalable offers through paid online communities.

Hear the fun story about how Anna named their business Strange Birds.

A lot of freelance advice is about how to grow your network. But Anna approached it differently. From day one, they approached it based on relationships: “I didn’t give two hoots about how many people I was connected to. What mattered to me was did I have good relationships I was connected to.”

The value of that relationship building showed up when the pandemic hit. Instead of having just a lot of names of people Anna had met, they had real relationships.

Melanie talks about how she hates the traditional cocktail hour networking event where she doesn’t know anyone. Anna offers a tip: Anna’s goal at those events is to make one friend—not one contact, but one friend. That helped them filter out the noise and overwhelm.

At networking events, we may feel pressured to meet 12 new people and begin to develop opportunities. But opportunities take time. Focus on making one new friend instead.

There’s a difference between a network and a community: “It’s the difference between a list of contacts versus a group of people that are mutually invested in each other’s success.”

Your social media following or your email list is a network. They are not a community; they are your audience.

It can be hard to make friends as an adult! Find what you’re good at—like writing or photography—and read related social media posts and comment thoughtfully. Give your energy in that space.

As for virtual events, it’s OK to decline those and set boundaries. Do what makes you feel comfortable. That includes not turning on your video during Zoom calls.

Anna uses the five love languages to build relationships in their business too. The love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gift giving and physical touch. Anna modifies the “physical touch” love language for the business world to think of it as “human to human.” Add a human touch, such as by sending gifs of people or a video of you reacting to an email.

Biz Bite: Before tomorrow, write out what an amazing day means to you (both in work and life) and build your business ferociously around those guidelines.


Sign up for Anna’s email list at StrangeBirds.land and receive a quick guide to match your unique skills and simple-to-implement scalable ways to move away from transactional contacts and into real relationships.

Anna on Instagram

Episode #112 of Deliberate Freelancer: How and When to Say No

“Hoatzin: the Strangest Bird in the Amazon?”

Loom (send quick video messages)

What Are the Five Love Languages?

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Comments 2

  1. Great insights. My wife always complains about the term and the concept of networking, and she hates it. Before talking to her about this, I’d never given it much thought, but I also think networking may make relationships increasingly superficial. It’s an ambiguous feeling.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas on this.

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