We all know the term, and as cringe-worthy as it can sound, it doesn't negate it's importance: networking. Along with "entrepreneur," the word "networking" gets thrown around a lot in today's millennial-run world full of social media highlight reels and "try-hard" antics. But networking, in the purest sense of the word, is an absolute necessity in our industry of creative entrepreneurship. There are opportunities around you that you will never be privy to unless you start cultivating genuine relationships with the creators in your extended circles. Not only that, but there is a vast pool of resources and knowledge that you could be tapping into.
From what I've seen, the creative community as a whole is growing rapidly, and that can make it hard to keep up. With information as accessible as it is today, it can be easy to get caught up in the global community while neglecting the thriving creative communities in your own backyard. To stay connected to the circles that essentially pay my rent each month there are a few practices I try to stay consistent with.
As a general rule I try to be the first person to extend a hand and offer my name when walking into a new place or circle of people. It's something that's taken practice, something I don't always hold myself accountable to, and something I'm constantly working on. Your level of comfort will only grow as you do it more. Imagine the last time someone offered an unsolicited handshake when in a networking setting. How weird was it? Probably not at all. So get over it and be that person.
Meet-up groups are a great place to get comfortable learning how to meet new people. While there may not be many new work opportunities at informal meet-ups, these are your industry peers, and you should get to know them. It's a good place to swap trade secrets, learn how to handle problem clients, and meet people with shared interests that you connect with on a personal level.
On a more client-facing, formal level, Ad Club meetings can provide the unique opportunity to get in front of advertising professionals in your city with the money to spend on your unique skill set. The American Advertising Federation has chapters all over the United States and holds events based around education and networking.
Somewhere right in the middle of the formal and the informal is another organization called Creative Mornings. They too have chapters located all across the U.S. and even abroad, and serve as a massive education and networking resource for creatives of all disciplines.
The most important thing, and probably the one I struggle with the most with my busy schedule, is maintaining the personal and client relationships that sustain my professional career. While fostering new relationships is important, the key to a sustainable career is consistent repeat business. It's imperative to stay active in the conversation with previous clients with which you've done work. This can look like thank you notes (I suck at this), sharing your latest work, or just checking in to see how the assets you've created for them are working out.
What are some ways that you stay active in your city's creative industry? Comment below.
Photo used with permission of Juan Martinez.