By Nicole Tinkham
Let’s be here real for a second, just mentioning the work Networking can send waves of anxiety through your body! Anyone who has ever attempted to Network knows that forced conversations and pitching yourself can be quite awkward. But, no matter what career you’re in, it’s so important to get out there and meet new people. And that goes for you as well, artists! Building relationships will bring in new business, take your career a step further, and open up new doors for you. First of all, we must define what networking really is. When you hear the word networking what do you think? Most likely your mind goes to after work events, small talk, and the exchange of business cards. But this isn’t always true. Instead, think of networking as an opportunity to make new like-minded friends with whom you may need help from or can help in the future. You’re not just building a business relationship with them. You’re also building a personal relationship. Sounds a little less scary when put that way, right? We understand that communicating with others in person can be overwhelming but these netowrking tips can help you feel a little more comfortable.
It doesn’t have to be scary. Networking is like meeting new people at a party. You’re simply making friends, sharing ideas and interests, and getting to know that person. Don’t put so much stress on yourself to “work the room” and don’t use people for your benefit. Just build genuine long-term relationships.
The 3 KEYS: Communicating, listening, and sharing. Sounds like the average conversation, right? See, no pressure here. Take a deep breath, relax and have fun!
2. Be approachable
No matter how awkward and uncomfortable you may feel, your goal is to come off as warm and welcoming as you can. It all starts with a smile. A simple smile is inviting and can actually put you in a better mood. Be willing to go up to someone and start a conversation. Remember, your introduction only takes a few minutes and then it’s done. It’s not like you’re making a speech in front of a large crowd. It’s great to be confident about your work but be careful not to brag. Also remember to always be professional.
3. Memorize your pitch
Guess what? Meeting new people out there in the real world is also considered networking. You don’t necessarily have to be at an event to make these connections. It may feel easier to talk to people outside of an event when the pressures off but you could be caught off guard. That’s why it’s helpful to have your 30 second pitch memorized. When someone asks about what you do, respond with a summary of your career goals, your artistic vision, and your skill set. Keep it short and simple. Oh and get excited about it! You are talking about your passion after all.
4. Design your own business cards
Once you nail meeting and communicating with other professionals, the next step is to keep in touch. A good way to do this is to express interest and ask to see their work at a later date. This is where you’ll need to exchange business cards. As an artist, it’s important that your cards reflect your artistic style. Not only will this show off your skills but it also helps you stand out and be remembered.
5. The follow up
If you said you would follow up with someone, you better do it. This is important! Here are some ways you can follow up with your networking contacts:
• Send an email
• Follow/friend on social media sites
• Phone call
We recommend having all of your contacts saved on a master list. Be sure to include notes under each persons name so you remember who they are and what you talked about. This will help you with your follow up!
6. Show your work
You’d probably agree with us when we say artists are visual people. While your words are important, your artwork is also valuable when getting to know fellow artists. They’ll want to see your style as you’re probably interested in seeing theirs as well. We don’t recommend lugging around a large portfolio though. Your smartphone/tablet (you’ll have to photograph your work for this) or artist trading cards will work just fine to show off your artistic style. For ATC ideas, check out 9 Unique Artist Trading Card Ideas.
If you’re having an event coming up (maybe your work is being showcased in a gallery) don’t be afraid to invite people to it! The worse they can say is no but if you’re making a strong connection with them, chances are they’ll be interested. Similar to business cards, you should bring event flyers to hand out.
8. Ask questions
The best way to learn more about someone and their needs is to ask questions. Asking questions shows that you care and are interested in what they have to say which ends up building a better relationship. Ask what they do, how they got started, what their goals are, etc.
9. Social media networking
Meeting people face to face that is way more personal, but networking through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn are other options too. Here are some things to keep in mind when doing so.
• Act as if you were meeting them in person. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you can act inappropriately. Be yourself and have real conversations.
• Keeping your name across all social media platforms consistent will help people find you easier.
• Be interesting on your page. Remember to always be yourself and post engaging content. This is what will get people talking on your page.
• Engage on other people’s posts.
• Search for like-minded people to add to your network by using hashtags (#) of things you find interesting. Some of these may include #ArtInspiration, #Painting #WatercolorArtist, or whatever you’re into and can be done through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
• Gradually build your relationship over time. Rushing things online can look creepy. Start by liking and commenting on a few of their posts and then eventually send them a private message to get to know them better.
• Always post quality images of your work with a description about each piece.
• Don’t spam people. Wait about 5 days before following up with them again.
Networking really isn’t all that bad if you go into it with the right mindset. You’re just starting a simple conversation that can lead to a relationship. Some people you’ll have a connection with right away and others you won’t. That’s just life. If you do end up having an awkward moment just laugh it off! We’re human and we all make mistakes. You may be worried about what other people think of you. How do you think of yourself? We hope you’re confident and think highly of yourself as well as the work that you do. If this is the case, you have nothing to worry about. With time, networking will come natural to you, but until then the first thing you need to do is start!
Do you network as an artist? Let us know your inside tips & tricks as well as where you find networking events for artists! Leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook page!