Establishing Your Creative Network
In order to achieve success, it’s not only about producing good work — you also have to get the word out there about your business. As a graphic designer, the act of meeting people and promoting your services might not come naturally. However, the importance of networking shouldn’t be overlooked since relationships are key to any business. In other words, the more robust your creative network, the more enduring your business will be.
Your idea of networking might be just giving out business cards to random people, but that approach is highly ineffective. Instead, you should establish a creative network in two steps. The first is to identify the people in the same field who have already achieved success and reach out to them with the intention of making a connection. Don’t go in asking them to refer clients to you. Instead, ask them if they would be willing to share their experiences and provide some advice that can help you on your way to success.
At the same time, it’s a good idea to network with industry peers with skill sets that complement yours. For example, as a web designer you might want connect with web developers and copywriters. You never know when they might refer projects to you, or vice versa.
USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Next, connect with the people you have identified through social media, which is probably the easiest way to establish and expand your creative network. The best ones, such as Instagram and Twitter, will allow you to showcase your work, connect with the right people, and keep you updated on the latest design trends with just a click of the mouse.
Before diving into social media, here’s a bit of advice to help preserve your professional reputation. For a start, consider creating separate accounts for work use; you don’t want clients to see how drunk you were last weekend. Also, no one likes spam, so don’t do things like sharing the same image 10 times in one day. Instead, try to add value, whether it’s a thoughtful comment or sharing other people’s work.
Let’s see how you can establish your creative network on some of these platforms.
Facebook Groups are all about communication, sharing, and interaction. You will find groups for everything and everyone, so explore and join those that are ideal for your purposes.
Twitter makes it easy for you to follow creatives who inspire you. Make yourself visible by commenting on and favoriting tweets, or even strike up a conversation by sending a Direct Message. Also, learn to use hashtags to discover conversations that might interest you.
LinkedIn is a social networking service for business professionals — exactly the kind of people you should network with. Be sure to create and publish your own content to increase visibility. SlideShare is also part of LinkedIn, and gets a lot of traffic from business owners. As a suggestion, consider turning your portfolio into a SlideShare deck, so others can comment and give feedback.
Instagram is perfect for a graphic designer. Not only are there tons of inspiration and talented creatives, you can also share your work for all the world to see. Don’t forget to tag your images with relevant hashtags in order to reach out to the right people and gain followers. When others like or comment, follow them back and do the same whenever you can.
Besides those mentioned above, there are also others that are made specially for creatives.
Behance is part of Adobe, and the social network for the creative world to connect and build relationships with one another. Many industry experts are on Behance, so take the chance to get valuable advice from them.
Dribbble is a hub of activity and inspiration. Similar to Behance, you can follow your favorite designers and ask for feedback on your work.
If you are interested in color inspiration and trends, then COLOURlovers is worth checking out. The community is made up of all kinds of people, gathered together under the common love of color.
Instead of reaching out people, why not let them come to you by having a blog? Blogging will get you discovered on the internet, and if done right, will establish you as an authority in the field. You are essentially creating your own online presence. It’s also easier to network with people who are already interested in what you have to say.
GETTING OUT THERE
While social media is useful for establishing your creative network, you can only do so much online. Often the strongest relationships come from networking face to face. Don’t be afraid to go out there and meet people. Join meetups to mingle with like-minded individuals near you and sign up for events related to graphic design. If you can’t find one in your area, take the initiative to create your own.
TIPS ON NETWORKING
Learning to listen is one of the most important skills to building strong relationships. Oftentimes people are too focused on their own thoughts and don’t pay enough attention to what’s being said. As such, it’s important to show that you are listening and respond appropriately. One tip is to ask open-ended questions to facilitate the conversation.
Networking is a two-way street, which means you should give back as much — if not more — than you take. At the same time, you shouldn’t feel the need to put others down — make sure that any feedback you give is well-thought-out and constructive. Finally, if someone responds negatively to you, don’t take it too personally, as there are always others who will appreciate what you have to offer.
It will take time establish your creative network, but keep a positive outlook and approach everyone with good intentions. By connecting with the right people, they will certainly help you grow and achieve success as a freelance graphic designer.