Traditional networking requires a certain type of personality. Awkwardly shaking hands, forcing a smile and sucking up to complete strangers isn’t always a comfortable situation. However, growing your network is one of the most important entrepreneurial practices, especially for designers. Nevertheless, traditional networking is useful when done correctly, but it’s not the only networking practice used to cultivate brand awareness. Technology is on our side, offering resources and tools to use to our advantage.
Networking done wrong is not only unsuccessful, it’s also a huge waste time. When you’re a designer or a shop owner, it’s not worth investing time in a place where it’s not appreciated. It’s a lot more effective to converse with like-minded people in a creative environment. We’re here to reveal networking best-practices so you’re reaching the right audience and learning how to network for business in an effective way.
Do your research
Researching people within your creative network is crucial. It’s important to know who you’re targeting and are aware of their professional goals. Think of it this way, if you’re a musician looking for a drummer, you wouldn’t network at an event for financial advisors, right?
Whether you’re attending creative networking events or making connections through social media, research every relationship you intend to make. If you already know the likes and interests of a potential connection, you’ll already have one foot in the door!
Networking is pointless if you fail to set goals. Determine what you want to achieve while networking as a designer or shop owner. Try asking yourself the following questions.
- How much do you want to grow your network this year?
- How do you plan to utilize your contacts?
- How are you going to prioritize your professional relationships?
Consider the creative connections that could help your business succeed. If you’re reaching out to inspired individuals, they’re naturally going to gravitate towards your creative nature. Start creating lists of potential contacts. Jot down notes about each person so you know the best way to approach them. We know how easy it is to get side-tracked engaging with so many people, so this will help define the connections you have yet to make. Track your progress and make note of successful networking strategies so you can implement them in the future.
Networking on social media
Social media has completely simplified the world of networking. While it’s a no-brainer to have brand presence on major platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s even more important for designers to utilize platforms with a creative niche. Don’t just focus on the most popular social networks. Take time to determine which platforms will be best for your business as a designer or shop owner. The content you post doesn’t have to be all business either. Your audience wants to put a face to the brand. Define the voice of your business and let that shine through on your social profiles.
There’s a whole realm of social networks, specifically for creators. These networks are the best way for creators to exploit their work and receive feedback from the right people. We’ve found the following platforms to be the most helpful.
- Pinterest: The perfect tool for inspiration and sharing ideas.
- Behance: An online portfolio tool for creators can showcase and share their work.
- Instagram: A social platform to share photography and graphics with millions of users.
- Dribble: A tool allowing users to discover designs and illustrations of others.
To maintain relevant on social media, it’s critical to develop a social media vision. Set a posting schedule and deliver meaningful, quality content. Social media will always be a part of networking, so be sure it represents your brand in the best was possible!
How to network for introverts
If you’re an introvert, the thought of networking may be a bit intimidating. Even for extroverts, throwing yourself into a world of socializing with unfamiliar people is overwhelming. Since you’re trying to grow your business, networking isn’t exactly optional. Although, there are ways to make networking a lot more comfortable.
Luckily, social media can take over a lot of the face-to-face networking for us. However, it’s likely you’re going to need to attend some type of networking event. Meeting someone for the first time is a lot less awkward when you have a little background information. Try researching attendees prior to the event so you’re prepared for any conversation. Even virtually connecting with people prior to a networking event will help break the ice. Push your boundaries and stay optimistic, you never know who you’ll meet.
Stay in touch
Networking isn’t useful if you neglect to follow up. Even if you had an amazing conversation with someone, it’s still your job to remain relevant. Don’t just assume people will keep in touch. Take initiative and be the first to reach out.
While following up with a simple “thank you” is sufficient, throwing in an open-ended question is gold. Discuss your professional experience and express how it could be of use. If you’re giving your contact something to respond to, your chances of a reply will be a lot higher.
Waiting too long to follow up is another common networking mistake. Even if you made a great impression on someone, it’s likely they’ll forget about your interaction within a couple days. Reach out to your connections quickly so your conversation is fresh in their mind.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re not making connections right away. It takes time and patience finding the right people to collaborate with. Not everyone will be a perfect match. Plus, if someone can’t take the time to respond to you, then you probably don’t want to work with them anyway.
Focus on the connections you already have and understand why they’re beneficial to work with. Look for those characteristics in potential contacts, it will help you spot similar personalities. Most of all, stay positive. Nobody can grow a business overnight. If you’re working hard and building your network, you’ll be on the stairway to success!
Did you know, you can make money with that creativity of yours? See how you can monetize on your designs by opening a FREE online shop today!