Season 4 – epiBLOG 3:
“It’s all in who you know” is the clichéd line that everybody throws out there when you have yet to arrive at that magical destination known as “success.” The truth is, that’s only a part of what helps to get you to where you want to go.
However, many artists don’t have a clue of how to network, so they dismiss it as something that they will never be good at. Guess what, if that is your way of thinking, chances are you won’t be experiencing the success that you’re wanting with your career. Of course, you’ll be able to continue creating art; you just won’t be making a living at it.
Today’s topic is on how to network effectively in order to get results as you progress with your career.
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that you are an ambitious artist who has attempted to navigate your way throughout your industry. Maybe you had some success, but it wasn’t long lasting. Maybe you failed miserably. No matter what, I’m hoping that the advice that I provide here will be helpful.
First and foremost, you need to know what you’re all about, what you do, and how what you do can benefit others. What do I mean by this?
WHAT YOU’RE ALL ABOUT
If you desire to be an executive chef, then anyone who is around you within 30 seconds should know this. You breathe food. You exude food. Food is art for you. Does this mean shoving what you’re all about down someone’s throat? No. Of course, not.
However, when you’re passionate about something, that excitement seeps out of you naturally. You don’t have to try. Your art is part of who you are. For some of us artists, our art defines us. That may not be the case for you, but it definitely has to be a great part of who you are, and everybody who spends any time with you should know this.
WHAT YOU DO
Whenever you attend social settings and situations, people tend to ask, “What do you do for a living?” It comes up in the natural course of meet and greet conversations. This is your opportunity to clearly share what you do – even if you do it part time. You should have a one-line pitch that is natural and can easily be integrated into a conversation.
“I’m a graphic designer for small to medium-sized companies.”
“I’m a full time writer who works as both a journalist and a blogger.”
“I’m a character artist for a gaming company.”
It doesn’t take much. Just be clear, focused, and to the point. People should immediately know what you do. And don’t dismiss your artistic endeavors and complain about your day job if your “day job” is your current situation. You may have a day job. Don’t lie about it either. However, you need to discuss your art in a way that is authentic for you, while simultaneously being engaging for others to hear about.
HOW WHAT YOU DO BENEFITS OTHERS
When the conversation continues and the other person asks you more about what you do, here is your opportunity to talk about how WHAT you do can BENEFIT other people. You will be surprised about how your talent, skills, and abilities are in demand. The only way to know if someone may need what you can offer is to share how you can benefit others in their lives.
In my field, film producers are looking for screenplays.
Publishers are looking for books. Restaurant owners are looking for sous chefs or executive chefs. People who need their home remodeled may not only be looking for a contractor, but an interior designer as well. That gaming company may be looking for a 2D background artist. Sharing HOW you can fulfill the need of other people is exactly part of what will help you to transition from being a “starving artist” to being an artist that is making a living doing what you love.
Attend networking events within your industry. Not only will this give you an opportunity to be exposed to the different types of jobs in your industry, which will allow you to be more knowledgeable, but you will be able to meet several different people in a short period of time who all have a reason to be at the same particular event that you are attending. This gives you an “excuse” to talk to people.
This is where your one-line pitch does come in handy. See, many artists don’t like this part of their career because they feel it’s too “business-oriented” or too much like sales. However, it’s the business side that will put money into your pocket, and will allow you to have the time in your schedule to create more of your art.
Before diving into the world of networking, you will want to have business cards, a simple WordPress website, and have a solid online presence using social media platforms that work the most effectively within your industry. I would also recommend “branding” yourself, but I don’t want you to use any of these suggestions as obstacles to you moving forward. I’m just sharing what has worked for me and where I failed in the past.
The reason that I’m bringing up all of these other facets to your artistic career is because they directly connect to your ability to be able to network effectively. After people receive your business card and spend 10 minutes (or 30 minutes if it was a juicy conversation) speaking with you at the networking event, they will later go online to look to see who you really are about. They will look on your website, blog, and social media sites because they want to know if you’re as real as you presented yourself to be during the networking event.
I don’t like encouraging people to wait on the perfect “online presence” before moving forward with networking opportunities. However, networking is strategic. You have to be ready for it. Just like you have to have a portfolio of work in order to be able to show people what you’re capable of doing. How can someone hire you based on enthusiasm alone? It’s possible, but not likely. Likewise, how can a quick conversation at a networking event define the totality of who you are? It can’t. People want to be able to go online to learn more about who you’ve been and who you are right now.
Build relationships and nurture the f#$k out of them. When you first meet somebody, sincerely get to know them by “getting present” with the conversation that you’re having. Truly listen to their needs. Don’t be tempted to think about what you can get out of them. Instead, focus on who they are for you at the moment that you’re in a conversation. Consider ways that you can benefit them, either with your talent and skills, or in any other way. By extending yourself, there is a possibility for you to also reap some rewards. However, maybe you know of the perfect contact for them, and the only reward that you get is that you’ve brought two awesome people together. If that’s the case, then that’s great. You don’t always have to be on the receiving end in a business relationship. Business relationships work the best when everybody is winning.
After you meet someone, and you genuinely like them, follow up in an email and let them know it was nice to meet them. Depending on the conversation, maybe it can lead to another meeting regarding your work or maybe it leads to a friendship only. However, you have to be able to start somewhere.
Keep your eyes open for things that may benefit them. For example, maybe you heard them mention a particular book that they wanted to read during a conversation you’ve had. You find it on sale, buy it, and send it to them. This is nurturing a relationship. Taking a sincere interest in another person. Listening to them. Pouring into their lives. Who do you believe this person is going to want to do business with when they are ready? With you because you took the time to care. You don’t go into the business relationship with what you can get out of it. Instead, you focus on being present with the person and the conversation in front of you.
Today’s LESSON is to strategically prepare yourself for each part of the process of your career as you move forward.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Research networking events in your area, and create a list of at least 5-10 that you would be interested in attending. Don’t attend anything yet. Secondly, be honest with yourself: ask yourself if you have a solid portfolio of your work that you’re proud of. If so, great. If not, continue to create your art consistently. Thirdly, be sure to have business cards, a WordPress website, and a solid online presence on social networking sites. If this takes 3-6 months for you to get up and to keep running, then so be it. Nothing has to be perfect, but it should be in place. You should also be consistent online for a period of time, which is why you may want to strategically build your online presence over the course of a few months CONSISTENTLY. Once you do this, revisit those networking events, place them on your calendar, and go out to meet some awesome people.