Networking is Crucial for Illustrators. Here’s Why.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “it’s who you know” in show biz. Well, that applies to the illustration biz as well. Making connections is the best thing you can do for your business and your quality of life. When you make new friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, not only can you bring value to them, but they can do the same for you.

How Can You Network?

Look for local opportunities like I did. I saw on FaceBook that there was a local speed networking event and I immediately jumped on the event. Look in small business storefronts downtown in your area. No matter where you go, small businesses stick together. They might have flyers or postcards with events coming up and local opportunities. Take advantage of them.

What Can They Do for Me?

Let’s rephrase that: What can I do for them?

During a local speed networking event, I spoke to plenty of people. Some were actors, financial representatives, lawyers, you name it, they do it. Some people had nothing in common with what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t have a need for their services or anything for that matter. But that doesn’t mean I cast them aside and show no interest. They are people after all.

For example, there were two women I met who had a modeling agency, and although they were interesting people, our interests didn’t line up. Instead of mentally turning them down, I thought “what’s something that I know that they would find useful”? I asked them if they knew of WISE, the Women’s Business Center for Entrepreneurs, and Small Business owners. They had no idea what it was and how much they would benefit from it. They had no clue that was in the very building the event was hosted! I sent them the information, and they were extremely thankful for the opportunity.

Even if your talents don’t align, someone else’s might.

Give something of value.

Be a connector.

Have a Great Business Card

You’re an illustrator! There’s no reason you shouldn’t have an awesome card that shows your awesome work! Even if it’s something simple on the front with your contact information and the back has an image of your work, stand out. Embrace that.

With standing out, you create a first impression. That’s huge when it comes to business cards.

Write Notes

Most people will have similar looking business cards. If you’re relying on that tiny paper to remember them by, you’re going to need a boost. If you and your partner talked about something memorable, or even if you need to scribble “curly red hair” on their business card, do it. You can choose to write on their business card, or you can bring a mini-notebook.

Follow Up

I cannot stress this enough. All those business cards you’ve collected during an event, use that contact information on their card and send them a follow up email! Don’t wait. The longer you take to follow up, the more forgettable you’ll be. These people have lives. Unless you two hit it off and had a great connection, you and your business card will be filed in the “forget me pile”.

When you follow up, make sure you reiterate who you are, where you met them from, and what you do.

Never be afraid to ask for a referral. They might not need your work, but chances are they’ll know someone who does.

The next time you get a chance to meet new people, business or otherwise, make that connection! You may not get a return on investment as soon as you talk to someone.

They may not need your services or need anything to do with you. But they might know someone who does. They’ll especially think of you when you gave them something of value, like the two women I recommended an organization that they’d benefit from. That word of mouth will get you somewhere when you keep meeting people.

It’s going to be awkward and hard at first, but with every skill on this planet, the more you practice, the better at networking you’ll get.

Do you have any events in your area? Take a look and bring a friend the next time you go!

Thanks for tuning in!

Until next time!

~PK

3 thoughts on “Networking is Crucial for Illustrators. Here’s Why.

  1. Ashanti says:

    Well done Melquea! I think the best thing to keep in mind is to not treat the people your meeting future clients and/or partners. Treat them like people because as artists we are not car salesmen, even though we have a product we want to sell. If we can just start a general conversation and later on develop a connection with someone I think that will be more beneficial and make you more memorable as well.

    Now I have a few questions related to this article and the previous article of should I hire an artist? A little bit of background, I have had two people turn me down for commissions after contacting me. Their are two reasons why. The biggest reason is my actual work, I had to be honest with myself and take a look at the work I was posting on social media (because it is for now, the only way I advertise myself as an artist ). I realized the work I was posting isn’t something I want potential clients to see! It’s more practice work and sketches. It’s going on a month now and I have postponed all posting toward my social media. I’ve taken part of that time I wasted on the computer to re-educate myself through online classes from professional illustrators and draftsmen on drawing fundamentals and really think about what I want to visually communicate through my work. So my questions are:

    In your opinion, is it reasonable for an artist to take a break from networking and doing the business side of art and replace it with time to study/practice in order to improve their skills and produce better work?

    What if you don’t have any previous experience working with clients or businesses and this writer or someone else is your first client? How do you talk to them and if they choose me, how do I start talking about the work and payment?

    How do you look for clients who appreciate the work you do and are willing to agree to the rates you set for your work? I had one potential client out of the two I had mentioned above that wanted a re-design of an existing logo but only wanted to pay a cheap price. After talking to them and presenting them with an agreement (contract) the potential client stopped contacting me and that was the end of that. Is it true you have to go through the bad to get to the good ones?!

    What are some questions I can ask myself that I can tell people of how I can add value to their business? I can’t think of another way to word this, but if you need me to explain please feel free to ask.

    Thanks for your hardwork Pretty Kitty!

    • Hey Ashanti, thanks so much for asking these awesome questions! There’s so many more ideas you’re giving me on what to cover in later videos!

      To answer your questions:

      In terms of taking a break from networking and the business side: Absolutely! There is no problem with having down time on the business side of art, OR the art side of art. It’s all about finding the right balance. For example, in the wintertime, there are less events going on that would cater to artists or creatives in our city than in the summertime. During the winter, that would be the perfect time to work on perfecting your craft and yourself and prep for the next season.

      For what to choose to post on social media, you should figure out if you want more polished pieces, sketches or work-in-progress pieces or both. If you want a portfolio site or a place to post illustrations and best examples in your work, invest in a website, or a portfolio space to cater to your needs. You might need to do some extra research on that.

      When you’re just starting out, my biggest tip is to start small. This can be interpreted in many different ways. Small projects, small clients, or small offers. Starting small and keeping things simple is the best way to go with doing anything new. Once I’m comfortable with working on smaller projects, then I can graduate to larger ones. When I first talk to a client, I ask them what is it they need from me: In the simplest answer could be an illustration, but for example after I asked one of my commissioners, they told me the image I was drawing was for an anniversary present to their partner.

      With that extra bit of information, I was able to decipher they a) intended the picture for someone else, b) this image means a lot to them personally, and c) they need it by a certain date. Once you get details on the intention of the commission, then things will run much smoother than being left in the dark. Clear communication with your client is key.

      Sorry about your potential client! Sometimes people get scared off when they see a contract, and sometimes, that’s a good thing! For finding people that look for what you do, try finding those likeminded people. Since you draw superheroes and comic-style artwork, I suggest the many comic conventions in our city. Since I draw anthro characters, my target is furry conventions in and around New York.

      I think that’s all I can grab out of my brain to help you.
      You always know the right questions to ask, girl! 😉

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