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.
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.
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!