We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know,” and that connections can have a bigger impact on success than talent alone. Making profitable connections through networking is a skill that takes practice and an important part of every creative business. But how does an artist practice their networking skills if walking into a room full of strangers brings anxiety?
- Start with the people you know and who know you.
- Nurture these friendships.
- Help friends and let them help you.
- Acquire valuable information.
- Exchange information valuable for employment or business.
Networking doesn’t have to be done at a big boring corporate networking event. It can be done anywhere, including a friend’s art opening, an open mic night, a book signing, a dance class, a theatre performance, or any number of events in your local arts community. Even at your local coffee shop.
Showing up is essential. Showing up consistently is powerful. Showing up consistently with a positive outlook is even more powerful.
The goal of networking is to create a community of people that will promote and recommend you and your work on your behalf without asking. How do you get to this point? You get there by being a consistently supportive and valuable part of their network. It takes a little effort and consistent practice but it can also be a lot of fun.
1. Who do you know?
Make a list of your networks and rank them by support. Think of networking as a series of concentric circles. Like dropping a pebble in a pond the circle starts small and then becomes larger and larger as it gets farther away. The closest circle to the pebble is your safe and supportive network. They know you and are already willing to help you reach your goals because you have an established connection. Maybe it’s a family member, friend, or co-worker. Whoever it is, this person or group of people is a good place to start practicing your networking skills to prepare you to move to the next outer circle.
2. Practice Being Seen.
Become visible in the arts community by attending arts-related events and be seen as a supporter of the arts. Support creative friends by attending their arts-related events and always try bringing a new friend (or two). The most interesting events are those attended by a diverse group of people from different backgrounds.
3. Be Credible.
If you say you are going to be there—be there. Showing up for even just fifteen minutes is worth more than not attending at all. Become the person that people can rely on to show up and show up consistently. They’ll be more willing to show up for you.
4. Do Your Research.
Always know who is hosting an event (to thank them for their hard work). Look at their website and social media. Learn a little bit about the organization so you have something to talk about if you meet the staff or recommend their services to someone you know. After the event, consider following them on social media and sharing or liking their events. As the relationship grows, they’ll be more willing to help promote your event.
There is nothing more vulnerable than creativity. . . It’s not about winning, it’s not about losing, it’s about showing up and being seen.
5. Make an Exchange.
Now that you’ve taken the time to attend events, meet interesting people, and connect with arts organizations, it’s time to share your knowledge. Follow up with the people you met via email and share something you enjoyed about the event. Also, reconnect with your first networking circle and tell them about the new artwork you saw, author you met, performance you experienced, or organization you learned about. You never know — the musician you hear might be the perfect musician for your friend’s next art opening reception.
Networking doesn’t have to be a daunting task but a tool to enlarge your circle of friends and colleagues in the art world by helping them reach their goals.
We have a couple of great events coming up to help you practice your networking skills in a safe and inclusive environment. So bring your business cards, a friend and start growing your networking circle.
I hope to see you there!
Gina Panza Woodruff
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
- Art Spark Texas at Library Live! – 6-8pm at the Carver Branch Library
Saturday, May 18, 2019
- OMOD showcase – 2-3pm (doors open at 1:45)
- “Pet Love” art reception – 3-4:30pm
- “Paws and Claws” pet portrait art pop-up – 3-4:30pm