Reality check: Sometimes good work… just isn’t enough. Building a successful creative career means not only consistently designing quality work – but also making sure the right people are seeing it. That means networking at events and conferences, and doing it in a way that ensures new contacts will remember you.
Here are some tips to help you get to know your creative community and stand out from the crowd:
Follow up within 24 hours.
If you don’t follow up, it’s easy to forget who you met — and miss out on valuable networking opportunities. Your followup doesn’t have to be an email; it can be as simple as connecting on Twitter or Dribbble. Some people will even follow you back (and hopefully remember you the next time you meet).
Tip: The next time you register for a conference, tag the creatives you met/ followed at your last conference, and ask if they’re going too.
Use social media strategically.
Facebook is for interacting with your friends and family. Don’t add networking contacts on Facebook. This can come across as creepy, and they don’t need to see your Saturday night selfies.
Use Twitter/Instagram for work (or have separate accounts for work). Follow designers and agencies. They might follow you back, and they’re more likely to notice and remember you on these platforms.
Tip: I choose not to follow friends and use my Twitter/Instagram accounts specifically for work-related posts. If you’re posting relevant, industry-related content, you’ll retain relevant, industry-related followers. If you’re constantly publishing food/cat photos in addition to your work, you’re likely to be unfollowed and forgotten.
LinkedIn is an important networking tool. Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and make an effort to connect with people there. Once you’re connected, you can do behind-the-scenes searching on content strategists, designers, and developers you know, people they know, and so on. The more you connect, the further reaching out they can do within your network without you having to do anything else other than make the connection.
Branch out at conferences.
At the end of the conference (or the night before), attendees and speakers tend to hit up the bar. Listen for chatter (or follow the conference hashtag) about a trip to the pub and tag along to meet other conference-goers. If you’re already at the bar, look for conference name tags and introduce yourself. This is an easy way to grow your creative network.
Tip: Don’t drink too much at networking events. You want to be remembered for your work, not for being that guy.
Get plugged in.
Go to Meetups! Here are a few around Charlotte to get you started:
- Charlotte Design
- Free Friday Tech Talks
- Charlotte User Experience Group
- Charlotte Front-End Developers
Consider connecting with your local AIGA (the professional association for design) chapter. AIGA Charlotte organizes at least one event a month. Most offer networking opportunities to get to know other Charlotte creatives.
If you’re traveling, find out if nearby AIGA chapters or Meetup groups are hosting an event while you’re in town. Attending local events is a great way to learn from industry-leading speakers without the cost of attending a conference.