January 28, 2018

Time to Get Networking

We’ve already talked about the importance of networking for artists as well as the do’s and don’t’s to be successful, but how many of you are wondering how to actually get started? It seems like the business world has meet-ups and happy hours every week, but where do artists find the connections they need? Certainly the professional development opportunities I mentioned last week can be a great source for finding like minded people and key players in your industry. But beyond that, what should you be setting aside some precious time for? As a fellow small business owner, I know how important every hour is that you could be spending on your passion projects, so networking should be done efficiently and productively. Let’s talk about how to be in the right place at the right time to meet the people that are good for your goals.

As I’ve said before, sometimes the best thing to do when you’re not sure how to get started is to show up. It’s not quite the "fake it till you make it" approach, but if you decide to just let yourself navigate the situation as it unfolds, you just have to get yourself there. Do I sound like an introvert or what?! Yes, introverts can network too! So step 1 is to show up, but the step before that is to consider which networking outlets and experiences make sense for you.

1. Audience – Who else will be at the event or in this group? Will it be all fellow artists or can you expect some community influencers as well? Who is the event geared towards? I don’t recommend picking only the groups specifically related to what you do because there is so much to be learned from diverse perspectives, but I would be careful not to spend time and energy anywhere that’s not relevant. Artists are small business owners, so anything in the entrepreneurial space will usually be a good resource, but watch out for those geared towards another industry or type of business. Because you’re there to meet people, this is the most important consideration. If you can do a little research beforehand, you can make sure to find the people most beneficial to your goals. This may be the speakers, organizers or other attendees. Definitely take time to think about what you want to get out of networking to know who you should seek out.

2. Organizer – Who is in charge of the group or event? Do you share the same values? What are their goals in bringing people together? These questions will help you spot possible time wasters. Anyone really passionate about your industry will want to make networking opportunities beneficial to attendees, not just themselves. It’s always good to check with other members before joining a group and read up about who’s putting an event together to know if that networking will be a good fit. You can’t always gauge in advance, and you don’t want to avoid putting yourself out there at all, but you’re far less likely to get stuck in an awkward situation if you know more about the organizer.

3. Commitment – While some great connections can be made at one-off, pop up events, there is a lot to be said for finding a longer term community that fits. That might be an organization dedicated to your medium or one specific to solo-preneurs. Before you dive in head first, make sure you know what it will cost you in terms of time and money. No one likes to pay a membership fee that yields no benefits and as small business owners, we don’t have time to meet just to meet for the sake of meeting. The best groups for you will be those with clear commitments and benefits. I always like to know what I will need to put in and what I can expect to get out. Groups with an equal balance are the ones that get my time. In general, paying it forward can be the best way to make connections, but just be sure you aren’t giving without getting, be it connections, advice, guidance or inspiration.

Types of Networking for Artists:

  • General Arts Organizations
    • Creative Arts Society
    • Austin Visual Arts Association
  • Collectives / Guilds / Associations
    • AIGA Austin
    • Artists Screen Printing Co-op
    • ATX Planner Addicts
    • Austin Fiber Artists
    • Austin Bead Society
    • Austin Mosaic Guild
    • Austin Shutterbug Club
    • Greater Austin Clay Artists
    • Texas Clay Arts Association
    • Texas Professional Photographers Association
    • Texas Society of Sculptors
    • Waterloo Watercolor Group
    • Weavers & Spinners Society of Austin
    • Women Printmakers of Austin
  • Entrepreneurial Organizations
    • BossBabesATX
    • Creatives Meet Business
  • Conferences & Professional Development
  • Art Specific Meetup Groups
  • Artist Coaching (One on One or Circles)
  • Virtual Networking (Facebook Groups)

This list only covers a selection of the types of opportunities you can research to find your ideal style of networking. I am working on gathering more, so check back if you don't see what you need or reach out if you want to add to my list. I hope you find some wonderful connections to help advance your business and keep your creative juices flowing. I would love to network with you too!