To be a successful at networking as a graphic designer doesn´t just mean handing out your business card at industry events or having a profile on LinkedIn. To network successfully in the graphic design field means to make connections but also to maintain these connections with people who support you throughout your career by building a network of colleagues, associates, and clients. Plus, a diverse, professional and reliable network means that when you receive a new job from a client, you can rely on your trusted contacts to give you a much-needed helping hand.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way to become better at networking, like anything, is to practice, practice and practice some more. Becoming visible, whether simply online or through face-to-face is the only way to make a connection because if people don’t know you’re out there, how will they find you? The more that you network, the easier and more natural it will become.
However, making a connection with a client or business partner is just the first step to successful networking. The next step is to build on this relationship effectively. Try and establish a deeper relationship with your contacts by asking questions about their business, don’t be shy about telling people about your latest projects either. The more people know about you and the more details you can provide about your background and expertise, the more confidence they will have in your graphic design skills.
The third step is where it all pays off as once you have built up a quality list of contacts, then you can start to expect approaches from clients who believe you’ve got the skills and passion for their job.
Get Personal and Build Relationships
It is important to note that, people don’t only build connections by sharing thoughts over the latest business news. Talk a little about your personal life, as people often bond over the simplest of things such as their home town/country, university, where they spent a year abroad or even sports they play.
But remember making a connection is not enough, as you have to maintain this relationship and with the plethora of social networking sites available, there is no excuse. There is always time to send a quick email or a thank-you note, and of course it only takes two seconds to send an interesting article to someone or like a contact’s link on Facebook.
Give a Little
One element that people often forget is that networking isn’t all about getting you what you want, for people to truly remember you and be thankful, you have to give a little too. Suggest a contact of yours for a job if you know they have the right skills. By helping out when you can, people will be sure to return the favor. Remember “What goes around Comes around.” So the more you give and help others, the more you get back.
It’s Never Too Late
While it’s good to always maintain your relationships, we all know that you can lose touch with people from time to time. Remember it’s never too late to get back in touch and people will often be glad to hear from you and be happy that you have remembered them. However, the cardinal rule of networking is not to treat networking strictly like business. Don’t ask people you don’t know well for something. People will remember you for the wrong reasons if you have a bad approach and often a bad impression will be hard to shake.
So now that we have established the key rules to networking, should we use an online or offline approach?
While face to face networking is still the most effective way of building a relationship, never has it been easier to network online. With just the name of a person you can Google them, look at their LinkedIn profile, see their Facebook and see if they are using Twitter.
At the forefront of all the social networking sites would have to be LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking site. With over 119 million users in over 200 countries, this gives you the option to connect with other professionals worldwide. LinkedIn is not the only choice available out there, other choices of social media networking range from the obvious Facebook and Twitter to Xing. But the advantage of LinkedIn lies in using it to discover the hidden connections between your network and the rest of the world.
To get the most out of LinkedIn make sure you have completed your profile as much as possible, the more information you have, the more likely people are to trust you and to get in contact with you. Also when sending requests for contacts make sure to personalize your request as people will be more likely to accept as you have taken the time to say something specific about your relationship.
While networking online is certainly easier and less time consuming, offline networking certainly makes a bigger impact .Obvious places you can meet other graphic design professionals include events, conferences and workshops. When you register for an event, try and research beforehand who is attending, or who is speaking, then you can see if there is anyone you are interested in talking to.
Remember to take your best business cards with you. Revise them beforehand if you need to. Include all your latest information and social networking sites – a great opportunity to put your LinkedIn URL on there.
The key to successful networking is therefore to maintain a balance between online and offline networking. Make connections and a bigger impact through offline marketing but use what time you have to maintain and build on a relationship through online marketing and when the opportunity arises to further invest in this through some more face-to-face contact.
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