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Networking in any field is an important aspect of building and growing your career path. The creative industry of design and art can be quite cutthroat and competitive, which means that having a fantastic portfolio may not be enough to get professional designers to notice you. Don’t worry though, knowing how to network and learning how to include it into your everyday life, is what will set you apart from the designers who don’t take time to network.

The current question on your mind might be, “is it really that important to network?” Well let’s put it this way, if you’re a designer chances are you have put together a portfolio or built a website showcasing your abilities. Unfortunately, there’s an important factor that you may have overlooked, that could set you apart from the rest, and that’s meeting the right people. Now not only do you have a portfolio to show off, but professionals can now put a name to your face, which means you’ve just become a little bit more memorable than the designer who never made the effort to network.

Setting up Your Own Website Is an Effective Way for Network Marketing

If you haven’t already got your own website showcasing your work, perhaps also consider starting your own blog tailored to your industry. This is a great way to share information with others, and to get conversation flowing between you and professionals in your field. It’ll keep you up to date with the latest job market too. In order to find opportunities, you need to know they exist, so get active on the online world and use it to your advantage to grow.

LinkedIn is also another great online medium to connect with fellow designers. It gives you an opportunity to connect with people, create a portfolio that outlines who you are and what you do, and most importantly you can include testimonials from previous employers highlighting your abilities. Many professionals use LinkedIn to search for designers who could be potentially matched with what they’re looking for.

In today’s day and age, it’s very important that you’re up to date with these online mediums like Twitter and LinkedIn because chances are employers will do a quick search on you to see if you have connected with the online realm. This could in turn lead to more job opportunities.

Be Confident yet Polite When Networking

The art of networking can be quite an intimidating experience for some individuals, and that’s understandable when starting out. Knowing how to speak with people and demonstrating your ability to be professional and charismatic at the same time, can be challenging, especially when your nerves kick in. However, the most important thing to remember is that we’re all human, and as along as you can adopt a positive attitude and you’re polite, there’s really no reason to be nervous. Of course, if you plan to shove your business card in somebody’s face or forget to shake their hand, and begin the conversation with “could you please look at my portfolio” chances are you won’t get very far, and nor will you learn the art of networking.

It’s a good idea to extend your creative network by meeting similar-minded people. If you’re a part of a similar group you’ll begin learning about industry news, updates on particular professionals, potential work opportunities and heaps more to “get you in the know “about your field of work. It’s best to keep an open-mind and not be a job-snob because the more you know, the more options there are for you to explore. It’s best to take as many opportunities as you can, and to feed your mind with as much knowledge so that you can build your career path and become an expert in your line of work.

Join Various Websites Such as DesignerNews to Network with Other Designers

DesignerNews is also another website that’ll keep you current with the latest news, websites, and trends. It gives you the option to comment and be interactive online, which can be seen by many in your line of work. These websites are great avenues into getting your name out there. You can even initiate meet-ups and encourage like-minded designers to get networking. This is a great way to begin interaction, and a great way to practice your social and professional skills.

One of the most important things about being in the creative field is knowing how to not be too sensitive. You’ll find yourself in many positions where you’ll discuss opportunities, and expect a call from that individual the next working day. Chances are, they’ll either forget, become time-poor, or assume you will do all the legwork. Most of the time, you’ll initiate contact first either via voicemail or email and find that you never get a callback or a response. Don’t let it unsettle you, it happens to the best of us. It’s important to understand that it’s a big world out there, and it takes patience, positivity and being proactive to see results.

It’s also important to note, that chasing people up is something that you should do, and confidently. Don’t be afraid to remind individuals that you exist and that a conversation did take place between the two of you. Sending a friendly follow-up email never hurt anybody, and it shows that you’re keen, interested and dedicated to building your networking relationships. If they still don’t respond, don’t take it to heart. If they are struggling to find a second of their time to reply then chances are that developing a relationship would be a constant battle, and you don’t need to be waste your time with people who don’t have time for you.

Networking with Professionals in a Different Niche Could Be Beneficial

Remember, that networking with professionals is not just about how you can find work. Showing genuine interest in somebody, and asking open-ended questions to find out more about them will also allow you to learn more. If you soon learn that the person you’re talking with won’t be of any use to you, don’t rush them off.

Sometimes networking with professionals who are in a slightly different field to you may be beneficial. He or she will learn about your qualifications and experiences, and that may be an eye-opener for them to realize that a particular area of their business is lacking. For example, if you meet somebody who hasn’t yet jumped onto the social networking scene, and you’re expertise is designing Facebook ads, then you may have an opportunity lined up. Notice the differences, and discuss areas of business that aren’t covered in companies that interest you. You never know what you may find.

If you’re time-poor, don’t stress! When there’s no room for networking in public, there’s always social networking! The good thing about that is you can do it any time during the day or night, no matter if you’re on the train, the toilet, or lying in bed. And let me tell you, Twitter works wonders! If you’re not too Twitter-savvy, do some research on how it can benefit you and your line of work because word of mouth spreads like wild fire, and Twitter is great for this.

The more active you are online, the more noticeable you will become. Follow other designers, designing companies, and other groups dedicated to your field and start conversing with other professionals. Remember though that Twitter is a social interactive medium, which means that while posting tweets about work is great, you also need to break it up and show your fun side. Showcase your experiences and your personality because when you can illustrate that you are an all-rounder with the gift of the gab, you’ll turn more heads.

Always Bring Your Business Cards!

Do you have your business cards sorted? Remember to keep them handy because networking is something you’ll find yourself doing 100% of the time, not just at events. You never know who you may bump into at any time of the day, so it’s best to keep a few in your pocket.

Being in the design industry you want to make sure that your business cards are designed properly and correctly. Spelling mistakes, and a bad layout could be enough to steer professionals away. Get friends to read over your business card information and to ensure it’s error-free, and clear and easy to read. Cluttered information on business cards will only be added to the slush pile.

At times you may find yourself forgetting somebody’s name, but understand that remembering names and faces is a skill that you’ll learn to develop overtime. The best way to approach this is to scribble down on the back of that person’s business card their distinctive features. For example, “tall Italian guy with no hair”. This could be a great memory-trigger the next day or in a week’s time when you need to refer back to your collection of business cards.

Keep it cool though, don’t become overwhelmed with too many different professionals. The key to good networking is developing a handful of relationships and getting to know those individuals properly instead of trying to cram as many contacts into your mobile phone as possible. Focusing on a few people is more fruitful to your career than having hundreds of contacts with no real substance behind the relationship.

Networking within the design industry is really not all that different from other industries. All you need to do is be yourself, be proactive, and show a genuine interest in others. In time, you’ll find that professionals will begin to remember your name. The key is to keep trying and to never lose faith. Nobody develops a strong network overnight, it can take years of experience and time to get noticed within the industry, so give it a shot; it can only benefit you.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos. Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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