Monday, May 4, 2009
Today, I went back to my college to vist and while I was there I saw my former college advisor/professor. We caught up and as I was talking about trying to build a web presence, she mentioned that out of all the students that graduated I had the most knowledge and aggressive approach towards networking. I'm unsure whether I stood out from the class I graduated with or in general, but I was rather shocked by her statement. Maybe when everyone had their hopes on getting a full time job at the place they interned at or find a place that needed a graphic designer for a certain area, I do not know. What I do know, is that I wanted to build my portfolio, earn money, and build a name for myself. In order for me to reach any of that, I needed to network. It did not matter whether it on the internet or through some function, I needed to meet people and let it be known that I am a graphic designer and a good one.
I mostly on my computer and if you see me away from the computer it's like finding new life on a planet...amazing. I am on the internet and I've belong to search a couple internet forums. It is important to sign up and communicate. It does not have to be a design forum, but it would not be bad. Joining a design forum, you'll be able to communicate with designers discuss a bunch of subjects, can get some constructive criticism, and you'll see where you stand in the pack. It's always good to be able to have some designer friends, because you never know when they'll need help with a project or tell someone else about you, because you specialize in web design than the other designer for example. I do suggest joining online communities to subjects that you are interested in. Add your portfolio site in the signature while you type on whatever topic the forum is discussing. The way I see it, is you'll have at least one person click on your link, plus you'll be in a field of your interest, so maybe you can get a job with that subject. I'm a member of a music forum for upcoming musicians, it does happen to have a graphic forum where I can post my designs, so potential musicians can contact me for artwork. Be warned that you'll have some people who'll want designs for dirt cheap or will e-mail you very unprofessionally, like you were there best friend since grade school. Also, some people may expect that certain designs cost a lot less, because other designers are not treating the graphic design profession with the dignity it deserves by designing for low prices. I took one job, but before I did the client was shocked at a price I gave, because other designers were telling him it would cost him next to nothing. You may need to educate your client, but you now have a new person in your network.
There's social networking sites like facebook, myspace, and twitter to gain exposure and network. Build a facebook fan page and invite your friends to be fans of your design skills. They'll forward people to you and you can gain a new client. I like when someone messages me saying they were referred by so and so and I'll be surprised that I may not be very close with the person, but apparently I did something right if they recommended me. Whether I promoted myself hard or I was nice to them, they told someone about me. It is very important to be Nice Be genuinely nice, because people can pick up when you're acting fake. Besides, when you meet people you prefer to meet a nice person rather than someone with an attitude, it's only human nature. It may seem silly, but you will be surprised how people will have an attitude and can lose a client or a friend. Being nice also helps with your customer service when you have a client secured.
Networking is not all internet related and there are networking meetings where you can introduce yourself to various business people. These networking parties are great, because you get to pass out a bunch of business cards. I know a person who would attend these meetings and even pass other people's business cards besides his own. You'll never know who you will run to and what potential projects they can give you. Your friends and family are good network as well. When I'm with a group of friends and they bring their friends that have their own business or a project in the works, I'll nonchalantly mention that I'm a designer and I could possibly help them. You don't want to force yourself on them, because if you're chilling, you don't want a salesperson in your face twisting your arm to buy what they have to offer. Sometimes you can get into a great discussion, but you'll have to feel how the situation is going. I usually give them at least 2 business cards. I like to think that they'll pass it on to someone else, but there's also the possibility that they may lose one of them. When you make a good connection you don't want to lose it.
It is important to network, because if you don't you're only hurting yourself. The creative field is a competitive one, so not only do you have to be on top of your game, but you have to make sure you're networking game is on point as well. If you're not great at networking, do not worry, you have to practice and practice. I can not stress that you have to network online and offline. Feel free to comment and let's network!