Recently I have been contemplating the concept of networking as a freelance creative worker in the climate of 2016. This is a subject of major interest to me as a freelance music and audio producer. I'm constantly having to readapt my approach in order to survive and thrive. Building a network of clients and collaborators is crucial to freelance success, and there are many different ways to do this. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, LinkedIn, events, trade shows; there are so many different ways to connect with like-minded people. But for all of these tools that we have there are just as many questions; where to begin, how to make the right kind of connections, how to stand out from the crowd, how to get paid what you should be paid.
I was recently invited back to City University London to take part in a joint alumni/student event on the subject of building your network of contacts in the creative sector. As an alumni of City, I was approached to attend and speak to current students from the university's program of creative industry degree subjects about my experiences so far in networking. It was great to speak to so many talented individuals about their experiences of studying at City and their aspirations for their careers in the creative sector. I was happy to have the opportunity to meet them and offer some advice based on my early experiences in the culture and media sectors.
Although a great experience, the irony of the situation was not lost on me in that I consider my own approach to networking to be quite haphazard at the best of times. Lots of my most successful freelance work has come about through being in the right place at the right time, or being friends with the right people who have approached me to collaborate with them. How could I offer that as a strategy to the students at City University that evening? "Make more friendships and maybe one day they will turn into working relationships". I would have thought that was a bit of a cop out if I had been one of those students looking for guidance.
But however implausible it sounds, it really is the way that things happen a lot of the time. Sure I came out with the usual sound bites of "go to networking events", "get your online presence up", "get yourself some business cards". But the strongest message I could give them was to look around at the other people in the room and, instead of talking more with me, talk to them and build some new connections. They may one day turn into professional relationships, just like some of mine have done. At that point, as some of them took my advice and walked away I realised I had missed a trick, so I chased after them and thrust my business card into their hands. You never know, maybe I'll get to meet them again as collaborators in the future.
So my first alumni event back at my old school proved to be very interesting and got me thinking enough to write this post. Creative industries and freelance working are mysterious, challenging and rewarding beasts, and they are held up by the talented people you find within them. I was honored to have the chance to meet some of the future crop. Building a professional network is an essential skill that can be a hard thing to get right. If you want to share a thought with me on the subject feel free to drop me a line using the Contact page, or connect with me on Twitter.