When I first started creating wedding invitations, I knew almost no one in the industry, and absolutely no one in my local market. I was completely intimidated and overwhelmed. How could I make my way into what seemed like an exclusive club where everyone seemed to already know each other? Have you ever felt this way?
I am going to share five different ways that you can expand your circle and network within the industry.
As a somewhat introverted person, it was quite challenging for me to put myself out there; to send those initial e-mails and attend those first few events. However, I forced myself to do it and I found that it got easier with every effort that I made. I met at least one or two new people at each event, making it easier to get involved the next time as grew to know more and more people.
It is true that these can be hard because they all involve putting yourself out there and stretching yourself to some extent. That is just what you have to do – especially in the beginning. Trust me, it does get easier and as you meet and work with more people, I think that you will find that your circle will grow exponentially.
No. 1 | Instagram
There are countless ways that you can use this little social media app to create new connections. Yes, it can be a superficial platform, however it can also be a source of meaningful connections. To build relationships with these little squares, my approach was usually to interact with the people with whom I wanted to connect by consistently commenting on their posts over a few weeks and then to reach out to them directly.
If it was a vendor I wanted to work with, I would send an e-mail rather than a direct message as I think that it is more professional, especially as you are starting out and building your network. Usually by then, my name was at least familiar to them from our previous interactions. If it is another calligrapher or stationer with whom I wanted to form a friendship, I think that messaging is just fine.
Instagram can be a wonderful way to connect with others who probably do not live where you do and who you may have not met otherwise. I have gotten to work with vendors across the country and clients around the world because of the time that I put into the relationships that were initially formed here.
No. 2 | Reach out to local vendors - meet in person
As nice as it is to have relationships with people across the country, and even across the world, there is something about a face to face meeting that is always more personal. Research some vendors in your area and don’t be afraid to reach out to them and invite them to lunch or to coffee.
Of course, it is important to be respectful of people’s time and busy seasons and to remember that people’s lives are full. However, more often than not, you will end up making a new industry acquaintance.
When I first moved to Portland, I met up with many different people here to get to know some of the local artisans. Not every meeting ended up establishing a deep friendship or even a lasting relationship, but, even so, that face to face connection is still important.
No. 3 | Get plugged into your local industry community
There are many organizations that exist to bring creatives together in a spirit of community. Especially if you are shy about reaching out to others on your own, attending a meeting like this can be so helpful. The Rising Tide Society has their Tuesdays Together meetings across the country and there is most likely one in your city. They have been so instrumental in fostering relationships.
Many local wedding publications also have meetups and get togethers as well, which can also be a great way to meet new people. These were some of the first industry events that I attended years ago.
No. 4 | Attend a workshop/retreat – longer than just a few hours
There are so many workshops offered these days. In addition to those events targeting a specific profession, there are also many that focus on overall entrepreneurship, business, styling, blogging, or just being a creative.
I can personally attest to the fact that in the short days of a workshop, meaningful and lasting relationships are formed. There is something about the workshop setting that bonds the attendees and speakers. I am still good friends with many people that I have met at conferences, and have countless other friendly acquaintances from these events.
No. 5 | Participate in a styled shoot
I plan do to a post – probably several – on styled shoots, but for now I will focus on the relationship aspect of these shoots. Participating in a styled project with other creatives is a wonderful way to make new contacts. You are exposed to new artists, they get to see your work, and you get to stretch yourself creatively.
Even if you are not able to attend the shoot, you have those connections at your fingertips as the shoot is being planned and when the images are shared. Do not let those contacts pass you by. Make it a point to foster those relationships that you wish to continue by making a more purposeful connection.
It is important to not be discouraged if a few of your attempts do not turn out as planned or if you do not get a response from someone to whom you have reached out. The truth is that not every connection that you make is going to be a deep and lasting relationship – and that is alright. It is important to have a good network of acquaintances as well as to have a core group of closer friends.
Remember to always be courteous and kind – and to be patient. It takes a little time to build relationships, but keep at it and soon you will find yourself with a great network of likeminded creatives.
How have you been successful at building your network?