creative freelancer conference recap: networking

networking lunch at the creative freelancer conference
[l-r: genevieve margherio, joy worthen, kirk roberts, and me! photo by bruce wayne stanley.]

before i ran my own practice, i probably would have laughed at anyone who told me how much networking i’d be doing, and how much i’d enjoy it. i used to think of it as something i had to make time for, or something i regretted not doing when it came time to move from one job to another. sure, it’s something i do for business, but if you do it right you make a lot of friends. and then you have margaritas!

the creative freelancer conference stressed to us that we’re not competitors, but co-workers. even in leaner times like these, there is enough work for everyone. i prefer to see us all as choices, a client could choose me, or one of my colleagues, and they do so for a reason that is not about us competing because we don’t offer the same thing. addressing this upfront brought the level of camaraderie way up, and allowed a lot of us to talk in-depth about our experiences in business, with clients, in times of challenge and success.

once we all got honest and brave and started asking the revealing questions, this theme emerged that i hadn’t noticed before: creatives are highly empathic people. we can take on your stories, information and motivations, consider them carefully, and spin them into communication vehicles that become far more than the sum of their parts. but there’s this fine line between being empathetic with communication efforts, and taking on client concerns to the degree that we compromise the quality of our work with compromised time & budgetary resources. my overall takeaway about creative personality disorder is that we have to put our abilities to wrap our heads around our clients in check when it comes to business negotiations and set realistic limits so we don’t end up over-committed & under-compensated.

on the upside though, creative personality disorder leaves you with a room full of really awesome, funny, quirky, highly social people who aren’t around this many other people like us nearly often enough. i was networking before i got there, rooming with beth goldfarb which has turned out a great new friendship with a fantastically talented colleague. i think we met our first conference buddies in the hallway on the way in. everyone was itching to say hi & see each other’s business cards and connect, it was so exciting to meet everyone, share laughs & design hugs. this lunch, pictured above, was a group of 12 people who had to split into 3 tables. the 3 designers i sat with all have uniquely beautiful work [go see for yourself], but more than that, they’re super nice people [and their clients have a lot to say about how much they love working with them].

which brings me to the session on networking—socially & online, that is:

the astoundingly simple secrets to making social media work for you with colleen wainwright
i’ll admit right off the bat that i’ve seen this talk twice and i didn’t take notes this time around. wainwright is a veritable portal to so many fantastic sources of information, i honestly preferred to watch her talk than write things about it. i’m lucky and i see her often enough that many of these things have become conversation topics rather than bullets in a talk, so i encourage you do to the same. reach out to her, talk to her—hire her to help you figure out your marketing strategy! in the meantime, i’ll do my best to give you the goods:
– social media online is a new way to network with a much bigger pool of people than would be sustainable without the internet.
– online networking is all in how you use it. choose your voice first, then create a consistent presence online.
be useful, be specific, be nice: talk about relevant things directly to your audience in a supportive, helpful way.
– create a manageable list of networking sites you can commit to regularly maintaining.
– don’t be afraid that it’s a time-suck: you determine your level of involvement.
– if you feel overwhelmed, lurk awhile before jumping in. when you feel comfortable, start participating.
– approach participation from a place of support. post helpful info, offer to connect people you think would like to meet.
– speaking of awesome, go read these free reports by chris guillebeau and consider his call to “be awesome.”
– and check out chris brogan and his book, trust agents.

if you need some cold-hard facts about social media and the effect & reach it has, this video sums it up nicely:

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