It’s a topic that inspires fear, confusion, and apathy. Networking can feel like a fool’s game at times. Particularly for those starting out, advice about the dos and don’ts can be hard to find. Whilst there’s no hard fast way to get ahead, there are a few tips I would offer on how to increase your network pool and how to avoid some of the common pitfalls.
The Internet is your most important resource; around 90% of your career will be conducted through your pages but it can be easy to miss the mark. Here’s some considerations worth bearing in mind.
1. Your Website
It can cost a pretty penny over time but having a professional, stylish website will make all the difference. If you have the time, I would suggest using WordPress.org. (different to WordPress.com) It’s relatively cheap and gives you the most control but is still fairly easy to manage. However if you want a little more guidance and have a bit of money, Squarespace is your best bet. They have nice designs and don’t charge an arm and a leg.
2. Be Wary of Social Media
Not enough people consider how to use social media appropriately. By all means have Instagram, a Facebook page, and Flickr/500px, but remember it’s quality over quantity. If you bombard people with post after post, pointless status updates, and re-shares you run the risk of damaging your reputation. You are a professional and your social media should be a reflection of that. Keep the page reserved for updates about shoots you are working on and your material.
3. Rent Your Kit Out
If you’re starting out with few contacts and even less money my advice would be to get on a gear-sharing platform. One such platform is Fat Lama, where you can rent out or borrow high-end equipment. Film and photography gear is a particular winner on the website, so if you are looking to bulk out your pay checks, or need to get your hands on a rig or gimbal, Fat Lama will serve you well.
“50, 000 Creative Professionals”
The other equally important side of Fat Lama is the networking opportunities it affords. The high prevalence of cameras and other filming equipment for hire, means that the marketplace is also a ready-made contacts list. Used by over 50,000 creative professionals in London alone, Fat Lama is a hothouse for networking.
The site was designed for renting specialist equipment and connecting with people who have shared interests. The process of messaging lenders and then having to meet them face-to-face is perfect way to start expanding your professional relationships. They’ll literally be turning up on your doorstep! You might also stand to earn a little extra in the process, too.
Offline: Mixers and Meetups
Going along to events, conferences, and mixers is where you will likely meet the other 10% of contacts. This small demographic is often the most important one so it’s important to nail face-to-face interactions.
1. Do Your Homework
The first thing is to know your brand. What makes you stand out and what is your style? If you work out what areas you think you are suited to: portraits, architecture, fashion, food, lifestyle, etc. you can streamline conversations show yourself in a good light.
Second is: research the event. What industries are going to be there, who do you want to talk to and why? If you make a sort-of hit list you will find these events a lot more useful.
Thirdly, set yourself targets. If you’re not naturally gregarious, you can often lurk at the bar and come away having achieved very little. Tell yourself: ‘I will talk to 5 different people tonight.’
2. Know What You Can Offer
Modesty isn’t going to help you at these events. Don’t charge in and be a loudmouth either, just remember that a client or employer needs to know what you can offer them as well as vice versa. You are building a professional relationship that goes two ways, so what makes you special?
Have your skills and experiences memorized and clearly thought out. Have you worked in a studio before, or do you have experience with editing professionally? Just be aware that the answers to questions could land you a shoot.
3. Be Thorough
It’s unlikely that you will come away from your first mixer with a job so be persistent. The follow up is the most important bit here.
My personal approach is to draft your emails as soon as you get home from an event. That way names, companies and business cards are all still fresh in your mind. Also when sending out emails, tailor them for each person. If you remember anything from your conversation with them, include it in the email. Engaging personally with people will increase your chances of getting a response ten-fold.
Building a Network
Building a strong network takes time and effort. Help others in their careers and be willing to assist other people in their growth. This will help you build stronger connections with the right people for the long term.
Here are some additional articles to help you grow your photography business.