Even if it terrifies you.
Even if you think your art should speak for itself.
Yes, even if you’re an introvert!
To be honest, I actually identify as an extrovert. Although I do often desire some down time and process many things best by myself, I still find that what I need is the company of others (especially others I love) in order to recharge. But just because I’m an extrovert myself doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate introverts. In fact, I love them! They make up most of my closest friend circle, and are often the people I get along with the best. You know what they say – opposites attract.
And one thing I’ve heard repeatedly from my introverted creative friends is their fear of networking and schmoozing. Hell, you don’t have to be an introvert to fear that. I hate it too. I think all artists and creatively inclined people can relate to the icky feeling of trying to force connections and convince people to give you money for your work. It’s a hard thing to do and still feel like you’re being true to yourself as an artist.
But the problem is that, as a self-employed entrepreneur, you do have to put yourself out there so you can tell people about what you’re doing, build a community of customers and forge connections with potential clients and partners. You can’t make a name for yourself if no one ever even knows your name.
But that doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone about you. Networking doesn’t have to be a game of numbers. It’s not just about how many people you meet and how many business cards you collect. It’s about the quality of the connections you make, more than the quantity. Marie Forleo recently interviewed the very wise, best-selling author and TED Talk speaker Susan Cain, who said, “Don’t think of it as networking; think of it as seeking out kindred spirits.”
I love this! What you do as an artist and creative entrepreneur is always going to be original and innovative, and not everyone will resonate with it or understand it. But those aren’t the people you want to meet and talk to anyway. You can be a killer networker and make all these connections, but if none of them are people you’d actually want to collaborate with or talk to again, then all that effort was spent for nothing. If you only find one person at a party or networking event that you really connect with and want to keep in touch with, then that was a successful event and you should feel good about that! Give yourself permission to feel satisfied with that big (and genuine) accomplishment, and take the pressure off yourself to have to “work the room.”
In that vein, I recently stumbled upon a fantastic 15min networking solution on Daily Worth, which advocates for this very strategy. They recommend that you choose your networking events very carefully, prioritizing events that will be filled with your “high-profile targets – whatever that means to you. Pick the events you’ll attend strategically and then research the attendees ahead of time to decide a handful that you’ll actually want to meet.
Then go to the event for just the first 15 minutes.
Spend those 15 minutes engaging with each person you identified. Approach them with a provocative or interesting question, and see if anyone sparks as a kindred spirit. Then participate on a few key threads on Facebook or Twitter, and reach out the next day with an email saying something like, “Sorry we didn’t get to talk more last night at the event. I was hoping to have more time to discuss [fill in the subject or question you brought up] with you. Would you have 15 minutes by phone this week to finish that conversation?”
If they respond, you can keep the conversation going and turn that spark into a lasting connection for your business. Once you’ve found those special kindred-spirit connections, however many they are, you’ll feel more motivated to stay in touch and turn them into productive collaboration and progress for your business.
In fact, one of those connections may even prove to be a perfect partner, someone who compliments and completes you in your business. Maybe they’ll be a fellow introvert who understands the way you operate and can work at your speed with you. Or maybe they’ll be an extrovert who can cover the parts of the work that you don’t enjoy, such as the networking or communication with clients, and take those responsibilities off your shoulders.
Whoever they are, just make sure they are a kindred spirit for you and your creative business – that’s all you have to remember to be an awesome networker. So get out there, find those events and those key people you want to connect with, and then put in your 15min to make it happen! It can (and should) be a lot easier than you think.
Then comment below and tell me how it went! What worked and what didn’t? And how have you found success identifying kindred spirits and valuable networking practices? I already know you are one of my kindred spirits, so I want to keep the conversation going here too! So remember to subscribe to my email list, buy my book on building the business with your team, and stay tuned for more tips right here!