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How to network as an illustrator

Networking as an illustrator can be difficult, so I’ve compiled a list of practical things you can do to build strong connections with potential clients and other like-minded creatives! 

Reach out to people you admire.

These would be the people who are where you’d like to be one day. The aim is not to reach out to as many people as possible, but to reach out to those who are important to the growth of your illustration career.

Remember: Quality over quantity when it comes to building connections.

Ask good questions.

Sit down and decide what information will help you most at the developmental stage you’re in right now.

For example, if you’re in the early stages of starting an illustration career, ask things like “How did you get started?”or “How do you find clients?” If you’re a bit further along, looking to grow your business ask things like, “How to you manage multiple projects simultaneously under the pressure of deadlines?”.

Accept where you are in your career and ask for information that is going to help propel your illustration business forward.

Practice what you would say.

What would you say if someone asked you to describe your illustration work? Chances are, if you’re a freelance illustrator, you won’t be interviewing formally for the jobs you get, but it is vital you know how to talk about your work, process, and underlying passion behind it.

The follow-up is important.

Go to illustration events, but don’t expect to leave with a bunch of job-producing connections. Approach building connections like you would approach building a friendship- it takes time.

We all know some friendships don’t last, but on the other hand, some turn into life-long friendships. It is the same with the connections you will make while networking. And as with any friendship, it takes attenation and regular communication.

Social media is a must.

If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with social media. The part of you that loves it knows it’s a useful tool for building your personal illustrating brand; the part of you that hates it knows that it’s easy to get sucked into a cycle of scrolling and comparing your work to everyone else’s.

BUT this is a necessary evil in order to assure your work is being seen by potential clients and fellow illustrators.

Make sure your online presence is up-to-date.

Often, after you make a connection or send out your portfolio, recruiters and potential clients will check your social media/website to verify your skills and experience. So, make sure you are always updating your work and putting your best foot forward.

It’s easy to assume that nobody is looking at your illustrations, but I bet more people stumble upon your creative work than you think.

Try a co-working space.

Don’t be afraid to get social! Most people enjoy a good chat, especially if their job requires them to work from home and they don’t have traditional co-workers.

The life of an illustrator can get very lonely, so sometimes it helps to surround yourself with like-minded people.

Not only will having other people around be a morale booster, it is a great way to share information, meet new creatives in your area, and get the inside scoop on job opportunities and collaborations.

Join an association of illustrators.

AOI (Association of Illustrators), SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writer and Illustrators), and SIAD (Society of Illustrators, Artists, and Designers) are just a few international groups you could join.

These groups are such a great way to get connected and find meet-up groups in your area. They are also useful for finding helpful resourcesto build your illustration career while you network with other creatives.

Give your support to other illustrators.

Chances are, they will support you too! Recommend your artsy friends for jobs, share contacts, inform other creatives of open competitions.

The journey is always better when you go accompanied by like-minded creatives that will be able to encourage you and vice versa!

Authenticity is huge.

There are a lot of “types” out there, but there is only one you. If something feels completely contrary to who you are as a person, listen to that. There are multiple ways to network and connect with other illustrators and potential clients.

Networking should feel normal, like making a new friend or just having a friendly chat with your neighbour. There is no need to put on a front or pretend to be something you’re not- you will find where you fit.

Always be thankful.

It may seem small or insignificant, but the simple fact that someone is willing to go out of their way to help you is a big deal. Whether is a tip about a job opening or a list of potential clients to contact, every little counts.

As always, I sincerely hope this information has helped you in some way- big or small. Networking can be such a scary word, and the pressure to be likeable, sociable, knowledgeable, and talented on top of all that is a lot to take on.

But I assure you, you will be okay. Sometimes people don’t get back to you and that’s okay! Keep pushing forward, there are soooooo many fish in the sea.

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