I know, no matter what you do, it can be scary. But putting yourself out there can prove to be a difference maker for whatever you’re seeking.

I live in the design / creative business world. Every day, I’m looking to meet new people, figure out how to get an edge up on a competitor, or learn something new that will help me achieve my goals and keep me sharp.

As a digital designer, I have to put my work, reputation, and work ethic out there. I have to make connections, friends, and potential partners with people I may have known for years, or just met at a coffee shop.

However, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to go about this. Is it random? Is it calculated? Let’s dig into how to most effectively understand the situation, because developing this asset is essential to your professional toolbox.

Understand that in everything you do, people are the common denominator. You can master any process out there when it comes to your new business, but if you don’t seek to understand people and how to best network with them, you’re dead in the water. People are what keep you in business.


Social Media Is Not Optional

Now granted that the design industry relies heavily on social media for making connections, other industries may not. Regardless, the principal remains the same for everyone.

Social media for the small business is no longer optional. If you want to reach the crowd of people who are starting to own the money-making decisions (millennials), you’re going to have to speak their language. Does that make you uncomfortable? That’s ok. Put yourself out there, and simply start talking to someone you admire.

Personally, I don’t know how many jobs I’ve gotten based on a conversation that started over Twitter, Dribbble, or LinkeIn. The idea isn’t to be a loud idiot telling the digital world that you hate Trump and are upset (even though a TON of people forget this). It’s ok every now and then to go off on something, but if people start seeing a pattern in your Tweets, it doesn’t look good. Spread it out, create content that helps others, not just your SEO.

Be present on social media. Reddit is a community that will kick you out (in many circles) if you’re just there to take instead of being a participant in the community. It has to be a two way street, and when you find the type of people who you can bring value to, and they bring value to you, good things can happen.

It’s really all about getting you and your work out there. “The closed mouth doesn’t get fed”, so start being part of the conversation instead of just watching it. Do this right, and people will start looking to you for the answers.


Meet Others In Person

Where social media is great for getting to know the world and talented individuals all across the world, you’ll definitely want to invest you, your ideas, personality, and your business into your surroundings. I’m talking about going local, yo.

Lead the way. Start the conversation.

See a digital agency you like / admire? Invite the CEO, Director of Design, or another respected team member to coffee and genuinely get to know them, and their business. In most instances, people love to talk about themselves, so giving them the opportunity gets your own name known, and you might learn a wealth of knowledge, or better! How are you supposed to do that if you never try? You can only meet so many people at the closing party of Design Week. So go 1:1 when you can.

Start a group and invite a community within the city to it. This is a great way of tapping into your local industry. Obviously this might be catered to a certain topic (design, small business, entrepreneurship), but gathering 10–50 people into a room gives a decent base to start inviting people out for a beer or to lunch. There’s no perfect recipe for this stuff, just don’t be an obnoxious idiot, always be kind, respectful, and understand people are busy.

No matter what you do, be it online, in person, or anything else…treat other’s the way you would want to be treated. Everyone knows what you’re doing when you invite someone to coffee, and the people who accept are at least willing to subject themselves to something potentially awkward. Be genuine, and you’ll probably walk away with a new contact, or potentially a new friend.


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