As an artist or creative, your network is your most valuable asset. The people you know can help you find opportunities, give you feedback, and introduce you to people who can help take your career to the next level.
And the clients you’ve served in the past are assets you can keep delivering value to. If you’re smart about it and stay connected.
Even the most robust network can go stale if neglected. I’m speaking form experience here! If you’re stuck in a rut, it might be time for network maintenance.
In this article, I’ll share some tips on how to keep your creative network fresh.
The benefits of a fresh creative network.
There are a few key benefits to maintaining a creative network.
First, it can help you stay inspired and motivated in your own work. It’s easy to get inspired when you’re meeting new people and hearing about new projects.
Make it a point to meet with other creatives as often as possible. Find groups to participate in. Join active communities to learn more about your field.
Second, your network can also help you expand your skill set. Beyond the inspiration, you can curate some of those mentors, peers, and students that I discussed in the last article.
And finally, your network leads to opportunities. Opportunities are much easier to find if you’re meeting new people and taking an interest in THEM.
Go into every interaction with someone looking for ways to give. Be interested in them and you’ll open doors. For more on the benefits of a network, see the first article in this series.
What is a CRM? (And what you should look for)
A CRM, or Contact Relationship Manager, is a tool that businesses use to track customers and prospects. A CRM is also a valuable tool for creatives.
There are a few key features to look for in a CRM for creatives:
- The ability to segment your contacts. A good CRM will let you group your contacts to track the people you know and the people you want to know. Tagging features work great.
- The ability to track your interactions. You should track your interactions with each of your contacts to see when you last spoke, what you talked about, and what the next steps are.
- The ability to automate tasks. Some CRMs will let you automate tasks like sending follow-up emails or scheduling reminders. This lets you stay on top of your networking without it taking over your life.
- The ability to integrate with other tools. Integrate your CRM with other tools you use, like your email client or your calendar, so you can keep track of your networking activities.
Or you could go about it the difficult way like I did. I built my CRM from the ground up using Notion. (I don’t recommend this for the lay user.)
You could also use the contacts list on your phone as a CRM.
How to curate your creative network
Curate and prune the dead weight from your network if you want to keep it fresh.
This is when you might have uncomfortable conversations, but it’s important to move on from the people who don’t enrich your life or provide value.
Treat your network like your favorite playlist — you remove the songs you don’t listen to so your favorites get more playtime.
Here are a few tips on how to manage the people in your CRM:
- Identify the people who are no longer adding value. These might be people you don’t have anything in common with or who you’ve never met. Ditch clients who stood you up. People who don’t respect your time shouldn’t get follow-ups.
- Reach out to inactive people. If there are people in your network who you haven’t spoken to in a while, reach out and see if they’re interested in staying connected. If not, then let them go.
- Add new people. As you make connections, add them to your network. A good rule: replace every person you prune from your network with someone who brings more value to your life.
- Stay active. One of the best ways to keep your network fresh is by staying active. Check in with your contacts, attend networking events, and participate in online communities. The more active you are, the more likely your network will remain fresh.
The importance of communication to maintain a fresh network
Communication is key for maintaining a creative network. Here are a few tips to keep the lines of communication open:
Make yourself available. Let your contacts know that you’re available and open to talking. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date and easy to find. And don’t be afraid to reach out first if you haven’t heard from someone in a while.
Be responsive. When someone does reach out, make sure you respond on time. No one likes feeling ignored, so if someone takes the time to reach out, make sure you take the time to respond.
A warning here — being available and responsive doesn’t mean “on-call.” Set aside time to respond to messages and calls and stick to a routine.
Be genuine in your interactions. People can spot insincerity. If you want to maintain strong relationships, make sure you come from a place of genuine interest.
You can’t fake it.
Maintenance is an ongoing process.
Remember, your network is your lifeline. It pays (literally) to curate and maintain it!
To best maintain your network, you want to constantly add new people. But you should remove people from your network if they don’t contribute. And if someone is pulling you down, cut them off immediately.
Make sure you stay active, responsive, and available to your network. But don’t live in reactive mode. Set aside time to do outreach and maintenance.
And finally, be genuine and lead with value.
In the next article, I’ll discuss the easiest ways to provide value for your contacts, or for contacts you want to add to your CRM. Stay tuned!