How to generate opportunities when you’re an independent artist or freelance professional
The generation of new opportunities requires some face time.
“Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” A straightforward and inspiring message. But, how do you generate opportunities & be a part of the team when you’re an independent artist or freelance professional?
One easily actionable answer is: by building your tribe.
The whole point of networking is to help position yourself for the kinds of opportunities you’re interested in — by learning who has similar interests and in turn have them learn about you.
What some of us neglect is that this means connecting with people both online and in-person. According to an article in U.S. News, “no matter how useful online networks are, [people] who use those tools as stepping stones to meet people in person will access opportunities and resources beyond those available online. In many cases, in-person follow-up makes the difference between two people who have heard of each other…and two [people] who are willing to go out of their way to refer each other for job and business opportunities”.
That is a very powerful statement, especially for those of us looking to make in-roads in highly competitive areas.
An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal echoes this saying, “conference calls, email, texting, video conferences, social networks and other forms of communication are all crucial elements in building and maintaining business relationships. However, none of them captures the impact of meeting with someone face-to-face”.
And then there is this: scientific evidence now indicates that in addition to increasing your productivity, in-person networking can actually also be good for your health.
An article in Fast Company recently cited, “face-to-face interaction causes the release of oxytocin…When people connect physically–through a handshake, a pat on the back or a high five–oxytocin is released, promoting feelings of attachment and trust, facilitating greater collaboration among team members”. The article adds that, “oxytocin plays a number of other important roles, such as boosting mood and improving our ability to learn and remember. [Furthermore] increased social contact has also been shown to dampen cortisol–the chemical that is released when we’re under stress”.
In light of that, I hope to encourage you to reflect on the importance you currently place on pro-active tribe building and specifically, in-person networking, in your quest to generate new opportunities.
Why not take advantage of the many (and often free) resources in your city aimed at moving connections beyond those you make online? Find a meetup group. Use EventBrite to find people not only in your industry but, also with your common interests. Or, organize a get-together yourself. The point is to put yourself out there.
…And, importantly, to do so genuinely. If you have a sales or elevator pitch at the ready that’s great (it can indicate that you are prepared and organized) but, make sure you bring along your authentic self as well. Likability and trust should be the cornerstones of your relationship building efforts.
Author and professional speaker, Ryan Jenkins, cautions, “face-to-face communication deserves the real you. Social media has allowed individuals to create online personal brands that allow others to gain context around who you are as a person. Many people will search you online to then size you up offline. Make sure your online brand or presence communicates who you truly are. If there is a discrepancy, the face-to-face communication could be clouded with doubt and superficiality and all connection [with those people can] be lost”.
Simply put, no-one likes in-authenticity…and most people can smell it a mile away. I want to assure you that the healthiest & most enduring relationships are those built on a genuine connection. And, while it can be slightly uncomfortable to introduce yourself to a roomful of new people, showing up and being present and curious are almost infectiously likeable qualities.
I also encourage you to put aside those new introductions that rub you the wrong way — even if you feel that person is ideally positioned to help you get the job of your dreams. If your personalities don’t mesh, neither will your working relationship. Instead focus on the you that drives your brand, the approachable you, and just those connections that feel organic and natural. That is where the real value of networking exists.
There is a great article in Backstage magazine called “3 Ways to Let Your True Self Show at a Networking Event”. It is written for actors but the principals can be applied universally. For those who suffer from anxiety or have previously shied away from prioritizing face-to-face relationship building, it offers is these reassuring tips: “keeping your mind focused on positive things is a great way to stay relaxed and approachable” and “when you focus on feeling appreciative, thoughts that sound like, ‘Are they noticing me? Do they like me?’ tend to slip away”. “Stay grounded in knowing that you are your own best representation and there is nothing that can make or break you at this event”. It concludes, “the truth is you [already] have everything you need to move your career forward. There’s no one [outside person] who will magically make your career take off”.
I believe this to be entirely true. As an independent artist or professional freelancer you are uniquely qualified to position yourself for the kinds of opportunities you want when you surround yourself with a supportive team as part of your game plan for success. Keeping in mind that both you and your tribe — that is your team of peers & mentors — might benefit from a little more face time.
If this article has been helpful to you, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Please share stories of your tribe building efforts and the opportunities that have been generated though your proactive in-person networking.
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Marissa Mutascio is an actress and co-founder of NYActorsTweetup.com – an NY-based networking group focused on sharing resources and connecting like-minded entertainment professionals with the goal of fostering indie-projects.
Find Marissa on twitter @MarissaMutascio, and on the web at: