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Be a better networker

When I went freelance, I realised I didn’t know many people in the industry – and I had worked in Manchester for the last 15 years – so I set up Northern Digitals and BLAB speaker nights. Northern Digitals is a creative meet-up that’s open to all kinds of creatives – digital, graphic designers, photographers, illustrators – and it’s a good way to get to know people in different disciplines. When you come to one of our events, or any networking event, it’s important to find out who’s going beforehand. It’s always useful to get in touch with them to say you’re going, and that it’d be great to have an introduction.

Northern Digitals meet-ups are really informal. I pick a bar in Manchester that I know is going to be quiet on a particular night, so that if someone is turning up on their own, they know everybody in that bar is going to be there for the same reason. Quite regularly we have about 100 people, so it can be quite daunting at first, but there’s no need to be apprehensive because everybody is there for the same reason.

When you meet people, just try to be yourself. As well as handing over your business card, you could also visually explain what you do by showing any folio pieces you might have on your phone or tablet. It’s not always about a specific thing though: it’s more about people getting to know who you are.

There can be a lot of people at networking events, and the majority of them will be trying to meet as many people as they can – after all, they only have two, three or four hours to do it. You should make a point of talking to somebody and finding out what they do, but try to not take up all their time. You can always go back to them later in the evening – or arrange to meet up again after the event – and have a more informal conversation.