If you’re a hobbyist or a pro photographer it never hurts to network. However, for a lot of folks it’s tough to get motivated enough to actually attend a networking event or sell yourself to a stranger. At some point you’re just going to have to suck it up and do it. BUT when you do just make sure to prepare yourself. Most networking events are the same. Sometimes there’s a bar, which makes things a lot easier. Other times it’s a corporate event or a crowd funded situation where you can find some really great genuine folks to connect with. There are some events which you may have to pay to attend so you may want to scout those events with reviews before you commit.
One of the key things to remember is that anyone you meet is there for the same reason unless they were forced to be there by their employer. In that case don’t waste your time and move on to the next person. You don’t necessarily have to bring your camera to these things but it’s not a bad idea. Most times when you bring your camera to an event most folks think that you’re working for the venue or that someone hired you. That can be detrimental in the way that it looks like you’re shirking your responsibilities to be social. If you do bring your camera one good tip is to take photos of people you meet while they hold their business cards. That way you can place a name to a face for future reference.
Two big tips are to 1: always have business cards and plenty of them. I’m always shocked at the number of people I meet at an event be it a networking one or corporate get together that do not have cards on them. Be prepared. Number 2: Dress up a little. I’m not saying to show up in a tux or a suit (which doesn’t hurt) but try not to look like a shlub. Execs and higher up folks will gravitate to people who look like they are well put together and have something to offer. What do you have to offer? Fantastic photography!
Keep in mind that many people there are promoting themselves or their brand/idea/what have you. You may need to learn how to pitch yourself geared toward whatever niche service you may offer. You also need to know what your strong points are in your work and how you can adapt those strong points to fit someone else’s criteria if asked a question. Basically, know your stuff.
These things can seem daunting but the more you attend the more experience you’ll get and it will be old hat to the point where you will definitely develop your social awareness enough to land your pitches and gain clients at the drop of a hat. Another great idea is to bring a tablet with you so you can readily access your portfolio and let people flip through it. Put your best work in there to show off what you have to offer. Be social, be charming, be calm, and above all be Zen. Don’t get turned off so bad that you leave or get disillusioned. Remember if you’re a freelance photographer – you are on your own and need to rely on your hustle, wits, work, and guile to get you to the next level.