Networking for shy people

Before I begin with the main topic of today, Networking for shy illustrators, I wanted to first look at what kind of resources there are available as an illustrator.

The internet is a great place to start when you first are doing research on being a freelance illustrator. I’ve spent some time scouring the internet for various pieces of advice. But there is one clear pitfall to using the internet as a resource, there’s a lot of it. At some point you have to take a step back for fear of information overload. There’s also something else I’ve come to realise. There is no clear path to becoming a freelance illustrator. Everyone’s experience of success can differ wildly. Whilst is undeniable that for most part, being a freelance illustrator requires hardwork, how you get there is another thing entirely.

In an effort to organise my mind I created a quick spider diagram to brainstorm ideas for getting advice and potentially finding work. I think it’s worth trying several different routes to begin with, you never know.

Different resources to consider as an illustrator

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Whilst you can network online to an extent, I believe the best way to connect with anyone is in person. As a shy person this concept is daunting. For the majority of the day I’m pretty content to keep myself. I really don’t like putting myself out there and being in big crowds (especially by myself). But, I think it’s important to expand my comfort level. So these past couple weeks I’ve done a few things that made me initially uncomfortable. I hope you can learn a little from my experiences.

The networking event

Whilst visiting my family in Cardiff I attended a Creative Morning talk. I’d lived in Cardiff up until last April and it was something I’d always wanted to attend but never could. But here was an opportunity, so I seized it.

That morning leading up to the event I was nervous. So nervous in fact that I almost walked straight past the venue and home again. It was packed with smart looking creatives, people I never truly felt akin to. As individuals I’m sure they are all lovely, but as a group they intimidated the hell out of me. But I persevered.

I’m not someone who finds it easy to approach strangers, so I tried my best not  to look like anxious wreck I felt on the inside. It was only when I sat down and the talk began did I feel myself calm a little.

By the end, whilst I didn’t manage to strike up a conversation with anyone in there, I did come away with a sense of achievement.

The small gallery talk

After encouragement from my boyfriend, I emailed a few local artists. It was something I’d been putting off for some trivial reason. But when I finally did it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Flash forward to Saturday where I found myself in a small gallery in Frome after accepting an invitation from an artists I’d emailed. About eight or so people were there to listen to a printmaking artist. Indiscernible but relaxing music played in the background as he talked through his linocuts from the 1980s to now. It was great.

Maybe it was the fact I had already been to a similar but more challenging event previously, but I felt so easy in going up and talking to different people. I felt emboldened to put myself out there.

After the talk I was allowed to see artists studio (my email acquaintance) that overlooked the same street as the gallery. There’s something special about seeing someone’s workspace. It’s in these cases where I feel so much more motivated to continue.

If there’s one piece of advice from I can give from these two experiences, it’s this: Don’t be afraid to be friendly and just talk to people. The worst that can happen is you don’t click. Even if you think you’ve failed, just remember that you made the effort to join in and there will always be a next time. Bottom line is, some people are amazing at networking but just take it at your own pace. And instead of thinking of it as a place to network, think of it as a place to make friends. 

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