One of the greatest advantages of working in the creative industry is coming into contact with the sheer amount of talent that you can work and collaborate with on projects. The digital age has definitely sealed the deal in helping us approach industry professionals and start-up gurus with a slick email conversation, direct message, tweet, or Instagram message.
Oftentimes we are caught under the impression that if we have an incredible roster of big-name talent helping and supporting our brand, that we will have made it - whatever that means.
Be careful and diligent in the beginning about whom you decide to bring into your brand as you want it to stay consistent and as authentic as possible throughout its lifetime.
First and foremost, are you working as a partnership or a sole proprietor?
This is important to note as your partner may also have ideas of whom to associate with, how responsibilities should be shared between the two of you, and if there will be any external stakeholders that will share some of the profit as well.
Most creative entrepreneurs start as sole proprietors as they are the sole creator or provider of this end product or service of which they are bringing into the world. They are the mastermind and the marketer, the distributor and the manufacturer, the retailer and the main source of interacting with the customer.
Unless there is without a doubt, that you are starting a business pursuit with your best friend, family member, life partner, etc., working as a sole proprietor is a vital option as you know your business best and can mould it from the inside out with 100% accountability.
Great business ideas are often shared efforts and can be developed carefully within a team of committed individuals. If you are seeking for potential partners or looking for ideas to collaborate with others, read more to find out how to network efficiently.
Not all networking events are geared towards meeting other creative individuals. Most creative types steer clear from the generally loud, socializing mixers because of the schmoozing, intermingling over loud music, bright lights, and a competition of voices waiting to be heard.
Instagram and #instameets are great ways to get creative types together - whether there are videographers, models, street photographers, bloggers, etc. chatting over the latest latte art or meeting to capture avant-garde shots of contemporary architecture. Be selective with who you want to meet up with - not everyone with 10K followers are the most valuable representative of your time and/or brand. Research everyone that you are hoping to meet up with, whether in a group or one-on-one.
Sending a direct message and maintaining a genuine social interaction with these individuals doesn't hurt and humanizes the relationship than by simply commenting to meet up on one of their photos, "Let's collaborate!"
Ten Thousand Coffees provides a network of different industry professionals and mentors to choose from to meet up with for coffee, ask for portfolio reviews, or request for additional resources through email and LinkedIn. Many of these individuals volunteer their time to be of aid to registered users, so treat it like a job interview: be professional and polite, do your background research and be prepared to ask questions relevant to your field. These individuals want to see you do well but are often strapped for time within their own full-time schedules, so any conversation time that is offered should be used with utmost efficiency.
Participating or attending in arts events is also a great way to meet other established creative professionals in the city. There are a handful of privately-owned art galleries that are screaming OPEN CALL for submissions from the general public. Project Gallery, Hashtag Gallery, The Northern Contemporary, Rally are a few examples of contemporary art galleries that pride themselves in organizing a rotation of unique exhibitions, providing art receptions free to the public, and writing press and marketing campaigns to drive traffic. Art receptions are a great way to network and meet interested buyers, critics, press, and other artists and designers.
Photo by Hyakki Yagyo of the Northern Contemporary
Pop-up vendor sales are an alternative for makers that sell niche products that are not necessarily deemed as "high art." Traffic is generally much higher for events that have a shorter life span or sponsored by a larger corporate identity. Again, doing your research and seeking out where your target demographic would spend time is essential to finding out if it is worth your while in investing the money to rent out these spaces for pop-up events. Vendors that tend to thrive in such pop-up environments either sell 1-2 innovative and niche products (i.e. coffee drip filters) or offer a large variety of product types with a common theme (i.e. apparel, mugs, laptop cases, stationary stamped with the same brand). This of course differs depending on the target demographic, venue, and time of year and organizer. Some pop-up organizers include the Toronto Urban Collective, the Toronto Art Crawl, the Trinity Bellwoods Flea, and the Midnight MRKT.
Photo of the Toronto Urban Collective, Summer 2015
There is also great exposure and benefit to participate in larger tradeshows and fairs such as the One of a Kind Show or the Green Living Show in venues that are designed to hold large crowds of traffic. Of course, the set-up fee is much higher for these multi-day shows, but the conversion rates can be much higher if you can effectively create a marketable and approachable booth display. Working amongst other like-minded vendors also propels your own sales and definitely creates additional potential for future collaborations.
Find a community that you are genuinely passionate to hang around. Whether that may be the weekly bookclub at your local library, the neighbourhood coffee shop, the weekly run club, or where you meet for savasana at your local yoga studio, find a place where you know a few regular visitors and feel supported in a safe haven where you can share and pitch your ideas.
If you don't have this safe space, try volunteering at a local art gallery, studio, community arts centre, and make an effort to attend meetings and workshops where you can reach out and meet like-minded individuals. Seek out social events such as art exhibition receptions and stay to meet and chat with the featured artists. They are usually much more humble and relaxed when you don't praise them for afar.
Finding a coworking space is another alternative, where you are constantly exposed to other professionals working in similar industries. (Read this post on Places to Work From.)
Throughout my "Minding my Own Business" entrepreneurship training course at the Youth Employment Services in 2015, I dabbled in the idea of working with other stakeholders, but at the end of the road I knew I wanted full control and ownership responsibilities of the brand - so sole proprietorship it was. I have dabbled in a handful of different pop-up shows throughout the city and have met an incredible amount of leather craftsmen, illustrators, videographers, brunch bloggers, soap makers, and more. Not every creative you meet has the free time to collaborate but by attending instameets and other selective networking events geared towards the creative industry, you are able to chat about possible future projects, spend a humanized afternoon together and find some common ground to discuss shared resources.
An important thing to note is that you will organically attract a tribe of like-minded individuals the more consistent you stay with your brand. So just stay on track, keep focusing on that, and the right people will come along...
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What avenues are you currently using for yourself? Can you easily translate the platforms you already use towards your creative business?
Is your business reflective of your own personal brand? Can you keep this theme consistent throughout all the platforms you decide to use?
Creating a separate profile for your business is a helpful option, not to mention free - if the context of your business is different from your own personality and aura.
The most immediate thought when starting a creative business is how much $$$ will be involved?
Fortunately, if you are a young adult living in the GTA and under 29 years of age, there are lots of great resources, FREE of cost and easily accessible as long as you have an open mind to apply.