1. I'll be living out of Florida (!!!!) and more than four hours away from my family, semi-permanently, for the first time ever.
2. I'll be living by myself. No roomies. Juuuust me.
3. I'm unfamiliar with the area. I don't really know where anything is yet!
4. I know approximately 3 people in Arizona.
5. And as such, all of my friends/connections are currently here, in Florida.
So yeah. HUGE.
Even though I'll be a teaching assistant and taking classes and practicing a lot and in an overall really demanding degree program, I absolutely want to continue building my small freelance photography business. It's nothing big by any means, but the little bit of extra income allows me to go out for food with friends or buy some new clothes here or there. But when I move, like I said above, I'll be leaving all of my connections behind in Florida.
This provides some extra challenges, aside from the obvious challenges of moving out of state like, you know, making friends? (No big deal?) I need to network. I need to get my name out there so people will think to contact me about professional head shots/portraits or private clarinet lessons (because, yes, I'll be doing that too!) So the impending question is: HOW?!
Although a lot of networking comes from "feeling out" your circumstances or environment, there are definitely some things that will work no matter where you are. Here's what I'm planning on doing and what I think is a good course of action, at least to start with:
(I made a conscious decision to keep my blog separate, at least for the time being, because I like that my blog design incorporates my handwriting! It feels a little bit more personal, which is appropriate I think, for a personal blog.)
- Create a website! Seems like a no-brainer, but if you have a clean-cut space where people can learn a little bit about you or see/hear some of your work, they'll have a better idea about whether they want to work with you or not. A lot of hosts make you pay for your domain name, which could be worth it (up to you), but I created my website on Weebly for free! And then I customized it to fit my needs and create continuity within my "brand". (You may have noticed I recently updated it with the new logo I designed for myself!)
- Create a Facebook page. Facebook isn't for everyone, but it is undeniably a fantastic networking tool. Nearly everyone I know is on Facebook, so creating a Facebook page where I could post updates, things that I'm working on, and generally reach a large group of people in one fell swoop was a no-brainer for me. In addition, a lot of people just feel more comfortable sending a Facebook message than an email, call, or text (not sure why that is, but I've definitely had more people contact me over Facebook message than ANY other form of social media). Even if you don't have a personal Facebook page, creating one for your small business or professional "alter-ego" (like if you're a freelancing musician!) is a good idea.
- Put an ad on Craigslist. I'm sure some people have issues with Craigslist, and yes, I'm sure there are a lot of creeps on Craigslist. But it's such a great way to get your name out to local people you wouldn't otherwise interact with. Make a simple ad that is succinct and to the point, but make sure your personality and dedication to your field shine through. And don't forget to include the link to your website and a working email account!!
- Order some business cards. This is hugely important, I think. I waited far too long to do this, but I'm kind of glad I did because it gave me the push I needed to create my new logo. I toyed with the idea of creating business cards for the past few months, but couldn't figure out how I would fit ALL of the freelance things I do on one card. Fortunately for me, a few weeks ago I got an email from Tiny Prints introducing me to their newest designs. I was so excited!! They make it ridiculously easy to create something unique. I designed my own logo and used the custom business cards option on their site. You tell them all of the information you want on the cards and they whip up several designs for you to choose from. Or you can use one of their tons of easily customizable templates. AND you can send them edits/feedback (I was one of those annoying people who kept asking them to tweak little things on the cards). THEN they send you a FREE physical proof in the mail, so you can make sure that's really want you want. At the end of it all, I ended up with these great sleek, professional looking cards that had EVERYTHING I could have dreamed of on them. Also, they use really nice thick card stock which just feels fancier ;)
Everyone approaches business differently, and frankly it's mind-boggling to even be writing about this because I'm still a student...but this is where you make the most of your connections, in school! Especially in close-knit communities like music, you may be interacting with some of these people off and on for years to come and it's important to make good and lasting impressions. You can bet as soon as I'm settled in Tempe, I'll be putting up a Craigslist ad.
If you have any questions or responses, shoot me a message. Hope this was helpful to some of you who may not know where to begin with freelancing or a small business.