Grow Your Network
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
Having a wide and diverse network is important for many disciplines, including photography. Whether you’re planning on going pro, trying to expand your business, or are just delving deeper into your hobby, a network of fellow photographers, key information, and quality learning tools is a fundamental part of your efforts.
Quality over Quantity
The first error that many folks commit when building their network is simply gathering masses of e-mail addresses, website URL’s, business cards, and forum memberships. While it might be difficult at first to identify those sites and contacts that offer real quality, there are a few key things you can look for to help you narrow down your choices:
- Look for well-established websites with easy-to-access archives.
- Look for articles with content, not just sites that list links to other sites.
- Participate in forums that have been established for a while, whose members write in complete sentences. Avoid angsty forums fraught with LOL-isms, emoticons, and internet/chat slang.
- Narrow your choices to those that support your current skill level and help you grow toward your ultimate goals.
- TOSS the old links and contacts that no longer support your requirements. Just because you followed them at one point doesn’t mean you have to for life.
- Maintain relationships with people who are willing to answer your questions, provide feedback, and offer the level of support that you need.
Does your network lean heavily toward one particular media or format? Try all of the following options in your efforts to grow your network:
- Single photographer websites
- Media/photography groups and/or corporations
- Tutorial/instructional websites with written information as well as videos and/or podcasts
- Brand websites
- Local photography groups and clubs, and the members therein
- Regional photography groups and clubs, and the members therein
- People you have met IN PERSON
- People you WANT to meet IN PERSON
- Photography forums and bulletin boards
- Local photography teachers and professors
- Community college and/or local workshops
Professional and Inspirational
Make sure your network contains a mix of those contacts that help you grow technically, and those that help you grow creatively. Follow folks who have sound business and process advice, as well as those whose photography and techniques resonate with your artistic self. Growth as a photographer is stifled without these two key areas working in tandem.
Do Unto Others
Just as you see others as part of your network, they see you as part of their network. Be sure to treat each person within your network as you yourself would like to be treated. Respond to e-mails, phone calls, and requests for help. Provide constructive feedback and see the positive in every effort, while gently guiding toward improvement. Print up some business cards and have them ready to offer as people approach you, and as you approach them. Do your best to bring value to each network you participate in, which will in turn bring value to the network you are growing.
Do you have any other advice to offer about growing your photography network? Please feel free to share in the comments!
Photo credit: “Shooter” by Jhong Dizon on Flickr Creative Commons.
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