Blog Networking Etiquette for Creatives

Conventions, trade shows, casting calls, portfolio reviews, workshops, classes… all of these present aspiring and current creative with a chance to get acquainted with other creatives. These are all great opportunities to make friends, meet potential employers, and get career advice! However, as much as we want you to show up and shine like the star we know you are, we still heavily recommend that you stay within some of the established guidelines regarding networking etiquette. Doing so will nurture your friendships, build up your industry, and open up more professional prospects down the line!

General Networking Etiquette

Some networking guidelines apply to all situations, regardless of whether you meet with creative professionals in person or online. At its core, networking is about building community. As creators, we’re at our best when we learn from one another and work together to build out our skill sets.

That said, while a great attitude gets you far when networking, it’s the bedrock, not the entire structure. You’ll also need to keep the following factors in mind while walking the convention floor or logging into the Zoom chat:

  • Be polite. Politeness is the cornerstone of professionalism. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re speaking with is a beginner or a studio president—treat everyone you meet with the same level of courtesy and curiosity. Faster, stronger connections are forged in the fires of mutual respect.
  • Make friends! Sure, networking opportunities center on business, but don’t be shy about going simply to make a few industry friends. It’s not always about what people can do for you in your chosen creative career, or what you can do for other people. (You’re expected to both give and take!) It’s just as much about enjoying the presence of like-minded individuals who become like-minded friends.
  • Listen as much as you talk. This is also just good life advice! While in networking spaces you’re expected to market yourself, you’ll pass up some wonderful learning opportunities if you don’t temper that with listening.
  • Come prepared. Creative professionals and aspiring creative professionals should come into any networking opportunity ready to answer questions about their experience, training, equipment, and goals. You’ll make an impression if you speak with confidence and forethought. If you’re meeting up with people in person, you may want to invest in business cards with your contact information for follow-up conversations. Don’t forget to bring along samples of your work so you can show them off if asked!
  • Don’t ask for jobs. So this may sound counterintuitive, but unless you’re at an event explicitly involving on-the-spot interviews for open positions, it’s generally considered impolite to ask about getting hired. Some job creators may find the gesture too forward or too desperate, and it could impact your chances to work with them later.
  • Show up on time. Unless you have an unexpected, unpreventable reason to not attend an event on time, such as traffic, be punctual. This especially goes for scheduled portfolio reviews and auditions. You have to show fellow professionals that you’re reliable and respect their own schedules. If you have to be late owing to logistical trouble or unexpected emergencies, contact the other people involved as soon as possible.
  • Dress as instructed. Follow the dress code provided, and ask if there isn’t. Some networking opportunities, such as classes and workshops, would prefer attendees to be comfortable and casual. Nobody will blink an eye if an actor or dancer shows up in sweatpants if they have to spend all day moving around on stage. Others ask that creatives show up in business attire. We encourage you to show off your creative, fashionable spirit while also honoring the tone and timbre of the room.
  • Follow up. If anyone gives you their contact information at a networking event, take some time to follow up with them individually. Tailor your message to something more personal, like a specific compliment of their work or a favorite anecdote from your meeting. It’s a great way to build friendships and show potential employers that you’re serious about connecting with them further.
  • These are, of course, just the basics. Variables exist regarding locations, situations, as well as your own comfort levels in networking spaces. Understanding the different ways to navigate the different types of networking situations helps your relationships with fellow professionals, industry friends, and your career.

    Networking Tips for Shy, Introverted, or Anxious People

    Let’s face it—networking can be nerve-wracking! If you are shy, introverted, and/or anxious, these stressors might feel overwhelming. At Closing Credits, we believe you should engage with the creative industry you wish to join on your own terms, within your own boundaries.

    However, if you want to engage in networking opportunities on your own accord, there are strategies available to help you establish comfort in uncomfortable situations.

  • Take breaks. Get a drink of water or a snack, and find a quiet place to decompress, especially in trade show or convention environments. If you’re able, schedule breaks ahead of time so you can take comfort in knowing when some much-needed rest is incoming.
  • Bring a friend. Friends can help calm some of the jitters that come with networking. Try to bring along someone who might offset some of the specific areas that make you nervous. For example, if you’re uncomfortable approaching people, choose a companion with a flair for icebreakers.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Keep conversations going by avoiding asking people “yes or no” questions. This builds rapport faster and, from there, a greater sense of ease and comfort.
  • Pre-network. If you plan to attend an in-person networking event, try talking about it with other attendees on social media ahead of time. Find some people you click with and agree to meet up.
  • You are well within your right to make any adjustments you deem necessary to make a networking situation more comfortable!

    If you are not introverted, shy, or anxious, take the initiative to create spaces where participants can relax and be themselves. Strike up conversations with anyone who might look lonely, as long as they don’t appear to be resting. In a convention setting, organize designated quiet zones where people can go relax when they feel overwhelmed. Meeting others where they are builds community and strengthens creative connections.

    In-Person Networking Etiquette

    Most creative careers will require you to network both face-to-face and in person, and you’ll need to understand the unique etiquette protocols of each if you hope to forge strong relationships. For in-person events such as trade shows and conventions, we highly recommend the following courtesies:

  • Wait your turn. The prospect of meeting fellow creatives is exciting! However, if someone with whom you’re interested in speaking appears to be occupied with another person or project—such as an Artist Alley guest absorbed in a commission—let them have some space. You run the risk of establishing a reputation as impatient, impolite, or forceful.
  • Don’t approach people on breaks. Similarly, if you notice that a fellow professional appears to be taking some time to decompress, let them decompress. They may not notice if you leave them alone, but they’ll definitely notice if you disrupt their break.
  • Don’t invite strangers to be alone with you. You know you’re safe and trustworthy, but many creative industry professionals have admitted that they’re uncomfortable when people who want to network with them try to take them somewhere to chat alone. Keep the discussion in your current location, only making plans if you mutually decide to meet up somewhere else later.
  • Keep drinking to a minimum, if you drink at all. Many live networking events involve alcohol. If you are of the legal drinking age and wish to partake, we highly recommend limiting the amount you drink. Staying sober and staying sharp means you stay safe. You’ll establish yourself as a professional who can enjoy a night out while still keeping your head about you.
  • Everything boils down to you wanting to put your best face forward. Show potential friends and employers alike that you’re someone who can be counted on in both personal and professional settings by honoring boundaries and conducting yourself politely.

    Online Networking Etiquette

    As with networking in person, most online networking follows the same throughlines of politeness and respect. Social media, Discord channels, and Zoom classes are obviously formatted differently than in-person opportunities. We believe you should keep the following in mind whenever networking in digital spaces:

  • Don’t request follow backs. Everyone curates their social media feeds differently. Publicly or privately messaging someone to ask why they haven’t followed you back makes you come off as entitled and invasive—not someone people are keen to work with or employ.
  • Have conversations. No matter your chosen creative pursuit, there’s no doubt a thriving social media or Discord community! Participate in discussions and hashtags to meet others in your field. Offer to skillshare with others who might be able to help you with some of your weaker areas and vice versa. This is one of the best ways to build up the creative sector right now, since you can connect with others from around the world!
  • Don’t send your portfolio unsolicited. Many well-established creators speak with dismay over people adding them as friends, only to spam them with their crowdfund projects or portfolios without so much as a, “Hi!” Save this for when you’re asked to share your work. Editors and casting directors will let you know if they’re accepting new talent or not, whether publicly through their social accounts or websites, or if you send a polite inquiry. Always follow their instructions for submission.
  • Send direct messages when appropriate. Some of your fellow creatives may be private people and not want direct messages from strangers. If you’d like to connect with them beyond conversations on Twitter or Discord, contact them via any information on their websites or ask if it’s OK to send them a private message.
  • Don’t take no response personally. People get busy! A lack of response may not mean the person on the other end is deliberately ignoring you. If it’s important, such as scheduling a skillshare session or offering them a job, you may follow up with them within a few days’ time.
  • Talk each other up. We may have mentioned this a few times, but creatives are a community. Building others up by sharing, liking, and complimenting their work or donating to their crowdfunding campaigns keeps this community strong! If you’ve had the opportunity to work with someone awesome, share your gratitude with others who may want to work with them! As we noted earlier, networking involves give and take. This is one of the simplest ways to give back to your chosen art, especially when you’re just starting out.
  • Networking online allows you the chance to bring people together in the comfort of your own home. It keeps the creative community thriving and constantly evolving into something bigger and better.

    The Closing Credits Community

    At Closing Credits, we pride ourselves in offering aspiring creatives from a variety of industries a chance to connect with one another as well as established professionals. Our classes, workshops, and Discord server are available to all Closing Credits members. You’ll be able to apply your lessons on how to network in real time, and have access to fellow creatives just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them!

    Additional Resources

    We said “come prepared,” and we think the Indeed Editorial Team’s guide to How To Give an Elevator Pitch (With Examples) is a great resource for learning how to summarize your ideas if you’re ever put on the spot to pitch them. Although it centers on photography, Jasmine DeFoore’s Portfolio Review Dos And Don'ts breaks down anything artists from a variety of industries need to know about making the most of their time during a portfolio review.

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