You know a lot of people. So do I. It’s astounding in fact how many people we actually know. Have you looked at how many Facebook friends you have lately? Most likely you have hundreds if not thousands. As a freelance artist, these people you’ve met – your network – are your single greatest resource. We all know it’s important to keep in touch with people, but do you ever feel as though you’d need a secretary to be doing so in any kind of an orderly fashion?
I confess that for myself, “staying in touch” usually happens when I randomly bump into a person who I haven’t seen for a while, and we reconnect either by just stopping for a chat, or making plans to get coffee, etc. Lately I’ve been giving this some thought, trying to come up with a system that would work for people to get organized about making an effort to stay in touch with their contacts. So here’s what I’ve come up with…
You’re going to make a list. There are two sides to this list: currents and prospects. Currents are people that you know now. But don’t put just anybody on this list – they must be people you are genuinely interested in keeping in touch with. This is important. If you don’t have a genuine desire to maintain a relationship with the people you’re putting on this list, most likely your efforts will fail. After all, would you want someone to call you up not because they actually want to talk to you, but just because they thought they should or that it might help them? Of course you wouldn’t. So try and be honest with yourself about the people you’d like on your currents list.
Once you’ve come up with your currents list (which could be very long, especially if you’re a New Yorker), divide it up into timetables. This is because most likely you’ll want to get in touch with some of these people more than others. What timetables you set is entirely up to you. One idea would be a yearly list and a monthly list. Another would be a six-month list and a two-month list. Once you have your lists, it’s just a matter of getting to it. For example, let’s say you have five hundred people on your six-month list. This mean that if every day you get in touch with the three people at the top of the list and then move them to the bottom, in six months you’ll have contacted all of them and you’ll be back to the top. Getting in touch could mean a phone call, an email, a Facebook personal message – it’s entirely up to you.
And remember, your currents list is growing all the time. A good practice is to sit down for a moment when you get home, and consider the people you met today. Did you have a connection with any of them? Are you interested in keeping in touch with any of them? If so, add their name and email to the bottom of your currents list.
The other side of this list is your prospects. These are people who you’ve either never met or have met only briefly, and would like to get to know better. Whereas your current list can and should be as long as you like, I would suggest limiting your prospect list to ten to twenty people. This will focus your efforts. Every week or so, pick the person at the top of your prospect list, and make some effort to get in touch with them. This could mean attending an event or show where you know they’ll be present and introducing yourself. It also could mean sending them an email or adding them as a friend them on Facebook. This list is a great way to make solid steps towards getting in touch with the people you really want to know and work with.
Now I realize all of this might sound daunting – having daily assignments to contact the people you know. But I think you’ll find that once you build it into your daily routine, you won’t think twice about it. Give it six months, and I guarantee you’re going to find more things happening in your artistic life. After all, an active network means an active artistic career.