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Marketing Yourself in Real Life

We all know how important social media marketing is for our visual practice. The reason for this is to meet people, potential clients or people who will refer you, where they can be reached.

But what if, sometimes, social media’s not where you meet your ideal client? I have lost count of the chance encounters, just out and about, that have led to work for me. One was where I was meeting a friend for coffee and happened to overhear two people at the adjacent table talking about how to move forward with a big project on our local creek, which had developed some interesting interpersonal dynamics. I introduced myself and this eventually led to a multi-year contract. Another was at the grocery store (and I wasn’t looking my most professional!). A third was when I attended and sketchnoted a talk about end-of-life decision-making, which blossomed into a major collaboration with Yolo Hospice on the Being Mortal project, culminating in a show of my work and inclusion in a publication on the project.

Here are a few easy actions that can increase your chances of landing really great clients in unexpected places:

  • Always have business cards with you. Always. Even when you’re going to a social event, like the picnic I attended at a friend’s house a couple of weeks ago, got to talking with someone, you know how it goes – “what do you do?”--“I’m a graphic facilitator,” “oh, what’s that?” – and I delivered my elevator speech with a bit of additional information, and he said “Oh, we could really use your help on design charrettes” (he’s an architect). I gave him a card and he invited me to drop by his office.
    This is also why I always have folders ready to go at home, containing additional materials that explain, in greater detail than a business card, what it is we do. (I have a background in book arts and I made a folded single page zine as a new year’s card for my clients this year, but I carry one with me just in case.) I also have printed postcards, specific to two different client types, that I can send along as a follow-up, or include in a folder with other materials, including a short bio and list of past clients. Oh, and hand-drawn thank-you cards, which I always send to every client after a job.

  • Sketchnote every meeting, everywhere. Larger is better. It’s a mobile advertisement for your work. Wear a nametag! Smile if people stop to look; don’t discourage them from asking questions (unless you’re with a client, in which case hand them a business card and ask for theirs so you can follow up later). This is a great opportunity to engage with people who may not know our work.

  • Elevate your speech! Practice your introductory “elevator” speech with your friends, your family, and your network. (Join or start a small business network.) Be prepared to follow up with a longer story about what you do and why it’s valuable. Practice and practice. It’s hard but it needs to become second nature. Show examples of any work you have with you. (This can be a chart on your phone if necessary.)

  • Engage! Be ready to introduce yourself, anywhere, anytime. Develop a curiosity about other people and find out what they do, too – you might make some amazing connections and generate referrals for each other. Remember: everyone out there is a potential client or knows someone who is.

Some of this does involve going out of your comfort zone. Here’s where your network comes in: it should be a source of support and motivation. That multi-year contract I mentioned above? I would never have approached the next table if my friend and small business network partner Melissa hadn’t prodded me!

It takes some planning, practice and preparation, but taking these steps might greatly increase your odds of attracting new clients and business.

Alison Kent, Listen-ink



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