Invest in your creative network as something you are actively working on cultivating, and invest in your connections as individuals.
If you're on a team responsible for producing content, chances are you've experienced that moment of panic when you have a deadline looming and no one available to get the job done. That might be because your whole team is already working on other projects, you need a specific aesthetic style, or you've never had to produce something like it before.
That’s why it is important to have a substantial and ever-developing, creative network. On every level, having plenty of creative contacts is a very good thing. Need to bring a freelancer on board? Need someone to consult on a particular concept? Need a bit of inspiration or a casual chat to help point you in the right direction? There’s someone out there for that - and you should have them in your contacts!
Perhaps you are thinking this is easier said than done. If your network is limited to the members of your team and the walls of your studio, how do you get started? And if you already have a pretty good circle of creatives around you, how can you take that to the next level and continue to accumulate relevant contacts?
Before the pandemic, socialization outside of work, as well as people you would meet on set, made building connections easy. Best practice is always to connect with them afterward - LinkedIn, social media...whatever feels right. Keep their business card on file, email address, or preferred method of contact. Now we are operating remotely, but we are more connected than ever with the power of the internet. Where we have lost in-person interactions, we have gained improved channels of communication and networking online.
It is a good idea to keep a bank of your industry contacts and connections. You don’t necessarily need to formally add them to your resource management system if it’s not appropriate, it could be a google doc, a list in a notepad or anything in between. This helps store all of those handy connections you make on set, at an after-work mixer or even in the comment section of a LinkedIn post.
Speaking of LinkedIn, this is one of many collaborative spaces where you can ask for recommendations for the specifics of your project. People are more often than not generous in tagging, sharing and recommending to aid you in finding the right person with the specific skill set for the task. Facebook groups are another great forum for this, as are other social medias and online communities that hone in on the specialties even more (e.g. wildlife photography, sports car production).
Once you start to build a good and growing network of freelancers, models, directors, designers and more, don’t let them sit stagnant for a year, or until you might need to call upon them. A relationship should work both ways - be open to assisting with connecting them to a new gig, giving them some support when you see them showcasing their work online, even dropping by and supporting an industry event happening locally to you. Continue to nurture your connections to keep the relationships active and healthy. It’s all about being an active networker and recognizing people’s creative and professional value in addition to whether they are the type of person you enjoy working with on a personal level.
The quality and caliber of your contacts is undoubtedly more important than quantity. But what is also important is ensuring diversity; both in terms of aesthetic styles represented, and creative approaches. This will lead to more varied and fresh output through a broad range of lenses.
So, invest in your creative network as something you are actively working on cultivating, and invest in your connections as individuals. Your future self with thank you!