As an artist who has lived in L.A. for over five years, I’ve worked in film, television and stage. While most of the work I’ve received has been thanks to the relationships I make while hustling on my own, a huge part is the powerful team behind me.
Sidenote: I prefer to steer clear from personal articles when I write for our beloved Disfunkshion family– nobody wants a self-talker. Yet, with a topic like networking, I am compelled to intimately share on a subject I am personally passionate about. I’m hoping my intro works as a snapshot to my first point in wisely building your business network, which is, rule one: share your story.
It was a windy day at The Coffee Bean in Los Feliz, a hipster neighborhood tucked away in the L.A. hillsides near Griffith Park. I’ll never forget the obtrusive weather that nearly blew all laptops off the outdoor tables. I looked up and shared a hysterical reaction with a gal sitting across from me—we laughed and began chatting. Moments later, she’d asked me what I do in L.A. and we exchanged stories.
Little did I know, she was starting her own public relations company and was looking to promote talent. I had recently booked work in entertainment, and a few beats later, emails and business cards were passed along. With excitement and the caffeine stirring, I was thrilled to have met a potential contact but more importantly, I was thankful to have met a new friend at my corner cafe. Several years and many press events later, she has become like family to me. The hippie in me calls easy-breezy moments like these serendipitous! It did take a little effort. It all began with simply being open enough to start a conversation. Everything starts with a relationship.
People can feel when you are genuinely interested in connecting with them or just slyly reaching for another “like” or “follow.” My second tip to building a strong business network is understanding that there is enough room in this world for your vision and for someone else’s.
Once we plant that truth within ourselves, we can operate from a place of celebration instead of competition. We can sincerely be interested in someone else’s work. We can partner in working to serve others when we understand our place. Fostering relationships has been the key to unlocking doors of opportunity. What fostering looks like is asking people how they are doing, being involved in their lives, showing up for their big moment, or asking significant questions about the work they do. More often than not, people will respond with the same care you put forth. Be there and mean it. Value the friendship more than the potential for opportunity. You’ll find your time with people to be much more relaxed and enjoyable, too.
There is something about having your dream in your pocket. Have content. Be ready when someone asks. That could look like a new sketch in the back pocket of your high waisted shorts for your next fashionable idea, a business card, or having a one-and-done link you’ve prepared containing the multi-faceted elements of your brand. There aren’t enough lines on this page to articulate how many moments in conversation I am asked to present my brand as an artist.
“Do you have a card or how can I find you online?” is my favorite question now—it scared me in the beginning, especially since I have many elements to my business as a performer and wasn’t sure how to easily pitch my brand to someone, but thank goodness for tools like Google Drive and Evernote. Now, I am a firm believer in the one-and-done link (apparently my new coined phrase) to all realms of your business.
Case in point, I did an interview recently for a press outlet called “Women in Film” and the sweet gal conducting the interview confided, “You are the first person who has ever sent me one link with your entire press kit.” Make it easy for people to understand your business. Spell it out for them. Create a website. Though we don’t tend to spend much time scrolling on actual websites anymore, taking the time to build one and promote it makes a strong first impression. Couple your website with your presence on social media and we are able to have templates for the world to see our ideas so they can, in turn, invest in them.
It took me a while to adjust to the online frenzy, I prefer a private life. Yet, I keep my private life by only posting what is in line with the intentions I have with social media. For example, I intend to use Instagram to personalize, inform and connect my brand with my friends and followers. Having this intention has helped me to simplify my use for and give purpose to why I am online.
Reason is everything. Have a reason you do what you do in your business and be prepared to talk about it with colleagues. In the right time, after a relationship is built, state your intentions with the people you are working for or with. If you’re interning for a company, hang out after work and express your passion for a job in that arena.
I filmed a movie once in Atlanta, GA and my co-star was also a music producer. After some time on set, I expressed my interest in working with him on my music. When the movie shoot wrapped, we had one dinner on a rooftop in LA where we continued our talk around our love for music. By the end of the night, we’d made plans for me to fly to Chicago to record my first EP at his studio. Another castmate on the same film played live music. We connected with him, and before you knew it, we had a band together playing my original music on sunset strip.
It happened naturally but I had intention and so did my friends. I also knew they were just as passionate about creating something we were proud of and together, we made movies and music and it was glorious. It was a picture of how we simply wanted to help each other. Keeping intention in its rightful place is a sure way to propel you forward in your business venture, whether artistic or not.
Beyond intention, I have found that people gather and invest in vision. Write down your mission and share it in conversation with people you meet! By you simply being your authentic self, it will inspire the right people to jump on board, joining you on your journey whether for a moment of connecting you to their contacts or they may even want to invest in a full project of yours.
I have learned people who are interested in others are interesting themselves. You may find people who are the most humble in conversation, have the deepest sense of their own mission and are probably more connected than they let on. If they are asking you all the questions, be sure to stay as equally inquisitive. If you ask all the questions first, you have established a rapport with them almost instantly by making them feel heard. Most importantly, value listening to their mission more than sharing yours. The trust you build with someone in that moment is incomparable to any job it could lead to. Something they say could inspire a new perspective to your personal mission, or the ultimate climax in conversation between two thoughtful people: you create an idea together.
Some of the grandest adventures you will partner in with people are those that start with an idea and you find yourself on a camping trip in the middle of a desert with your new business partners, executing it. I’ll never forget rehearsing my music for a gig hours before were to go on stage at The Whisky A Go Go with the aforementioned actor friends of mine—they had invited a keys player whom I’d never met. The more the merrier! I was in for a surprise with just how merry it would all become.
I was so struck by this pianist’s talent that seamlessly wove together jazz, blues and a little nasty funk. We chatted a bit after the show on our childhood love affairs with jazz standards, and our mission to inspire people in the city of Los Angeles. We got an idea. Months later, we started a jazz band that is now the top booking jazz band in L.A. It has, to this day, been the smoothest, most enjoyable business venture of my life. We connected on our common interests and moved forward with an idea that spawned from it.
One of my mantras I’ll never depart from: It’s not about who you know, it’s about how much you care for who you know. We crave sustainable relationships, especially in a modern world. If we blend together having an open heart to share our story in conversation, if we understand there is room for my dream and yours, if we have content, if we lead with intention, and connect sincerely on missional vision, networking will achieve its best reputation, and you will too.