What does it take to be successful beyond design? Is there a better way to navigate the world in the current climate? Here at Briefbox (and our sister design agency ORCA), we’ve had to adapt our networking and client relationships to suit the pandemic. So, we’ve put together a few tips on how to make the best of online networking.

It’s essential to understand how important networking is to your work. Research from LinkedIn found that 85% of its users had found work through networking, and you can gain skills and troubleshoot by sharing ideas and creative projects. Collaborations can be born out of networking too. Just recently, Design Week published an article that believes ‘freelance collectives’ are gaining traction on the job market as companies seek an alternative to agencies. These ‘collectives’ are small networks of freelance designers that share the workload of a larger project. Just starting up a conversation with a creative you admire could lead to a bold idea in the making.

Illustrations by Radostina Georgieva

Although this year might seem bleak, don’t give up on your design dream. It’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, Dribbble believes that ‘junior designers are the key to building successful design teams in 2020’. Despite the challenges that face us, this is an exciting time to be a young designer. At Briefbox we want you to make the most of building key relationships that could be your ticket to success.

Social Media

It’s free. It’s global. This may seem obvious, but it will make a tangible difference to your freelance client pool, and you can up your contacts through followers and likes. As well as Facebook and Instagram spend time looking at alternatives. Dayflash is one to look out for - free from the world of algorithms. Also check out Medium, the blogging platform. It’s great to help you get noticed when you start out.

In an article by Creative Bloq, freelancer Joanna Kosinska from Yorkshire, UK said, ‘I will pretty much post my work anywhere where I can gain traction, including The Dots, Behance, Dribbble, and Creativepool. As a graphic designer and a photographer, I have to put my name out there. So, any platform that makes it easier to find my work is my friend, and I’ll gladly invest time to create a profile and share projects.’

Briefbox’s Co-Founder Joel Rosen also shares his thoughts, ‘the first thing that stands out to me when someone applies to my agency is how easy they make it for me to learn about them, their creative talent and if they could fit into my agency creating work that keeps my clients happy.’ In other words, by keeping your social media fresh, you’re already halfway there to nurturing that potential work relationship.

Job Boards and Work Opportunities.

Keep up with  job boards and explore online groups for work opportunities where you can. The Graphic Design group on Facebook, for example, has nearly 300,000 members and gains plenty of traction from people looking for designers from around the globe willing to offer support. Also, industry favourite Dribbble is a ready-made design community of 6 million strong and their Freelance Jobs Board is a great resource for you to delve into and explore for small freelance jobs or one-off projects.

https://dribbble.com/jobs

Briefbox can help with this too. Our ‘Good Finds’ section includes a diverse selection of job boards, so take some time to scroll through the different options available to you.

https://www.briefbox.me/pages/good-finds

You don’t even have to be looking for work to get benefits from these sites. They give you clues about what’s going on in the design world, what the job market is like, and what’s hot and what’s not. Job descriptions and briefs are also a great place to learn more about a company. Remember networking works both ways. It’s not just getting your name out there but learning about what you like and what works for you too.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

Ask for meetings, ask for recommendations, and ask for advice. These things don’t happen on their own. It can be easy to avoid the send button from the comfort of your home but to put it simply - if you don't ask, you don't get! Try to fire out some emails and get the ball rolling. The worst that might happen is you don’t receive a response, but it’s handy to get used to keeping up with new potential contacts.

Illustrations by Ka Lee for Metalab

Optimise your environment.

This is a really simple one to get you started for the day! Your networking will mostly be online at the moment. If you have an online meeting or a virtual coffee catch up – perhaps with a potential client, think about how they’ll see you. Make sure the TV isn’t on in the background and present yourself well. If a client, mentor, or peer can see that you bring professionalism to your workspace, wherever you are, they’ll get a better first impression of you.

Look out for free online events.

It was the Festival of Marketing this month, but tickets to these types of events can set you back. Even though it’s good to be in the know with what’s going on in the design world, check out some free networking events. Also, webinars are a great way to network. Eventbrite has a list of free online talks linked to design and UX. Just go onto their website and search the terms you’re interested in. When you attend one, perhaps ask the host for an email – or another student you’ve clicked with?

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/

Dribbble’s ‘meetups’ also offer a similar thing – they can be a casual coffee catch up or an online event for 200 people. Experiment and figure out what works best for you. It’s all about building relationships where you can.

https://dribbble.com/meetups

Be present.

Have you signed up for a two-hour webinar? Or you’ve organised an online chat with like-minded designers from Briefbox? The point is to stay present. Staring at the screen for a long time whilst others talk can drain your energy levels, and it can be easy to switch off when you’re not meeting in person! But it’s noticeable to others and it’s best to stay engaged. Prepare yourself with a bathroom pit stop and a cuppa before, and distractions will stay at arm’s length.

Get the most out of your meetings.

Are you pitching for a freelance job? Or you’ve got a one on one session with a mentor you admire? A bit of prep can go a long way to maximise your meetup. Get those mental cogs turning and write a list with what you want to discuss, open-ended questions are a good tool to keep the conversation flowing. Make sure you schedule enough time to go through all the points you had in mind, so you don’t have to rush off! You can do this when you’re the big-shot owner of a design agency! ;)

The World is Your Oyster.

The beauty of online networking is location is no barrier. Think of the current situation as a positive. As the majority of our work becomes remote – don’t be afraid to connect with global contacts.

And Finally…. Enjoy it!

Let’s face it. We’re all in the same boat at the moment. We’ve had to adjust to lower levels of human contact than we’re used to - whether in the studio or at the pub! But online networking doesn’t always have to be a serious meet-up or a chore. Stay relaxed, be inspired, and enjoy yourself.

Extra bits n’ bobs

https://dribbble.com/stories/2020/08/12/why-hire-junior-designers

‘Why Hire Junior Designers in 2020’

https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/12-18-october-2020/top-tips-from-designers-on-finding-work-during-uncertain-times/

‘Tips to Find Work During Uncertain Times’

https://www.whatdesigncando.com/stories/creativity-and-the-coronavirus-what-designers-can-do-today/

‘Creativity and the Coronavirus’

https://www.creativebloq.com/career/network-with-designers-712372

‘Networking Successfully’

https://uxdesign.cc/remote-networking-tips-for-designers-who-are-afraid-of-linkedin-42fa939712d2

‘Networking Tips for Designers who are Afraid of LinkedIn’

https://www.wallpaper.com/design/mark-dalton-design-helping-people-through-pandemic-by-design

‘Helping People Through the Pandemic by Design’

https://unito.io/blog/virtual-conference-online-event-tips/

‘Tips on Attending Virtual Conferences’

https://uxdesign.cc/how-to-network-as-a-creative-2d73165112a5

‘How to Network as a Creative’

https://constructive.co/insight/collaborative-design-process-best-practices/

‘How Collaboration Makes us Better Designers’



[1] https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/12-18-october-2020/top-tips-from-designers-on-finding-work-during-uncertain-times/

[2] https://www.creativebloq.com/features/social-media-for-artists