You’ve heard the lecture and spill – you need to network, you need to be connected, so on, so forth. If you’re in the creative field, meaning a graphic designer, an artist, freelancer or simply a professional who is always chained to a computer, you probably aren’t networking as you should be. Networking in today’s economy is crucial: whether you’re trying to moonlight as a freelancer, grow your business, build your professional network or keep in touch with colleagues and clients, there are some sites out there to help you. Here are 10 sites I think you should be on and how you can use them to your advantage:
1. SlideShare: Let’s say you have a presentation you’re working on or an important document you need to share with a group of people. The old school way of sharing would be to create a PDF and E-mail it out to everyone. Well, it’s time you step up your game when it comes to presentation. SlideShare is a great site that allows you to upload your documents and share them via a slick flash presentation. If you’re familiar with PowerPoint, it’s basically a fancier version of it where you can upload a word, pdf and list of other document types and SlideShare will automatically convert it into a flash presentation that you share via E-mail with a personalized link.
How to Use It: Presentation is everything in today’s work force. Using SlideShare is easy and painless and creates an impressive presentation. Are you a graphic designer trying to show off your portfolio online to potential employers or future clients? Simply create a PDF of samples of your work and it can be presented like this. Even if you’re not a creative type, you can upload other things such as your resume and it’ll convert it into a flash presentation that you can share via a web link, by embedding on your website or sharing on Twitter and Facebook. What would impress a hiring manager more – the typical E-mail resume or this? Thought so. Best part? SlideShare also allows for the viewer to download what they’re looking at.
2. Box.net: Ever heard of a drop box? Box.net basically gives you a free digital drop box to host important files.
How to Use It: Think of those documents that you’re always in need of but sometimes can’t always carry with you. Box.net is your solution. Upload your files (word documents, excel files, pdfs) to your account and not only does it host your file but it enables you and others to download them with ease. Stick your resume, design portfolio or important contact excel document on here and you’ll be able to access it anytime for anywhere.
3. Yelp: This site enables everyday people to review anything. If you freelance, own your own design agency, provide any type of service, build up your credibility by getting your customers, friends and family to rate your business or service.
How to Use It: If you haven’t yet learned the value of a glowing recommendation, get hip to it quick. In the digital age, people are likely to Google you or your business before they even approach you to do anything work for them. A glowing review from a list of people on a site like Yelp associated with your name or your business/service will bring in new business and give you major bonus points in the eyes of prospective clients.
4. LinkedIn: Do you have a professional network in place? Do you have the contact information for people you’ve worked with in the past, or recommendations collected from past clients in one place on display for all to see? If not, get on LinkedIn. In today’s world, having a resume simply isn’t enough. Many employers are interested in seeing your digital presence and want to be able to find out what kind of person you are before they even decide to call you for an interview.
How to Use It: Get on LinkedIn and start connecting with friends and colleagues. You’ll find LinkedIn invaluable if you’re ever searching for a new job, want to keep up with people you’ve worked with in the past or need a recommendation. Not only do you need to get on LinkedIn but you need to optimize your profile: make connections; write recommendations for people and ask for recommendations in return; link your SlideShare and Box.net accounts so that you’re able to display your resume, portfolio and other important information directly on your profile. As future employers review your LinkedIn profile, they’ll be able to get a better picture of what sort of professional you are and will be more inclined to work with you or hire you for that new job you’ve been waiting for.
5. Talent Zoo: If you’re in any creative field whether it be advertising, marketing, design or interactive, you should be familiar with Talent Zoo. This site attracts an impressive list of creative companies, agencies and businesses who are looking to hire creative talent. These are companies that aren’t likely to post on other job sites so you could easily find out about a new opportunity that isn’t highly publicized.
How to Use It: Talent Zoo offers a free e-newsletter that you absolutely need to join and receive. The e-newsletter comes equipped with useful, helpful articles about braving the current economy and job market if you’re a creative type. It also gives you a mini list of some of the jobs offered. Stop relying on Craigslist for the scoop on the latest job offerings and aim higher with Talent Zoo’s impressive selection.
6. Google Analytics: Do you have your own website? If not, you should definitely look into investing in one. Going on the assumption that you do, how are you keeping up with how successful your Web site is? If someone were to ask you about the unique visitors your site attracted during a set time frame, or what parts of your site attracted the most visitors, or they wanted to know how much time people were spending on your site, could you confidently tell them any of this? For most, the answer is no. Google Analytics, in that case, is your best friend. It’s FREE and it helps you track the traffic and how people are coming to, spending time on, and leaving your site.
How to Use It: You don’t need to know a thing about Web design or programming to use Google Analytics. This is something everyone in every field should be aware of. You can easily become the “It” Guy or Girl by becoming savvy on how effective your web presence is. Advertisers especially want to know how many unique visitors come to the site and how much time they’re spending on it and what pages are the most popular. Sign up your site and start tracking its progress. This service will help you fine-tune your site and its advertising efforts.
7. WordPress: What are you good at? What’s your area of expertise? What industry are you trying to break into? Whatever your response is, blogging is the key to success. There are a host of blogs out there but few professionals are savvy enough to turn blogging into another part of the job. Show off to new clients, colleagues and your boss that you’re truly interested in your field by starting a professional blog centered around your profession or the job you wish you had.
How to Use It: Into photography? Take a picture a day and post it to your blog with some thoughts – or highlight photographers you admire. Do you like mentoring people but feel like you don’t have the time to physically do it? Create a blog that teaches people how to do something – offer Adobe Creative Suite tutorials, Web design tips, copywriting guidelines. Blogging is a chance for you to show off your expertise and is a great way to improve your communication skills. Just remember – keep it business like and professional if you’re blogging to gain credibility, clients and business (or a job). WordPress is the most popular blogging platform but there are of course other options for you to choose from as well.
8. Facebook “Fan Page”: Too often people rely on Facebook to just post pictures, goof around and interact with past acquaintances you barely know. Did you know you can actually make Facebook work for you and use it as a professional tool? Create a fan page. If you are a creative and are wary about investing in a full-fledged website, start off with your own “fan page” that promotes your area of interest. Invite your friends and Facebook associations to join the group.
How to Use It: This is your professional sanctuary on Facebook – use this area to promote your creative side, show off your work, connect with other creative types and build a bigger network. Also, personalize your page. You can create a “fan” page that looks like any other profile or you can turn it into a professional, shock and awe presentation by creating a personalized welcome landing page and making tabs that better fit your goals. The key to learn about FBML (facebook markup language) which allows you to customize your page. Check out my page – it wasn’t hard at all to do and cost absolutely no money to make it look like it does.
9. Twitter: It goes without saying – Twitter is the place to be when it comes to networking and chatting online these days. It’s free, it’s easy to use and for creatives it can be an easy way to market yourself to a huge market and audience for absolutely free.
How to Use It: I think all businesses should be on Twitter. It’s just become expected. We’re slowly getting away from the era of E-mail and entering into the era of the Tweet. Some think Twitter is mundane – who wants to hear about Aunt Sally baking cookies or that the weird guy down the hall from you is geeking out over the latest Star Wars role playing game being released? Use Twitter to promote your business, your service, your blog, even to help spread your resume! My advice though is to know your audience. Do you want to stay anonymous and know you’ll post ridiculous things that could get you in trouble? Then create an account just to interact with your friends, family, etc. that doesn’t bare your name. Then, create an account with your name so that people can easily find you, follow you and won’t gasp in shock and horror at what you post. Yes, I’m advocating people have two Twitter accounts – one for fun, one for business. One little mis-tweet could easily hurt your professional credibility. (Shameless plug – follow me @antoinereid).
10. Skype: The digital age is changing how we communicate and even how we work. More people are working from home; some only work part of the day; others are working with people in different states or different countries. In the olden days, people would gather together in a stuffy room and for hours on end would listen to one or two people drone on about the company and this or that issue affecting it. Well, meeting in one place isn’t always possible and hanging on the telephone for two or three hours for a conference call isn’t all that reasonable. The solution? Video conferencing! Skype is free and all you need is a computer with a built-in microphone, webcam and an Internet connection.
How to Use It: Need to meet with a client whose in San Diego but you’re in Miami? Easy – you both will need a Skype account (again, it’s free) and both will need to be online at the same time (that’s a given) and presto, you can chat in real time without having to physically be in the same room. Skype also allows you to transfer files, have a video conference between three people at once, share screens and instant message. For creative types trying to run their own business, this could be an invaluable tool and add credibility to those who feel E-mails are too impersonal or that face time is more valuable than playing phone tag. Also, if you simply want to chat with your mom, family, friends or significant other and are miles away, then hey, do it via video rather than just hearing their voice!
Is there a web service that you use that you feel is invaluable and want others to get hip to? Leave a comment and share your favorite site or service that we all should be using!