Spread the cheer! Holiday Networking for Creatives

community cultivation Dec 09, 2023

You’re probably already aware that we are big fans of building relationships within the industry, and that we encourage our artists to intentionally cultivate a community on the regular. This includes connecting with contacts we already have and actively expanding that same pool of folks. Those who take our advice and put in the effort see their networks grow considerably and quickly reap the benefits of richer connections. They soon become top of mind for more people in their field and find themselves being considered for more projects. But too often, even from the most seasoned networkers, we hear the age-old gripe: “I have nothing to reach out about.” 

First of all, if you’re running a good business, you should always have a good enough reason to reach out. Networking is about building genuine relationships, not just about finding jobs. You can reach out to your network to congratulate them on a recent win, to catch up, or to share an article you read that reminded you of them, whether it’s an industry-based one from The Hollywood Reporter or a recent New York Times casserole recipe. Even if you don't have anything specific to share with them at the moment, reaching out and making a genuine connection with them shows that you value them personally and are not just going to hit them up when you want something in return. The more you find ways to connect and add value to your network, the more likely it is that you will find opportunities you didn’t know existed. 

But if you still really need an excuse to reach out to your network, just look at your calendar—the holidays are here! And there truly is no better time of year than this one to catch up on all the community cultivating you’ve anxiously postponed. 

For one, people tend to be more receptive to unexpected reach-outs in December. Regardless of what you celebrate, the holidays often serve as a reminder of what’s important in life, such as family, friends, and good health. In a larger sense, this annual reminder can prompt us to take stock, reevaluate our professional priorities, and make changes accordingly to our overall business. Another advantage of December is that people in your network are typically off from work and have more free time. This gives them the opportunity to connect with people they may not have been able to catch up with during their busy work season. 

Great, so the holidays are a great time to connect. But what specifically can you do to bolster your network around this time of year?

For starters, before we even get to strategies, conduct a year in review of some kind. If the idea overwhelms you, one way to make it easier moving forward is to keep an “interaction journal” throughout the year, noting the names of professionals you met at auditions, parties, screenings and openings. Then, at the end of the year, go through the journal and reflect on the connection you made with each, their potential in your creative life, and their value as a mentor, peer or collaborator. This exercise not only reminds you of people you may have otherwise forgotten, but it helps you to identify any patterns or trends in the types of people you’re meeting and the types of relationships you’re building. Use this moment to also look ahead: set goals for the coming year in terms of those you want to meet and how you could fold them into your professional world.

Alright! On to the “how”! One of the easiest ways to connect is to, of course, send a holiday card to all of those who surfaced in your annual review. There is nothing wrong with the mass-mailed holiday card and now is the time to take advantage and kill all those birds with one stone (what a bizarre saying…)! But you can also prioritize your list and get even more personal, with a hand-written card. Be sure to reference any personal details you may have been tracking—name drop their dog or harken back to a memory you shared together! “Omg. Remember when Lizzie literally killed all those 3 birds with 1 stone?” or whatever ;)  

Be generous. Actors should go about tipping the people they work with, including their dressers, readers, accompanists and even coaches by considering a holiday bonus. This bonus can be in the form of money, gift cards, or even tickets to a show or event. Whatever the form, it’s a valuable way of showing appreciation for all the hard work that these individuals do throughout the year.

One of the questions we get most during the holiday season is how much to tip. Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question as it depends on a variety of factors such as how much money you make, how often you work with the person, what type of job they do, etc. That said, here are some guidelines to consider: If you are a high-paid actor, it is expected that you will tip generously. This includes your dresser, agent, publicist, etc. If you are just starting out, you can still show your appreciation by giving a smaller tip or gift. Remember, it is always better to give something rather than nothing at all. A simple heartfelt thank you goes a long way and shows that you appreciate all the hard work that goes into making you look good on camera or in front of an audience.

Throw a holiday party. One of the best ways to network with potential collaborators is to throw a holiday party. This gives you a chance to show off your hosting skills and also get to know other industry professionals in a relaxed and libations-filled setting. Make sure to have plenty of food and drink options available (truly nothing worse than running out of food / drink), as well as some festive decorations to get everyone in the holiday spirit. If you can, try to book a venue that has some space for mingling and getting to know other guests or at your home, should there be room. Start by inviting a group of people you know and then tell them to bring plus ones as it’s also a great opportunity to cultivate newer or fresher connections in a less intimate, more social environment—as opposed to that high-pressure one-on-one coffee date.

Drum up fan loyalty. Sometimes we’re so focused on insider connections that we forget our biggest supporters: your fans. By offering something special, like a free class or workshop, actors and performers can show their appreciation for their fans and cultivate even stronger relationships. Moreover, the holiday season is a great time to promote new work, like an album or a new show. By offering discounts or early access to new work, actors and performers can entice fans and build excitement for upcoming projects. Remember…your owned audience is the biggest power you have in 2023. 

Make a donation. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity for actors and performers to build connections by making donations to causes that matter to them. Showing that you care about the same things they do is a great way to deepen a relationship and build trust. If you can afford it, donating to a charity that supports a cause they care about in their name is a thoughtful way to show you care. You can also see if they are running a crowdfunding campaign for a creative project as that is always a perfect opportunity to add concrete value to someone’s life.

Pick up the phone. New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that people tend to underestimate how much friends like hearing from them. The lead author of the study, Peggy Liu, said, "Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say ‘Hi,’ that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they’re doing, can be appreciated more than people think." Turns out that quick, simple check-ins (a brief call, text, email, or small gift) can be more powerful than you think, so don't hesitate to reach out to your network—just because. We’re starting to consider phone calls as much of an effective, personal reach out as a handwritten note is…

This is a great time of year to connect with other professionals in the industry, as well as potential employers. With so many people in one place, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to make new contacts and expand your professional network. Happy holidays, and happy networking!

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