Networking is an important part of building a career in almost any industry, and it’s particularly vital for interior designers. Creating and maintaining professional connections helps you build your reputation in the industry, opens the door to potential projects and collaborations, and gives you access to products you wouldn’t find independently. Perhaps most importantly, it is also a great way to exchange ideas, get fresh perspectives, and build friendships with like minded professionals, which has both professional and personal benefits.
Here are six of the best networking opportunities for interior designers:
- Markets and Trade Shows: Attending interior design Markets and trade shows are the great places to make connections with designer colleagues and vendors in high volume and limited time. Making the bi-annual pilgrimage to High Point Markets is a must for new and seasoned designers alike who are looking to boost their rolodex and stay on top of the newest products available to the trade.
- Showhouses: Participating in a showhouse gives an interior designer a very public forum for showing off what they can do. In addition to potentially earning media attention at these events, showhouses are also a great networking opportunity, as you will meet other designers as well as writers, influencers, and potential clients. Pro tip: Try to score invitations to the surrounding events, like opening parties, where you’ll have the easiest time of striking up conversations with multiple high quality connections.
- Interior Design Associations: Joining professional associations is not only a great way to network with fellow interior designers, but also provides extensive educational and other professional resources. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) hosts several in-person events for its members via their national and local chapters, where you will socialize with fellow designers who can become sources of knowledge, potential partners, or simply friends who have similar interests and who can both celebrate your accomplishments and relate to the challenges of your professional life. Sometimes these events include an educational component, such as seminars on topics that are typically business oriented. Even these almost always end with a reception to connect with colleagues, making them a great use of your time.
- Realtor Events: Making connections with top realtors can lead to a steady stream of new clients. It may not be as easy to access Realtor conferences and events, but if you can at least get invitations to the associated parties, you’ll have the chance to meet and connect with Realtors in a meaningful way. Pay attention to how much volume and the types of homes a specific Realtor typically transacts, as quality trumps quantity in this type of professional connection. Also be prepared to make this business relationship mutually beneficial for the realtor, referring clients to them when possible.
- Trade Shows for Contractors and Builders: Likewise, making connections with high quality contractors in your markets is a great way to get new clients. It can also strengthen your skill set, as you will have experts to call upon when construction questions in your project planning arise. Attending trade shows for contractors and builders, again, may be difficult. Access in some cases will be reserved strictly for those in the profession. It is possible to attend some, though, and you can also research who are the most trusted contractors in your area and reach out to form relationships this way. Again, these are connections that should become mutually beneficial to both parties, so be sure you are spending your time connecting with professionals you deem trustworthy and would be happy to refer to your clients and other people in your network.
- Social Media: We saved the most obvious opportunity for last, but the power of social media to connect with both the design community as well as your target market of potential clients can not be understated. While social media interactions are obviously virtual, they are platforms where you can form surprisingly strong connections with people, especially those that would be otherwise out of reach. Follow designers you know, admire, or who catch your eye, and start conversations with them in public comments or private messages. Keep up with their work, see who they know and follow on these platforms, and continue to expand your network through those connections.
While these are six great ways for interior designers to network, the best advice is to turn every social interaction into a networking opportunity. You have to confidently be your biggest advocate. Be social, be engaged in your community, and be visible to people in your markets who may not find you otherwise. And always represent yourself as an ambassador of your brand as an interior designer. If you make the effort to network in the right places and maintain a friendly yet professional demeanor, you’re likely to grow not just your industry connections, but the size of your business.