by Tanya Gadsby, Graphic Facilitator at The Fuselight Creative
Think of your business as a vegetable garden. You wouldn’t rely on the weather alone to sustain it: you have to water the soil, develop nutrient-rich compost, and fight the aphids off your tomatoes!
In the eight years I’ve been a graphic facilitator, I’ve never experienced a drought… because on-going cultivation has always lead to interesting projects and opportunities. Whether you’re an established graphic recorder / facilitator, or just starting out, it’s important to take charge of your business and cultivate what you want to get out of it. Don’t rely on the weather, and don’t wait for a “dry spell” to start this work! It should be an on-going practice.
What Do You Want to Grow?
Regardless of whether business is booming or quiet, we should always ask ourselves “what projects or clients do I want to work with?”
Start by creating a profile of your ideal client or industry – list the social media they use, the books they read, the challenges they face. Everything you spend time “cultivating” in your business should have your ideal client or project in mind.
My ideal client has changed a lot over the years, but “Janet” was the original I mocked up long ago!
Don’t Only Grow Potatoes
- Teaching: Offer a workshop on graphic recording (in person or via webinar). Your students also might become future clients, or connect you with opportunities.
- Videos & Infographics: Produce short videos, animations, or infographics about graphic recording techniques, or about interesting topics in the industry you want to target. For example, maybe you want to work with insurance companies – translate basic insurance concepts into short infographics or animations and share them on social media, along with hashtags the insurance industry uses and follows.
- Blogs and Podcasts: Write blog posts about graphic recording (with your target client in mind), or write a guest post for an established blog. Podcasting is another avenue where you can cover a range of topics about graphic recording, and interview others in the field.
- Coaching and Meet-Ups: Find your local graphic recording community and host a meet up to share tips/techniques and network. Your local colleagues may later reach out for collaboration on a future project. If there isn’t a local community, host a webinar meet up online, or connect with graphic recorders on social media or the IFVP. Networking with fellow graphic recorders is essential if you want to work as a "freelancer" for more established graphic recording companies, which may be a great option if you're not wanting to build your own company.
- E-Book / Self-Publishing: Compile a resource guide, ideas for graphic recording, or different techniques. This can help establish trust in your expertise with potential clients – even better if this resource guide is tailored to the industry/clients you want to work with.
- Sketchnotes / Digital Graphic Recording: Find an “ideal client” on Twitter, and tweet a sketchnote you’ve created of one of their recent blog posts (a colleague of mine did this with a large tech firm, and they retweeted her sketchnote and hired her to graphic record a conference!).
- Create a Niche / Solve a Problem: What are new ways of using graphic recording that others haven’t explored? Consider becoming an expert on a niche way of working. Reach out to potential clients if you see a problem you can help them solve – whether it’s graphic recording one of their upcoming webinars, or designing an infographic to liven up their social media.
- If You Plant it, They Will Come: Similar to the above point, think about an area of work you’d love to get into, and build your portfolio around it. Maybe you want to translate scientific research into succinct illustrations – find a research paper publicly available online and create a sketchnote from it. Blog about your process, share your sketchnote with the authors, and promote it on social media.
You can diversify your services as broadly or as narrowly as you want – it can be as simple as adding digital graphic recording to your repretoire… or branching out and trying animation! Broadening your scope and reaching new clients will open up opportunities for more graphic recording (or facilitation, or teaching… or whatever your focus is!). For example, many of my animation clients also contact me for graphic recording.
What If My Crop Fails?
There is always fear when trying something new: “I don’t know enough about graphic recording to teach it” or “other people have more experience than me.”
I have no formal training in graphic design, animation, or illustration (I’m a theatre grad!). Years ago, I created a rudimentary little video:
Requests started coming in for whiteboard animations, and I said “yes” to projects when I wasn’t 100% certain how to animate them. I was always upfront with my clients about this so they knew what to expect … and I always ensured they were happy with the final product! But everything I learned about animation was self-taught through Google and Lynda.com.
So don’t be afraid to jump into something new, as long as you’re transparent about it with your client, willing to do your research, and open to client feedback!
Sharing Your Harvest
There are networking opportunities everywhere – local entrepreneur meet ups, free workshops in your community, webinars and forums, public events. One of the best ways to meet new clients or collaborators is to go where they are and share content they’ll value – the harvest you’ve created. Of course, building connections takes time, but know that every new project has a ripple effect of connecting you to more people and growing your network.
I come from a long line of farmers in Saskatchewan, Canada… so it’s in my blood to be adaptable, resourceful, and cultivate what I want to harvest! This philosophy has been an essential part of growing and thriving in graphic recording.