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Five Ways Freelance Creatives Can Acclimate to a New City

Written By Amber James | Oct 13, 2015

Being a freelance creative can be rough, but once you find your tribe, get into a client/project groove, and know your way around the scene, work and life trip along pretty well.

I’m having to do that all over again.

Since moving from Portland to Minneapolis, I’m having to do that all over again. The whole experience has made me reflect on how hard and long I worked to get established, and how powerful a single connection or event can be to unlocking a city of opportunities. Here are five things I did to become a successful freelance creative when I arrived in Portland, that I’m now doing again in my new city:

1) Saying Yes

I knew nothing about the creative scene in Minneapolis, and I was momentarily overwhelmed about where to start. What events should I go to? How will I find them? Who should I know? How will I meet them? Then I got an email from a friend inviting me to an arts event. I said yes. I received a monthly event notice about an upcoming lecture. I said yes. So far, saying “yes” has resulted in deeper connections with existing friends, and introductions to a few new ones.

2) Networking

The monthly event notice I mentioned earlier was from CreativeMornings. Because they have meet-ups in every major city, it was an easy, known way to start meeting members of my tribe AND learning about accomplished local people and businesses to follow. Other large meet-up organizations include the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA). When you’re starting from scratch, go big and then get smaller as you learn about local opportunities.

3) Drinking (Lots of) Coffee with Strangers

When I meet new people at these events, I usually invite at least one of them to coffee. It’s a great way to build relationships with peers, prospective clients and partners. I get to know them, they get to know me, and voila! My tribe begins to take shape. It’s also a good way to learn about great local coffee shops too! Workfrom, anyone?

4) Ask For Help

While I was at CreativeMornings, I asked attendees for recommendations about other events, people, and places I should pay attention to. I came away with a list of leads and ideas to follow-up on. I find that people are more than willing to share what they know. You just have to tell them how they can help you, and they will.

5) Research Prospective Clients

Once you’ve lived in a place for a while, local companies with headquarters in your city start to become household names: Nike, Keen, Cambia, North. When you move, you may be at a complete loss as to who the heavyweights are in town. This can be solved using LinkedIn search to find companies that are similar to ones you already know. Luckily I knew of a few companies with headquarters in my area (Target, 3M, Medtronic), so I had a good base from which to leap into LinkedIn. It’s been a great tool to help me explore what kinds of opportunities my new city has to offer.

A lot of my work in Portland has been the result of longstanding relationships and referrals. It’ll probably take 3-4 months of seriously working these five areas before I’ve built up a solid network here, but I have no doubt that it’ll happen. It’ll happen for you too. Work the steps. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Being awesome takes time.

Amber James is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who now calls Minneapolis home. Her focus is on B2B, where she enjoys taking complex and technical information, simplifying it, and making it accessible to a wider audience.

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