It’s hard to believe that pursuing a creative career could ever have a downside. I mean, hello, being able to do the things you love – that’s the dream, right? But the truth is that sometimes a creative life can be a bit isolating. For example, if you run a business from home, you may know what it’s like to get lonely on the job. Even if you don’t work remotely, perhaps you know the feeling of simply being misunderstood when friends and family members don’t exactly get what it is that you “do.” (Blogging? You get paid to do this? What?)
In my experience, one of the best ways to counterbalance this inevitable sense of creative isolation is to surround myself with people who inspire me. One of my favorite ways to do this is through creative meetups. There is just something so comforting and encouraging about face-to-face gatherings with people who are passionate about the same things I am. They promote collaboration, brainstorming, and sheer moral support, and I highly recommend attending one if you are looking to grow in your business or your craft.
But wait – you might be wondering – what if I don’t know of any creative meetups in my area? Well, friend, you build your own! That’s what a friend and I did recently when we launched Next Creative: a collective of bloggers, makers, and entrepreneurs here in NYC. We’ve assembled some truly talented local creatives, and in doing so, we’ve picked up a few tips along the way that I am excited to share with you today. Are you looking to start a meetup of your own? Here are some great places to start:
Grab a partner
I started my meetup series with my friend, Alex, and thank goodness for that. Not only is it great to have her support in hosting these events, but having a partner also brings some accountability to the whole situation. Creating an event like this is a daunting task, but having someone else there makes chickening out a lot less likely. When you work with someone else, you also have the opportunity to combine your resources and contacts to assemble a really great group. Plus, you know, these things are always easier with a buddy by your side!
Determine your mission
Do you want your meetup to have a happy hour vibe? Is it purely social? Will there be a group discussion? Will it be more free form? Should there be a theme? There are a thousand different ways to structure a meetup. Some are more focused on simply gathering with new people and others have a more specific purpose, and either is totally fine. It simply depends on what you want to get out of it. Knowing what kind of gathering you want to have beforehand will help to clarify a lot other aspects, such as location, structure, and the people you invite.
Choose a sensible location
By “sensible” I don’t mean that your meetup should consist of a high tea service at the local country club, but rather, that your location should fit your context. If you want to have an in-depth group discussion, it’s probably not a great idea to host your event at a local sports bar. But hey, if you are looking to keep things casual, a bar might actually be the perfect place. Do some location scouting, and for some ideas, check out Meetup.com. You can see where other types of groups tend to be meeting in your area and even reach out to a coordinator to see if they have any thoughts on places that have/have not worked for them in the past.
Spread the word
Of course, if you know any local creative entrepreneurs, add them to the guest list. But if that list is looking a little sparse, try checking in with your online communities. There are tons of Facebook groups and Twitter chats for bloggers/designers/makers etc. Let people know what you are doing and how they can be a part of it. Also, don’t be afraid to start small. A gathering of three people is still a meetup. Once you’ve got your list, send something official. Paperless Post is a great way to easily send beautiful, digital invitations.
Reach out to sponsors
Say you want to create a gift bag for your attendees, but you also don’t want to blow your life savings. Try reaching out to local vendors or brands that you think might be interested in sharing their products with your unique group of influencers. You would be surprised by how excited people get by the simple idea of a bunch of creatives getting together. Plus, it will give exposure to your sponsors if your attendees share their products on their blogs and social media!
Prepare your attendees
Before any meetup, I always send out an email letting people know exactly what to expect and, more importantly, who to expect. I include names, blogs, and social links so that attendees can politely start stalking each other. Going to one of these things can be intimidating, so providing guests with an icebreaker is always a good thing (“Hey, I saw your blog post about your trip to Paris! Girl, I love Paris!”).
Keep in touch
If you plan to make your meetup a regular occurrence, you will need to have an easy way for members to stay in touch. A newsletter is the perfect way to alert folks to future meetups and to encourage them to invite others.
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Keep it simple and just go for it!
Trust me: getting people together is enough. It doesn’t have to be this extravagant production. You don’t have to have passed hor dourves or any sort of intense agenda. There is power in simply gathering with likeminded individuals. That’s really enough, I promise. So round up some of your favorite creative-types and just meet yourselves on up!