How To Build A Community for Creatives, No Matter Where You Live
One thing I hear from people including friends living in different cities is "I never meet other creatives" or "there is no one to go shoot with in my city". While it's true other cities (ie. Tokyo) are blessed with talented people from all over the world, EVERY city has other creatives like you that are looking to collaborate and make friends.
I moved to Tokyo amidst the pandemic in late 2020 and with all the restrictions it was tough to meet new people for the first year. But it was killing me not being able to network and connect with other creatives and I decided that I was not going to sit around and complain about it or wait for someone to come knock on my door. So, I started to envision what I wanted my life to look like here and have slowly been piecing together the steps to make it happen.
Below, I'll talk about my 5 tips to build and nurture your own thriving creative community no matter where you live.
Tip #1 - Define your Community Purpose and Goals
It goes without saying that if you don't know why or for what purpose you're bringing people together then neither will anyone else. So first thing first, make your purpose and goals crystal clear. When I started the Tekumi Meetup for Tokyo Creatives in March 2022, my objective was to bring models and creatives of any level together on a weekly basis to get outside and just create art and content. Four months later, and we have about 260 members and get about 15-25 awesome creatives out to each event. And it's growing quick! But everyone knows why we are meeting.
While a community can have multiple goals, it’s best to focus on a small number of goals that represent value created for you and your community, and can be tied to specific behaviours and outcomes.
Taken from one of our events and filmed and edited by one our community members, Massimo. Content like this is the exact reason I started the Tekumi Meetup group.
Tip #2 - Be the Organizer
Once you've identified the purpose and goals, the next logical step is getting people together and this is going to take you stepping up and sometimes out of your comfort zone and being the organizer.
My most simplest of recommendations is to start a Meetup group in your area. Meetup is active in around 180 countries worldwide so unless you live somewhere like Tuvalu (population est. 11,792 people) I think you're good to go :) If you don't have Meetup or it's not so active then I suggest for you to do your research into how people are connecting in your area as there may be a better local alternative (Craigslist is still free, simple and used by many)
Once you've created the group it's time create some events and here you'll want to get your saleperson cap on because you need to make your event sound like a thing people are not going to want to miss. This includes being sure to emphasize the value to the participants.
Tip #3 - Focus on Quality over Quantity
Don't worry about the numbers and put your focus on meeting the right people. People who are not only going to show up and be valuable contributors to the events but invaluable ambassadors for what you are building. There is no "I" in community (ok, no wait there is). Point is this is a team sport and you need to find invested like-minded people like you to ensure your creative community will thrive.
Since I started the Tekumi group, I would estimate that the core group of people stands at about 70% returnees each week. Meaning each week a lot of the same people are consistently turning out which makes it easier for me as an organizer. This is how relationships are forged and that should be one of your primary goals.
It’s all about providing people with something they can connect with.
Tip #4 - Be socially active (aka a people person)
I get it. You're an "artiste" and you want to be left alone in your own creative bubble. These social interactions can be such a drag and who need humans when you can just talk to your beloved pet in the comfort of your home/studio. Am I right?
Well, nothing wrong with being the broody artist type if that's your thing but if you're going to meet people and have them, you know, call you back, you're best to start being more active socially. This includes, online and IRL.
This also includes knowing how to listen and involve your creative community once you start growing one.
Growing a strong creative community is all about building trust with your members. And building trust takes time, patience, and diligence.
One thing I like to do, is after every event I suggest we go out to a local bar for some food and drinks. This is a great way to get people to loosen up and not only talk about the things you did that night but to get to know each other in a very casual setting and on a more personal level. Your creative community becomes your friends and this is just a part of building trust.
Tip #5 - Collaboration over Competition
Lastly, and this is a big one. We are all here to push each other to the next level through collaboration and this should never be seen as a competition. Not within your community or in comparison to other communities. Just do your thing and your tribe will naturally and organically grow. This is another reason why a fellow Tokyo based photographer and friend, Takumi Shyegun and I recently started a new Facebook group for content creators called The Content Creator Hub (join us!).
And remember, collaboration doesn't end at your events. For example, we started a chat group where we upload our content and encourage each other through feedback. Also, social sharing and tagging members in your community should be highly encouraged.
Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better
I firmly believe people are out there looking for connection. And how we connect is through shared mutual interests and goals. There ARE other creatives in your area that are waiting to find their tribe but instead of being the one waiting, why don't you get out there and be the one doing?
I hope this post can give a bit of motivation to those who have been thinking about how to build their own communities and if so I'd love hear about the progress on your journey.
Thanks for reading!