With three decades of recruitment and coaching experience under our belts, we know the value of networking. And it doesn’t always have to mean donning a name tag and speaking to strangers. From virtual networking events and talks, to professional working groups and meet ups: here’s our guide to finding the best UK networking groups for creatives.
Networking is arguably important for any career. But for creatives, and particularly freelance and contract workers: building a network of good contacts is essential. Creative sector work thrives on collaboration – no marketing campaign or social media strategy is the work of a single brilliant mind. Industry leaders like Architectural Digest, The Society of British Interior Designers (SBID) and Forbes all champion networking for creative careers. And we quite agree, here’s a few reasons why:
Networking used to mean going to a conference or trade event. And those events still have their place. But there are lots of different types of groups you can join for regular events, informal meet ups, job opportunities and support:
Professional Membership Associations: For regular events, training, mentorship and webinars it might be worth joining a professional membership organisation like IPSE (for self-employed professionals), CIPR for PR professionals and Charity Comms for communications professionals working with charities. Some events and resources are free or ticketed for non-members too, so it’s worth checking them out, even if you don’t want to join up.
Online Networking Groups: These types of networking platforms and groups are ideal for job opportunities, finding collaborators, resources and general support. Some of the main groups include The Dots, Hive Collective, and Yuno Juno.
Digital Creative Communities: These types of online groups are focused more on peer support, and knowledge-sharing rather than professional opportunities. So if you want to ask questions, ask for advice or exchange ideas and thoughts on the creative industry – check out organisations like Creative UK, The Design Hub, Women in Technology and Code Untapped. Many digital communities also focus on underrepresented groups, and can help provide a safe space to discuss industry challenges too.
Meetup Groups and Events: Perfect for people who prefer casual and informal networking over corporate events. Meetups are great for getting to know your peers, finding collaborators and sometimes even mentors. Regular creative industry meetups include Copywriters Unite,a regular pub meet up in London, Manchester, Leeds, and Bristol.There are plenty of opportunities for designers too. Dribble Meetups are an international design community with events all over the UK from casual coffee shop chats to large-scale events. Other groups include The Marketing Meetup (virtual and in-person), Sheffield DM, and The Marketing Social in Liverpool.
The pandemic has shifted the way we network. But there are some important advantages to these shifts. Virtual networking is more accessible for creatives with medical conditions, disabilities, carers or anyone else who might otherwise miss out. Joining via Zoom, Teams or Google Meet also takes the pressure off for many neurodivergent creatives, and other people who don’t enjoy attending large events. But is there an appetite to get back to in-person networking? That depends on who you ask.
According to a study by Handshake, 67% of Gen Z respondents no longer believe they need to have in-person interactions to form meaningful professional connections. But given the sheer number of networking and industry events listed across the UK being advertised – it’s clear that creative professionals still want to meet away from screens. And according to the Skills and Education Group, in person networking has made a welcome return.
Networking can be a great way to find other people in your industry in your region. Most big cities and regions have regular networking events or groups. London, Bristol and Manchester all have thriving networking groups for creatives that hold regular in person and online events.
In London, major events include DigiMarCon – a two day digital marketing and media and advertising conference which takes place in September. Creative co-working spaces like Second Home run regular events programmes (and co-working is a great opportunity for informal networking in general). There are also regular events listed on Eventbrite, and meetups like Copywriters Unite.
But there’s plenty going on outside of the capital. In the south west, membership organisation Bristol Creative Industries is driven by a belief that creatives can achieve more collectively than alone.
As well as in-person and online networking events, workshops and talks – the organisation also connects members with jobs via its directory and jobs board and encourages collaboration across the region. Bristol, for example, is also home to several other networking groups including The Square, We Mean Biz, and the film professionals’ group South West Talent Connect.
Manchester has a thriving creative networking culture. Like Bristol, it’s a growing hub for creative talent, home to BBC studios, tech companies, and creative agencies. One of the biggest networking groups in the area is the Shout Network, which is a north-west wide business networking organisation. Connected North is also a huge regional event with keynote speakers from digital leaders which launched in 2022. There are also several meet-up groups in Manchester including The Marketing Meetup.
Aside from doing a quick google search, there are plenty of places to find in person and online networking groups for your discipline or interest. Social media networks like Facebook or LinkedIn are a great place to start. Over on Facebook you’ll find Freelance PRs, Creative Networking, Founders Freelancers and Rebels, Noi Club, and Career Academy’s group for jobs and opportunities in marketing, PR, digital and social.
On LinkedIn you can find groups including the Copywriter Network Group, UK Marketing + Communications, and Marketing, PR, Media and Digital Jobs and Career Opportunities Network. For digital and tech networking and professional opportunities there are lots of communities on Slack including freelance platform YunoJuno , non-profit digital network Digital Charities and tech community UK Tech.
For general information, start with an online search or use event listing sites to filter between in person and event type. But if you’re looking for a specific discipline or type of working group, here are a few that host regular online and in-person events:
Aimed at: Creatives and organisations who want to make the industry more diverse and inclusive
Types of networking: (IRL and online events)
Creative Equals is a consultancy focusing on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) consultancy and it runs regular in-person and online events including workshops, talks and the RISE: For Creativity conference.
Aimed at: Global creatives
Types of networking (IRL and virtual meetups)
Creative Mornings began in New York in 2014 with a simple concept: free breakfast and a short talk for creatives one Friday morning a month. It’s since spread across the word with live networking events and talks in the various chapters including Cardiff, London, Derby and Edinburgh. Regular online networking events include Virtual Field Trips, which include themes such as job search tips, building content strategy and communicating ideas.
Aimed at: What the acronym stands for: People of colour navigating the creative industry
PoCC is a creative members network for creative professionals of colour designed to drive cultural shifts in their industries. It offers a mix of WhatsApp groups as well as networking and talks.
Aimed at: Women and non-binary creatives
Types of networking (IRL and virtual meet ups)
The global non-profit is aimed at addressing the statistic that only 0.1% of creative agencies are founded by women and non-binary people. Ladies, Wine, and Design has chapters in several UK towns and cities including Cheltenham, Ipswich, Southampton, Sheffield and London and hosts a mix of online and in-person events
It’s too early to say how networking in the UK creative industries will change in the future. But there are some clues to be found within recruitment and employment. Just as we’ve seen work shift towards a mix of office based, remote-first and hybrid, the same can be said for networking.
Another positive shift worth noting is that there are a growing number of networking groups focused on community, inclusion and driving change. One thing is clear: creative people need each other. And they will always gravitate towards finding support and connection.
Career Academy is a free resource for candidates working in the creative sector in the UK, or those wishing to enter the creative industries so that’s roles in marketing, PR, creative, design, production, digital, communications, and social media.