Tess McCabe of Creative Women's Circle -  providing networking and resources for creative women
Tess McCabe, Co-ordinator of networking community the Creative Women’s Circle. Photo by Martina Gemmola.

Q1. What is the Creative Women’s Circle?

The Creative Women’s Circle (CWC) is a community of women involved in creative industries, networking and sharing information, inspiration and ideas. CWC shares resources, promotes the work of creative women and connects the creative community in a number of ways, including through talks and networking events, books, our blog and a thriving member database.

Q2. What are the main benefits for creatives (subscribers and/or members)?

Creatives can sometimes find working on their craft without colleagues an isolating experience. But everyone needs to engage and collaborate with others to make their best creative work.  Networking though the CWC helps to connect likeminded creatives in a wide range of industries through in-person events, where a real sense of community is formed and the knowledge that you’re not alone in your business or creative challenges is the main take-away.

Our online directory of creative women, The Circle Database, is also a great networking resource for Members. I’ve heard some terrific stories of connection and collaboration through CWC membership. For example, through the database, an interior designer who wanted her work photographed professionally for promotion, and a photographer wanting to build her portfolio of interior photography connected, and this team now have had their work published in some of Australia’s most well-known design magazines.

There’s also been artists helping musicians with album artwork, new businesses reaching out to graphic designers for branding design, graduates getting internships or mentoring from more established professionals – the list goes on. And that’s just members working with each other – many of our members have been contacted for work and commissions from people outside the Creative Women’s Circle. It’s just another great portal to display work and be featured in a professional yet social context.

Q3. What promotional tactics (both online and offline) have been most effective for building up knowledge of and interest in the CWC?

Having a variety of modes and methods of engaging with the community has been a big part of our organic growth over the last 5 years. Our online content, via our blog and social media, has the biggest reach and is the most frequent form of communication with our network. Everyone is busy, but I love that there is a way for us all to connect in a small way every day.

Our books, all of which are available in digital form (as well as some in physical form), have a similar reach. We take on feedback from online content and develop books and eBooks to build on what the community needs and wants in a longer format. But the books are released far less frequently, just 1-2 per year. Marketing around these book releases can help pique interest in CWC and reach people who might not have found us online before.
Other initiatives, like our talks and networking events, garner interest at a local level, but in quite a different way to online content as the in-person experience is very powerful at strengthening a community and their engagement.

Q4. CWC has used some of the content of their blog as the basis for the creation of a few publications – both in printed and e-book form. Have you any tips for others who might be considering producing similar resources for their clients?

My eBook ‘Graphic Design Speak: General advice, technical tips and jargon explained for non-graphic-designers’  evolved from a couple of blog posts that I wrote for the CWC network explaining some words and concepts graphic designers commonly use, and some technical how-to instructions, without going overboard with the technical talk. The posts remained some of the most revisited content on the website for a couple of years. As a graphic designer myself, this information is well known to me, but I recognised it would be an extremely useful resource for non-graphic-designers (within the creative community of CWC and beyond) to know as well and have in a compact takeaway format. Having a graphic design background, I wrote about what I knew and what I thought I could teach others.

I think most people who have a business have acquired a certain level of expertise in a particular area. This knowledge – or Intellectual Property – has value too. You don’t have to give away all the nuts and bolts, but evaluating what your community wants or could benefit from knowing is potential content for a publication. The relative ease of creating online publications these days makes this a viable option for many business owners.

Q5. What is coming up next for the Creative Women’s Circle?

2014 will be a year of expansion for CWC as we start to hold talks and networking events  for creatives in cities outside of Melbourne. We also have another book on the way. ‘Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law’ aims to be the resource that fulfils the needs of creatives who struggle with understanding legal issues around their work.  It will explain how creatives can be protected under copyright and give them an understanding of the laws that can support small creative businesses. Authored by Sharon Givoni, an established IP lawyer and former CWC speaker, it’s filling a gap that exists in resources for creatives in small business. It’s going to be an exciting year!

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What other networking opportunities and resources for creative businesses are you aware of?  Feel free to share via a comment below.