Networking for Artists. It’s Not Just for Extroverts Anymore.
A while back, my co-broadcasting partner, Jason Horejs, and I did one of our of our Art2Market talks for our followers.
This one was about Networking for Artists. We called it, How to Network to Find Qualified Art Buyers. You can watch it in its entirety below.
For those of you who are time-pressed, or who prefer to read, I pulled out and embellished 25 of our best networking for artists tips.
What Is Different about Networking for Artists? — It’s not what most people think of when they hear the word. That is, it is not going to a chamber of commerce meeting with a stack of business cards in a lame attempt to troll for business. Leave that to insurance agents, realtors, and other small business services such as accounting or landscaping. For those types, that kind of networking is sometimes helpful.
Networking for artists is more a way of life. A holistic thing. It is about making relationships. It is about becoming aware of how you can be of service to others and in return how they can help you.
I met Jason because of networking. I saw a common friend on Facebook mention his new book. Being curious, I checked him out and found he was local to me in Scottsdale. I called him, and we met the same day, exchanged books and have been friends and collaborators for eight years.
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Networking for selfish purposes doesn’t work. People—you—can smell a phony from a mile away. If someone is there just to promote themselves or their business, it is immediately obvious and a huge turnoff. Don’t be that person.
Givers Gain — That is the motto of BNI (Business Networking International), the world’s largest networking organization. It tracks leads its members receive. Who gets them and who gives them. Those who give the most to their fellow members are the ones who receive the most leads in return.
Where Should Artists Go to Network? — You have to get yourself out of your studio. Maybe you have to give up watching television or something else that keeps you close to home. You don’t always have to go to art related events. Find out what your buyers do, where they go, what charities they support, what associations or groups they belong to online and offline.
Your current customers are a treasure trove of insights. If you don’t have a large group of buyers, then be creative. Look for places, events, and activities where people who are high-value prospects gather. Then go be there with them. Be among them.
Learn Some Conversational Skills — For some this comes naturally, for others, it requires some study and observation. There are many helpful articles online by searching for “How to start a conversation?” Use the FOAR acronym and you will never be lost for getting things rolling:
Family – everyone like to tell you about their kids, or their spouse. Did your wife come? Oh, she is at home with the kids. How many kids do you have?
Occupation – what do you do for a living?
Association – what brings you here? Are you a member? Do you live here or are you visiting?
Recreation – what do you like to do when you have some free time?
Memorize a few questions using FOAR and you will never have to struggle to get a conversation going with someone. Be genuinely interested. Ask follow up questions? How does that work? Where do you like to play golf? What other cruises have you taken? Where do your kids go to school?
Influence – look for ways to create the Norm of Reciprocity. This is a simple human nature thing. If I do some small favor or kindness for you, you naturally feel obliged to return the favor. For artists, providing a free portfolio is a perfect example.
Take it a step further. If you sense genuine interest, you can offer to provide additional copies if your contact would like to share your portfolio with others. Offer to take the burden of sending the copy. Tell them you will send it with their compliments.
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Networking Opportunities Are All Around — A client called Jason to get help with a painting she bought from his gallery. She was donating it to a hospital charitable foundation. He took both client and foundation president to lunch. The foundation president is well connected, and he is sure his new relationship with her will bear fruit in due time. As said earlier, networking is about building relationships. Jason has also sold art through relationships he’s developed through his church.
Know Like Trust – These are factors in nearly every sale. Your easiest sales are to people who already know you. Your next easiest sales are to those who they know. It’s degrees of separation.
How to Bring Up Being an Artist – Okay, you got the conversation rolling. Now how do you mention being an artist without sounding like a hack? In some cases, you can say it when you introduce yourself if the situation is ripe for it. For instance, you’re at a gallery opening. You might say how much you like an individual artist’s work and how yours is similar, dissimilar or how you are both influenced by Georgia O’Keefe.
Or, ask the other person what they do with some follow ups. (That’s interesting. Tell me more. Or, how does that work?) The natural inclination is for reciprocity and curiosity. That is, when done, they will ask you what you do. Or, you can use some side reference to making art. When I was on a field trip, or art vacation, or teaching or learning something art related are all ways to inject you are an artist into the conversation.
Script It – Jason suggests you write out a complete dialog. Imagine how it will go. What questions you will ask. What questions will be asked of you and how you will respond to them. Think it through so you have some follow-up. How would you incorporate FOAR into the conversation to keep it lively and going?
While we said Chamber of Commerce and other business networking groups are not the best use of your time, they might indeed be a great place to go practice. Use them as sort of a farm club so when you get to the major leagues, you are already experienced with networking and how you will use it.
Practice, practice, practice – the most important question you hear is, “What do you do?” This is your 30-second elevator speech. You want to answer succinctly, and fluently and sound relaxed and natural when you convey this information.
Use Body Language — When you smile, make sure you open your eyes. It is a nearly imperceptible thing that is nonetheless tangible and apparent as a visual clue to what is really going on here. It shows you are genuinely interested in meeting this person. Use a firm grip and make direct eye contact. Pull yourself up to your best posture. All these things add up to making a great first impression.
Look Presentable — Shoes shined, if appropriate. Hair combed or coiffed to show you care about your grooming. Clothing that fits and is suitable for the occasion. When you look your best, it is much easier to feel your best, which is also one of those subtle, tangible tells about who you are. Always attempt to put your best foot forward. You can never go wrong doing that.
Shallow Breath Tip — If you are nervous about meeting new people, you can practice a great little tip that both Howard Cosell and Marilyn Monroe used. They were both stutterers in their early life. They found by taking a short breath just before speaking allowed them to start speaking without stammering. It is something physiological, and perhaps psychological as well. Regardless, this is a very useful technique that will work for you.
Know Why You Are There – Don’t get caught up in anything that is happening to the point that you forget you are on a mission. That mission is to meet people who can buy your work or influence your career.
Jason admonishes us to not try to meet everyone in a room. Instead, focus on meeting only a few people and concentrate on making the most from meeting them. He finds it is much easier to network this way than to feel anxious that he must chit-chat with every person in attendance.
Move On – I will add, if you realize you are talking to someone who is just not helpful to you, or for whatever reason, you don’t want to extend the conversation, you can excuse yourself for nearly any reason. I’m sorry, but I need to make sure I tell the host something. I need to use the restroom. I see an acquaintance I have not seen in a long time and want to get to them before they leave. Try introducing someone near you to the person and then excuse yourself. There are lots of ways to slip off the hook instead of feeling cornered by a bore, a snore or an awkward
Business Cards – Don’t use them. They are so last century. I believe the primary use of a business card is to get out of a conversation or make a non-commitment commitment. If someone says, give me your card and I’ll get back to you, it’s generally a blow off. If you believe there is something worth pursuing, take charge. Great Let’s set a meeting now. Are you free for coffee on Tuesday?
Instead of a business card, if possible, carry something larger like a postcard that really shows your work. If you can see the other person is not ready to work with the larger format, it is a great opening to offer to send or deliver a copy to the individual.
Turn Chance into Opportunity – Put out your best effort to make something happen. Realize the worst is it doesn’t work. Then chalk it up to one more on the nay side puts you that much closer to a yay. You can’t win them all. You just want your share.
Be Proud – Making art is a unique thing. It takes talent and creativity. To make it as a successful artist is something about which you can be proud, even if you are still striving to get to a full-time status, take pride.
Art Is Sexy— Beauty and creativity are attached to being an artist. It sets you apart. Being a plumber or insurance agent does not have the same exotic cachet as being an artist, particularly a successful artist. Never forget this about what you do. Just the idea you are an artist often creates interest and intrigue. Use these things to your advantage.
Self-confidence – it’s great when it comes naturally. When you don’t feel you have it, then do as the saying goes, “Fake it until you make it.” Use the techniques we talked about earlier to give off clues that you are confident. Smiling, posture, attire, and openness all help give you the aura of a confident Like art, confidence is sexy. We are attracted to confident people as much as we are interested in attractive people. At the end of the day, confidence will trump appearance when it comes to making meaningful relationships. Just the mere act of acting confident makes you confident. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Practice being confident. Your posture chin up, smile, you are an artist
Public Speaking – While admittedly not for everyone, public speaking builds confidence. It opens the door for you to get yourself in front of all kinds of great prospects to buy your art. It raises awareness of you and respect for you.
Keep Up the Pressure – You cannot be a pest. If you are, the party who thinks so will let you know. This is your life and your career. You need to be determined to do whatever you must to get ahead. If that means asking more than once, or twice, then steel yourself and do it. In a Los Angeles Times article, the curator for LACMA, the prestigious Los Angeles County Museum of Art said the big difference between who go in and who didn’t was who kept up the conversation. He described it as the steady drip, drip, drip of messages and communication that were often a deciding factor in who he chose for spots in the museum.
Attitude – If all this talk of networking and communicating turns you off, you have two choices. One is to get over it and learn how to do these things for yourself by realizing the dread is worse than the do. Two, get someone to do these things for you. Either way, you need to get over any negative feelings you have about such activities. They are part and parcel of creating a successful art career.
Abstract Art – Granted. It’s not the easiest art subject matter to discuss with strangers. Still you can learn tips how to talk about it with new people. Become an educator. Give examples of famous abstract art or artists. Talk about what your influences are and what you want to achieve through your art. Use the opportunity to inform and show your passion and enthusiasm for your subject. Help the other person to “Get It!”
Rural Areas – How far should you go to network when you are in a rural area? Jason replies as far as necessary. It’ not a flippant answer, it’s the truth. If getting your art sold into the world is your path, your mission, your career, and you live in a rural area, you have to do whatever is needed to spread the word about your art and to meet and network with them.
There were many more points discussed in our hour long talk. Feel free to listen to the whole broadcast replay above.