You can walk on water, you can walk on the moon
You can walk through Memphis wearin’ blue suede shoes
When the walkin’ is over, at the end of the road
It ain’t what you done son, it’s who you know
Yeah it’s who you know ~ lyrics to Trace Adkins’ “It’s Who You Know.”
A somewhat ugly truth about successful art careers is it often is less about what you know, and more about whom you know that matters. Thus proving the axiom, “Life is not fair.”
Study the art career of any affluent or acclaimed artist and you will find benefactors in the equation. Look further and you will find the relationships likely came as a result of networking. NO ONE is self-made. We all have had help.
True enough, you can make your own luck as a residue of smart, hard work. However, an introduction via networking from the right person to the right person or situation can enhance your prospects beyond anything you can do on your own.
As a young man in my early thirties, I had a mentor who saw me headed for a burn out at a job with no real future. He took me aside to tell me to put in a resume at a company looking for just the right salesperson. He also gave me a recommendation for the job. Of course, I had to prove I had the skills to get the job, which I did. However, I would never have gotten the job without his guidance.
I stayed there five years and tripled my income from when I started. That led to another job where in my first three years I tripled my income again. It should be no surprise I stayed on for fifteen years. That last job was my entry into the art business. You are reading this blog post courtesy of the vision and generosity of a person seeking to help someone like me get a leg up.
From the outside, you would never know that one person had such an powerful effect on my career. He led me to a door I didn’t know existed. He helped me open it with his recommendation. That was the “Who you know” part. My own skills and ambition are what turned opportunity into success. Those traits were my “What you know” contribution to a very successful, prosperous career. Without the “Whom you know part”, my future would have faced a very different outcome.
Art business fact is if you think you can generate art career success just because you make the best art, you sadly are deluded. How I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I cannot.How often do you see artists whose work you deem inferior, but whose career you have to look up to? How does this happen? Smart, effective networking is always going to be part of the answer.
It comes down to three things:
I will never discount the importance of making great, compelling art. Nevertheless, regarding success in the art business, there is more to it than creating great work in the shadows of obscurity. Marketing merely, but importantly, creates awareness and opens the door. Once inside, sales skills get your art bought.
Networking introduces you to people, resources and opportunities you will never have, or even know about if you fail to make use of its power. When marketing, selling and networking are combined and put to good use, you have a potent formula for art career success beyond your imagination.
It is helpful to have a list of potential people for you to know, but not critical. It is more important to get started. My story above is about good fortune as I was aware of a need to change, but didn’t know how to tap the resources at my disposal. You should not be waiting for luck to come your way. Instead start making plans and goals to get introduced to the right people.
If you have a grand plan for the outcome you want from your networking, good for you. If you lack the vision for how networking can help you, you need to do some serious brainstorming to determine your art career outcome.
Begin now, be persistent, helpful, positive and constructive. Learn to reciprocate from a genuine spirit. These attributes will take your art career far. Search the 500 posts on this blog, and countless others across the internet for help on art marketing and how to sell art. You can conquer the art business, especially when you build a base of direct buying collectors and patrons.
Consider downloading my Art Marketing workshop. A chunk of the three-hour webinar, recorded live with Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery, is devoted to ways artists can effectively network their way to success.