Here's the hard truth: artists can't build a career on their own.
Just like most careers, a successful art career is based on key relationships that can advance your opportunities in the art world.
For most artists who are used to spending the majority of their time alone in their studio, networking can be a challenge — especially if you have the idea of small talk and forced conversation seems draining to you.
But, the thing is, you don't have to think of networking as polite introductions at a gallery opening. In fact, forging deeper, meaningful connections—ones that feel like real, genuine exchanges can be the key to networking like the boss artist that you are.
If the idea of networking has you deadbolting yourself behind your studio doors, here are some tips to help alleviate the anxiety.
Memorize your elevator pitch
The more succinctly you can present what you and your artwork are all about, the better.
Prepare a one to two-sentence description will be the "elevator pitch" about your artwork. Your elevator pitch will address the main idea behind your work and an easy go-to phrase when someone new asks "so, what do you do."
This is the phrase that distills the core of your work and acts as a hook—leaving them wanting to know more. The pitch should be brief, to the point, and confidently delivered. Practice writing down and delivering your elevator pitch to people you meet in the park, the gym or the bar —anywhere where the stakes are low before you give it in a more high-pressure situation.
The more you say and believe in your own pitch, the more convincing you will be when the time matters.
Focus on connecting, not selling
Networking can feel slimy if the main focus of your conversation is sales. So, switch your focus away from the direct sale and spend your energy on making a genuine effort on connecting instead.
Take it from Art Biz Coach Alyson Stanfield: “You’re looking to engage the other person, not to control the conversation.”
Engage the lost art of listening in your conversations. Ask more questions and then respond to the answers. Most people, even people you perceive as intimidating, are looking for ways to relate and connect with you.
Make it your primary goal to get contact information
When you make small goals for your networking conquest, it can seem more attainable and less scary. Instead of saying, "I'm going to make a connection that will get me my next solo show tonight," say "I am going to learn more about what is going on in my community." Then, make it your goal to get a business card and follow up rather than cement a deal during that meeting.
Remember that one quality contact is more valuable than 100 business cards that get shoved to the bottom of your bag.
Follow up shortly after an introduction with a personal email
An in-person networking event is just the start of your relationship with a key contact.
Build personal connections by sending a quick email every so often. You can include upcoming show announcements, studio visit invitations, and new pieces you think they’d like. This is different than your newsletter—this is about creating a real connection with the person. Even if it is the same content from your newsletter, include a little personal note and wish them well. It will not go unnoticed.
Be ready with price lists and artwork information
Not only should you have professional business cards on hand, you should also be prepared for the best case scenario.
Having a way to beautifully display your available artworks, along with the critical information and when they will be available can make a lasting impression.
Don't be left scrambling or making excuses with an out of date website. Having all your artwork on the cloud and available on any device with the power to create custom inventory and price lists gives you an edge and lets you go into any meeting with confidence.
See how easy it can be to present your work professionally by trying out Artwork Archive.
Show up and support other artists
Practice networking with good karma.
Create relationships based on positive interactions and goodwill. Help others with their goals, attend their openings, tell them about a gallery that would be a good fit. We are all in this together.
Make an effort to meet and support other artists. Go to association meetings and offer resources, tips, encouragement, and useful discussion. Your own community is the best network to get started. These are the people who will have your back and can understand your position most fully.
The best way to make important connections is by attending events and integrating yourself into your local artist community. Show a genuine interest in what other artists are making, meet new people, and be prepared to talk about your artwork. You never know what new connection you might make for your own art business.
Cultivate relationships with social media
There is a real opportunity to build and grow art relationships over social media today. Most artists, galleries, and curators have at least one social media account. Follow, share and engage with the people online in the same way you would in the real world.
That is to say — seek genuine connections.
Post about events, advice or questions you might have in LinkedIn or Facebook groups. Post about your process on Instagram and interact with other artist's posts. Respond and encourage healthy discussion on Facebook and Instagram. Give people a glimpse into your personality by posting Instagram stories or Facebook live events. Let people know what you are up to on their own terms.