NETWORKING FOR ARTISTS
There is a golden thread which runs through every material and spiritual thing in existence and, it is called purpose. Purpose is the original or intended use of something. Any deviations from purpose create unfulfillment. The goal of art is to be seen and to be understood. Real art is born out of empathy for the artist's audience, and it is the artists prerogative to make sure their art reaches their audience and meets their needs. Any art which does not do this is self-indulgent art. A lamp under a bowl is useless. If you had the cure for an ailment and left it in your laboratory while people perished, what purpose does that serve? These are all thoughts I had to grapple with when I made my entry into the world of a working artist. I had to start seeking people I make art for. This is the art of networking.
The word networking was first used in 1550 to describe the art of weaving threads or wires together creating a weblike structure used for fishing or capturing other prey. The weaver determines the size of the gaps in the structure which lets water and small fish out. The word networking has since evolved and has been used to describe any complex interlocking systems. It is a common word in the business industry though misunderstood by many. In basic terms, it is the process of meeting other people who are in business or who might be interested in your products and services.
After interacting with lots of artists online and in real life noticed that many artists struggle with networking. I believe there are some reasons why they do. Problems can be caused by not having the right mindsets. Here are a few mindsets you can cultivate to network successfully.
“As an artist, everyone you meet is a potential collector so seek to understand and serve them and you will reap a healthy crop in due season”
-Business Head mindset.
If you are interested in earning a living in art, you must see yourself as a business person. You provide a vital service to humanity and money is just a certificate to testify that you have rendered useful service. If you don’t adopt this mindset, you will not be able to sustain yourself as a working professional and will need to go back to that job you hate. Any activity which can not sustain itself is a hobby.
There are no polar bears in Africa. Every artist should have a clear view of their audience and must know how to locate them. Do your demographic homework and seek opportunities to meet the people you want to bless with your incredible art. I make art for golfers and footballers and success-minded individuals, so I learned how to play golf and joined a golf networking group which has members around the country. Most of my work comes from playing golf. I also play in 3 bands and have had lots of referrals for art sales and framing. Go to your audience.
- Against the grain thinking mindset.
I intentionally go to places where you are unlikely to find an artist, to meet people I believe will be interested in my work. I have a following in the classic car industry and have had several commissions because I was the only artist who networks in that sector. There are so many synergistic opportunities everywhere if you flip conventional thinking on its head. Everybody and every location requires some form of art to make it fully habitable, so start thinking of unusual collaborations.
- The Giving mindset.
Giving is a universal spiritual principle which is as reliable as day and night. You must seek to sow if you want to harvest. I have a book which will be released in January 2019 and one of the chapters in on the principle of giving what you don’t have. Having the intention to be generous when you meet people will attract the thing you want to offer and the people you want to give to. You don't have to possess the thing you want to give; you need the intention and expectation.
- The Farming mindset.
I am not a hard seller by nature, and I am happy not to be one because art is not a product you want to sell forcefully. Real success in art is built by having individuals who collect multiple pieces of your work and keep coming back. When you hard sell, people might buy one piece, but will never come back for more and will give you bad reviews. My suggestion is to network like a farmer. Be patient, play the long game, seek to understand and to be understood. The sales will soon start rolling in, and you will make friends in the process.
- The Knowledge mindset.
It is a sad reality, but a lot of artists don’t know how to speak about their work. Why would I buy a product if its creator does not even know what it is about? I view artists as Doctors for the soul. Selling a graphic piece of art so someone who will be affected by the subject matter is ethically wrong. Would you give someone an anti-inflammatory rob if they complained of a headache? It sounds silly but not knowing your product can leave your collector in a worse situation than they were before they bought your work if you care about your collector. It is essential to know about the effects of your work.
- The Connector mindset.
More people will collect your work because they connect with you and can relate to your work rather than just your fantastic technique. Leadership coach John C Maxwell states selflessness as the number one tip for connecting with others. It should never be about you if you want to connect with people you are networking with. Give people your full attention. I worked with severely disabled adults for years, and they taught me a great lesson. They could tell when you were with them and your head was somewhere else.
- The Team player mindset.
It is imperative that you network with other artists and get to know their strengths. Visit one another's studios, exhibitions and be intentional about supporting and sharing their work online and amongst your contacts. Whenever I am given a commission and know an artist in my network who can pull it off better, I do a referral. Remember, life is like a boomerang. Those who give always get in due season. You will also create a great legacy by conducting yourself in such a manner.
Your network will determine your net worth. The more people you know, the more likely you are to succeed. Imagine casting a vast net out at sea, and you were only after certain rare species. You will stand a better chance of catching what you're looking for if the size of your net is significant. It is also more difficult for you to suffer if the size of your network is substantial. I intentionally set out to meet about at least 20 new people every month to keep my network growing. I have some fascinating people within my network. They include, business coaches, negotiation coaches, pricing coach, speaking coaches, medical doctors, golfers, politicians, musicians, make up artists, financial advisers, IT technicians, designers, unemployed people, adults with additional needs, jewellers, debt collectors and more. You are stronger in a community than on your own. Networking will give you a community.