Talent and ability alone do not determine success. Building a network is essential to growing a creative business.
You’ve probably seen this scenario before: you know an artist who is incredibly talented and creates wonderful art, but doesn’t end up making a lot of sales. Sometimes this happens because the artist does not take an active role in marketing or presenting their work to the world. But it also results from not having a network of people to help build connections that are beneficial to that artist.
Networking is an activity that should be pursued on an ongoing basis, because people that you meet through the process can be instrumental to your success. Get started with our article sharing 12 tips to network effectively. Your art community is the perfect place to start. Artists are among the most giving people around, and often will share resources, feedback and opportunities with you. A local artist salon (shown above) is a wonderful source of support, especially since many of the other attendees will be artists with a great deal of experience.
Artists also congregate online. Facebook alone has hundreds of groups to support artists that vary from local to international. LinkedIn has many as well. Want to discuss ways to market your art or handmade work, or perhaps how to find an affordable printer to create reproductions? Looking for recommendations on the best online marketplaces or where to apply to a good art festival? Tap into these free resources and participate.
Collaboration is another result of successful networking. Artists may choose to work together on a project, share a booth, or create a strategic alliance in order to benefit both parties. Strategic allies usually have non-competing products but share a similar audience, and may act on each other’s behalf to increase the reach of their marketing efforts. For example, if you are in an alliance with another artist, you might write a blog article about their work, share their posts on social media, or mention them in your email newsletter. They can reciprocate to help promote you as well.
Are you looking for gallery representation, and want to know how galleries find artists? Check out this list, and note the number one method, which is a recommendation from another artist.
There really is no substitute for meeting and becoming friendly with artists who are successfully doing what you would like to do. Networking is not a one-way street, though. It involves having a “pay it forward” attitude, where you are willing to be of assistance to others before you expect results for yourself. Networkers who do this gain a reputation as a “connector” and are quickly appreciated by other people in the network. And as you are willing to help others, give referrals and give generously of your time, you will find that these efforts come back to you in the form of assistance from others.
Thinking of building your network? It helps to know what you are looking for in terms of introductions or referrals. A concrete idea is best. Saying “I’d like to meet people who want to buy my work” doesn’t really mean anything to other people, because they have no idea of your ideal customer. But if you can state that you would like to meet either a specific person or type of person (interior designers in your hometown, for example) then you are clearly communicating and are more likely to gain that introduction.
Have you grown your creative business through networking? What was your experience?