5 Helpful Networking Tips for Artists
Sometimes I get myself into weird situations.
Or maybe I should say "interesting" situations.
I usually fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, and while I predictably run screaming from anything adrenaline inducing (sky diving, roller coasters...not on your life!) I prefer to get my kicks from being socially adventurous.
That is, I'm much more likely than most people to dive head first into social situations, trust people more quickly (maybe not always good?) and go with the flow.
Waaay before the days of Uber and "safe" ridesharing, I used to essentially hitchhike up and down California with strangers off Craigslist.
Crazy? Probably. But I did it for years with virtually no issues and no fear.
The day I left the house to go to a craft show, then somehow ended the night on a double date at a San Francisco hookah bar with 3 complete strangers.
I could go on...
This kind of stuff has a tendency to happen to me more when I'm solo traveling because I think I go into "adventure mode" subconsciously.
I mention all of these instances because I’ve noticed that allowing myself to be socially adventurous has accidentally helped my business.
What I didn’t realize was that when you apply this adventurous attitude towards your work life, it’s basically fun networking!
I used to think of networking as stiff ‘rsvp required’ events where you’d have to dress up and listen to some guy in a suit drone on and on about his cube job.
But when you think about it, all it comes down to is connecting with another person you have something in common with.
Before I lay out these networking tips for artists, I want to tell you about one of these interesting accidental networking situations that came up recently:
First off, you must know my love for Craigslist.
I've gotten life changing jobs, apartments, roommates turned friends, rideshares, my prize antique vanity everyone drools over, my insanely talented hairstylist, and freelance design work.
CL gets a lot of crap. But it's played a huge part in my life.
Anyways, as an artist, I'm a frequent visitor to the "Creative Gigs" section on CL. If anything, it's fun to see the strange design jobs that people are hiring for.
This past week, I came across a post of a muralist looking for help with her upcoming mural.
This is something I've been itching to try lately, ever since spending so much time in mural-covered Brooklyn, so naturally, I responded with my work and a little info about me.
The girl wrote back that she had already found someone, but she loved my work and was also interested in block printing!
I asked her if I could come hang out and watch her paint, so I could see her process and learn a little more about her world. She enthusiastically agreed, and I went to see her a few days later.
After spending the morning with her on site at the Bushwick Collective (an internationally prestigious stretch of neighborhood covered in incredible murals) she told me she wanted me to meet her artist friend who she had a feeling I would like.
When she connected us over on Instagram later that night, I saw that this girl was already following me, which I thought was weird.
I mentioned that to the group, and then she wrote back, saying that she used to live in San Francisco as well, and did I happen to host a block printing workshop for a big bridal shower about 3 years ago?
Um. Yes, yes I did.
What! It turns out that she was at that shower and has been following me ever since!
We hit it off and she invited me to a picnic in Brooklyn this past weekend with some other art friends of hers.
I went to the picnic, met with her and all her friends, and now later this week I'm going to see her art studio where I'll possibly host my first NY workshop...all because of one email.
I want to show you how easy and fun this can be, plus all the doors it can open up when you’re meeting other artists/business owners.
So, without further ado, here are a few networking tips for artists that go beyond your standard “bring business cards!” advice that have proven to help me network with the best of them.
This is the hardest part. For all my introverts out there, I see you…the stuff I’m doing with my business right now would have shook me to the core when I was first starting out.
Many people in the arts are introverts and can have a hard time socializing. But networking for artists doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Most of these crazy interactions I’ve had have just started out with a simple message.
In my story above, I was randomly looking up creative listings online and saw someone doing something that was really interesting to me. So I just wrote her a quick message. Just to feel it out, see if she was cool, and then go from there.
No judgement, nothing to lose, why not, right? The worst case scenario would be getting ignored.
I’ve done the same thing many times over Instagram. Sending a quick DM, introducing myself, and waiting for a response before coming up with a plan to connect.
Get OVER Yourself!
I know what you’re thinking. What if I cold email a bunch of people and no one responds, or they think I’m lame, or they realize I only have 7 followers, three of which are related to me, and my work isn’t good enough right now, my website’s not ready, etc, etc.
Here’s the thing. If you want to be successful, you have to put yourself out there. And yeah, it’s hard at first, and it’s intimidating to reach out to strangers.
But think about it this way: the more uncomfortable it is, the greater the reward. Also, the more often you do it, the better you’ll get and the more confident you’ll get too.
So suck it up as my mom would say, put on your big girl pants, push all your big feelings to the side and pop off a few emails or DMs.
If you’re not sure what to say, start off by sending a (genuine) compliment about their work, and that you’d love to (fill in the blank) interview them, take them to coffee, learn more about their process, or schedule a short phone call to connect.
Use it as an opportunity to learn something new. I promise you will!
Connecting is the first and most important step in networking for artists.
Don’t let the fear of looking silly or not being ‘ready’ interfere with big opportunities to make connections NOW and move your business forward.
Only reach out to
People that Interest You
Maybe this is obvious, but I think it’s worth putting on the list:
Only reach out to people that you are actually excited to talk to.
It’s better to send 10 genuine messages, then 50 messages to people who you are not all that jazzed about.
If you start working with someone who’s work you don’t respect, they will eventually catch on that you don’t really care and they won’t appreciate it or take you seriously.
Start by making a list of other artists or businesses that you really want to connect with. Also, take note of their success level and keep in mind that the more successful they are, the busier they will probably be, so you may not get a response right away, (if at all…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.)
Once you have that list, you can do some research and start drafting your messages.
More is More
Not everyone you reach out to is going to get back to you. That is just the cold, hard truth.
You’re going to get ignored. A lot. But you can’t take it personally (easier said than done, I know) and it just kind of comes with the territory.
However, it will be that ONE response you get from that person you never thought in a million years would get back to you that will make it all worth it.
The lesson here is to not just send one message. Send a few messages at a time. So when you get ignored 4 times, but get one excited response, you won’t care. Then you can put all your focus into that one connection.
I ignored this advice for years.
You always hear, “The fortune is in the follow up”, but what is that supposed to mean?
It means that if you reached out to someone and they didn’t respond, you need to reach out again.
I was always afraid of being annoying, but now as a person who is getting progressively worse at remembering to respond to emails, I understand.
People are busy.
People get a gajillion emails a day.
They probably opened your message and thought, “Oh, ok, hm, maybe…oh look, a butterfly!” …and then they’re back to work and all memory of your email is gone.
Sometimes they’ll respond and say thank you, but I’m really busy right now, maybe reach out in a few months.
Sometimes they’ll say, thanks, but no thanks.
And SOMETIMES they say, “Thank you for the reminder! I would love to meet up…etc” and then you’re in.
It just takes a minute, but it makes all the difference and it’s worth it.
In conclusion, if you are an artist of any level out there trying to 'make it', reaching out and networking with other artists will do wonders for boosting your art career.
It will make you more well rounded, more inspired, more motivated, grow your network, and honestly it's a lot of fun!
Networking and collaborating can be a game changer. It can be as simple as inviting someone you admire out for coffee.
You just never know when someone is looking to commission work, hire an artist, or looking to collaborate.
Now get out there and go send some emails!