Networking for artists is a topic I am particularly passionate about. When I started my original artists’ business, I invested the time (and sometimes money) into building a solid base. I went to regular business (yes, not artists) networking events at all times of the day; from breakfasts to evening functions.

The saying goes: “Your Network = Your Net Worth” and I would agree.

Conquer your basic fears about going out and meeting new people, having to introduce yourself and explain that hideous sentence: ‘So, what do you do?’ You will find that most people are nice and easy to talk with and you might even make some new friends!

So I thought I would share some of the basic tips and tricks to networking for artists I have learnt over the years.

Networking For Artists: Top 13 Tips To Get Started

1: Always have your art business cards with you.

This is fundamental, how many times have you been somewhere, got chatting and then reached into your bag or pocket to discover you don’t have your cards with you? It’s very easy these days to get a small card holder and then you can keep a few with you at all times. I’ve often even given them out at supermarket check-outs, tube stations, restaurants and at dinner parties.

Action: If you don’t yet have an Art Business Card, then get a very simple one done ASAP.

2: Set a realistic goal for how many people you will talk to at each event.

This is another one of my favourite tips, you must be clear why you are going to a particular event. In my experience having the ‘we’ll see’ attitude will produce ‘we’ll see’ results! I like to go for two reasons; the first is to help other people get what they most want (be that a resource or connection of some sort), and the second is to meet new people that may be interested in what I offer at some point, either now or in the future. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to speak to everyone, just set a goal of 3 to 5 people.

3: Build rapport with each person.

This is the most important place to start really, make sure you gain rapport with the person you are speaking to, really connect to them. So many times I see someone ‘talking at’ another member of the event and not noticing that the receiver has switched off some time ago. Be aware of the other person and have their best interests at heart.

4: Be the ‘host’ not the ‘guest’ – ask lots of questions.

If you spend 80% of the time focused on the other person and 20% on communicating your message then this is about right. Imagine you are the host at your own party, you would want to make sure the other person is quite at home – so think ‘host’, not ‘guest’. If you find yourself feeling nervous your first tie, then walking confidently around the room (as if it’s your event), can really help. Then spot a group of 3 people and go over and say hello.

Tip: If you approach 2 people talking then might be in the middle of something, whereas starting in a group of 3, gives the easy chance of a 2 and 2…

5: Ask the ‘W’ questions – who, what, why, when, where.

Now you want to find out as much as possible about the other person and their business, who do they want to meet what are their needs, why are they at the event, when do they want to achieve certain goals, and where do they want to be in the future. I love these simple questions – great fun. You can also just start with: ‘Where about are you from?’ or ‘What brings you to this event today?’…

6: Be genuinely interested in the other person.

Take a real interest in the person you are talking to, because you just may be able to put them in touch with the very person they need and this is such a great feeling. Think ‘helpfulness’. Make sure this is genuine, so try not to have an ulterior motive; if you give unselfishly it will come back to you ten-fold.

Remember you are building a network of friends and possible collaborators, not looking for someone there to buy your art!! Business is all about people…J.

7: Be helpful – offer a referral, lead, contact number where possible.

See if you can offer a referral, some helpful information, a contact etc. When you get back to your home or studio, make sure to follow this up straight away if you couldn’t do it at the event. Imagine for a moment if everyone in the room was operating like this – how much value would be gained?

8: Describe your business in 30 seconds in an interesting memorable way.

When it is your turn to speak, make sure you are engaging, succinct and memorable! Think about the benefits that you offer – so when someone asks that dreaded question: What do you do? You don’t answer it with: “I’m an Artist” (Dancer/Writer/Photographer/Potter – you get the idea), as this is always a conversation stopper.

Try: “I help new home-owners to enhance their fresh walls with original abstract contemporary oil on canvas artworks”. (Yes that’s mine new one).

With the first option, you are likely to be met with silence as the person tries to think of another question; imagine the second one – this begs the question: “Tell me more about that…”

9: Exchange business cards with everyone you meet.

This is a basic one, but sometimes people just forget to this! You’ve had an interesting conversation and then you move to somebody else and have got home without their contact details!

10: Write notes & dates on each business card.

This is a very useful tip I learnt from someone years ago. Write notes on all the cards you get, that way you have a reference point when looking back at them! Sometimes people’s cards don’t have any reminders (not like artists who usually have their work) or visuals that will serve as a reminder.

11: Follow up all contacts.

To be honest if you don’t do this then there is simply not any point in networking at all!  Just send a short email, find them and follow on Social Media. Or better still a short call to say how nice it was to meet and that you look forward to the next time. Think about whether you could even arrange a coffee follow-up. It’s here I made the very best connections, as we had a chance to get to know each other’s businesses in a deeper way. The fortune is in the follow-up they say.

12: Build friend-ships – don’t try and sell at people you’ve only just met!

I think the biggest mistake most people make is to open up with: “My name is..” and proceed to sell you their product or service! Are you likely to buy this way? Extremely unlikely. In fact, how do you feel when someone behaves like that? I often feel invaded or put off all together. Remember that ‘dating’ analogy I am always talking about. You wouldn’t expect a marriage proposal on the first date, so don’t do that with your business.

Start to build up business friendships, so when you see them the next time, you can continue gaining clarity on what it is they do. I’ve heard a lot of people say – “Oh there’s not much point going to X event as it’s all the same people”. This is exactly what good networking is all about!

Remember: People buy from people they know, like and trust – your ONLY aim with networking for artists is to build up connections, the rest will follow later.

13: Build your Mailing List…

With their permission, anyone who says they are at all interesting in hearing more about what you do, or is happy to stay in touch; you can then add to your Mailing List. Make sure you tell them they can unsubscribe at any point.

Not sure about Email Marketing? Check out my article here…

So, I now hope you are inspired to fin local events and go there yourself. Why not find a friend to go with you? If you are here in Perth, WA, you are most welcome to get in touch and attend something with me. Networking for artists is a vital part of building your professional Art Business.