Why business networking is good for artists

But I’m an artist, not a business person….!

I have been a glass artist for 11 years now and I’ll admit there are days when I would love to shout this phrase and hide in my studio – in my comfort zone – and do what I do best… making glass art!! I’m sure a lot of artists feel the same way. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and the reason we chose an artistic profession, was to be an artist, not a ‘business person,’ right?

Wrong! Here’s the harsh reality of it – you can be the best at what you do, but if nobody knows you, nobody sees your art, nobody understands how your kind of art can help them, where to find you, how to BUY it, how they might collaborate with you, how they could commission you for a nice juicy project…. then unfortunately, you will be a starving artist, not a thriving artist.

I know we want to be all ‘right brain’ and leave the business stuff to those ‘left brain’ types, but here’s the thing…. you are a micro-business and that means you need to use BOTH sides of your fabulous brain! Do not fear, because actually, many things that give businesses the edge and make them stand out from the crowd, are traits from the RIGHT side – things like creativity, intuition, holistic thinking & imagination, and together with the mastery of language from the left…. a winning combo!

We really do need both sides of our brain to be successful creative businesses

How can language help you?

Well, it’s not about speaking French, it’s about communication. It’s very tempting and convenient to rely completely on our social media platforms, where we can put up a fabulous picture of our work and talk about it through hashtags. But is that enough? We need to stop hiding behind our social media – we MUST learn to actually TALK to people – real people – face to face. Aaaaagh!

There is a crucial marketing mantra that ‘people buy from people they know, like and trust’. How will your potential customers and clients make their decision to buy from you when you are only hanging out with them ‘virtually’ on Instagram? Don’t get me wrong – your social media is critical to your marketing plan, but please don’t neglect the real-time networking with actual human adults (who are not just other artists).

But Networking is scary!

I know it’s a scary word, I feel your pain! It conjures up images of men in suits, passing around business cards doesn’t it? Actually, that’s what I feared too, not so long ago, so I avoided business networks like the plague, staying firmly in my bubble with other creatives and artists just like me! What do you think happened? I didn’t generate new business, I didn’t find new outlets for my work, commissions were few and far between and my sales were in decline. I can count on one hand, the amount of times another artist bought my work, so why did I believe that was the appropriate (and only) networking for me? Because it felt comfy! However, comfy doesn’t make you sales, and like it or not, art without sales, is not a sustainable place to be.

Oh look… the biggest circle is ‘Be Yourself’!

Wait though…. don’t panic, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Once I bit the bullet and pushed myself out into the business networking arena, things started to change. Initially I admit, I felt like the odd one out, an artist amongst ‘real businesses’ – my proposition seemed so far removed from what they all had to offer. But that’s exactly why they all wanted to talk to ME – because I was different. Each meeting became easier than the last – these people were actually very nice, supportive and interested in me and my work! My 60 second pitch started to flow and seem less awkward and embarrassing. My impostor syndrome grew smaller and I felt more confident.

I weedled out the groups that were not for me – for example, BNI was not my cup of tea at all, but my local Women in Business group and BBN felt like a second family! Because you are a creative person, your passion for your art will shine through, and importantly, you will get the opportunity to give everyone you meet, something they won’t get from Facebook or Twitter – a look into your eyes and therefore into your soul. That’s what they will take away and remember.

Expose yourself!

“art is not in the eye of the beholder, it’s in the soul of the artist”

Seth Godin

If this is true, then by exposing yourself & letting people see into your soul, it provides the shop window to your art! You can’t do this half as well if you don’t meet and talk to people in the flesh!

Did you know that in today’s terms, Micelangelo was a millionaire, but most people think of him as an impoverished artist – not so! Why? Because he was an artist, sculptor, poet, architect AND a business man – he knew the value of networking and making connections beyond his artistic bubble. He gained the biggest commissions of his day by building that ‘know, like and trust’ with influential patrons (as it was back then). Can you imagine the Pope trusting anyone he didn’t know, like and trust with the Sistine Chapel!?

The Last Judgement – Michelangelo

Don’t forget that each one of the people you talk to at a business networking event, who buy into your story because they MEET you for real, are connected to another whole bunch of people and so on and so on…. They will become your best advocates and that’s what will develop your ‘know, like & trust’, helping you make lasting, loyal, returning clients. After all, we are not putting in all this effort for a quick one-off sale, are we? You are not compromising your artistic integrity, or ‘selling out’ by becoming commercially successful – you are developing your business, which in turn allows you to develop your artistic practice. Yes, you ARE an artist, but you have to also be a business – otherwise you have one very expensive hobby!

Tip…

Look on Eventbrite for your local networks. There will be many at all times of the day, so you can choose a couple that suit your schedule and then just book them! Take a friend if you are nervous, see if you can persuade another artist in your bubble to try it too. Some networks have a free introductory session, some are pay-as-you-go so you can try it before you commit. Some include breakfast! What’s not to like? www.eventbrite.co.uk

PS – there are also invaluable networks full of lovely like-minded creatives and these will be a place of sharing and mutual understanding and nurturing our right brain stuff – but PLEASE push yourself out of that bubble and do the business stuff too – the business people need you!!

2 thoughts on “Why business networking is good for artists”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *