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A guide to networking for artists and creatives

Portrait of Symposia author Colin Fisher
Colin Fisher

Mar 24, 2022

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Prospective artists and designers must step out of their comfort zones by contacting local artists and more established figures within the arts. The stronger your industry's ties are early on, the better.

Damien Hirst, the artist-entrepreneur, spent many years going to London parties and private viewings single-mindedly. Of course, this method of raising your profile may not be suitable for everyone, but there is a lot of truth in art director Paul Arden's claim that 'It's not what you know, it's who you know.'

Many people believe that their talent is all it takes to get them noticed and rewarded. However, this is far from the case in today's market. Self-promotion is critical.

It's akin to finding the right people at the appropriate moment and being championed by influential individuals. Your skills and talent are only part of the equation.

This article explains how to make business networking plans a reality by going out and meeting possible collectors, clients, and customers.

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The importance of networking for artists

Networking often has a negative reputation. This is mainly because it's uncomfortable to do and turns many artists to find it ingenuine and against the spirit of artmaking. Your creative network is how you learn about the art world, get help, and obtain employment for a creative career.

Consider networking opportunities as a process of creating a network or building deeper friendships. You may reach out to various connections for assistance, just as you might call on different people in your network.

  • Get recommended to curators and exhibitions.
  • Get art career or personal support, and Find out how the art world works.
  • Discuss art and get feedback on your artwork.
  • Friends to attend previews, exhibitions, and events with.
  • People to collaborate with on projects.
Showing an online portfolio to meet people

Networking tips after graduating from art school

Many artists find it exciting and frightening to graduate from art school. You're moving into a new domain with which you may be unfamiliar and where you may not have many contacts. In the same thread, returning to an art career after a break can be similar in that you may have lost touch with prior contacts.

Close ties to your peer group are essential to your success. Stay in touch or get in touch, follow up with what they are doing, attend their openings. Be generous and support one another.

If you're bravely deciding to relocate to a new city after graduating, make new acquaintances by going to evening classes or joining local companies or art groups.

Networking online vs. in-person

With email, Zoom, and social media, it is possible to maintain and build connections with new friends worldwide without much work. However, the virtual world can never match the advantages you may have in real life.

As the covid19 pandemic begins to ease. Events in real life are more critical than ever. Though there still are relatively few occasions when you have the chance to encounter other artists and renowned creators. There may be only a brief window of opportunity to catch a potential contact's attention. As a result, be ready before going to any fair, exhibition, event, private showing, or industry conferences.

Some networking tips

  • Attend events and meet up with other artists regularly.
  • Have photos of art on your phone or in a small portfolio.
  • Move from person to person or group to group.
  • Take notes about your interactions on your phone as a memory aid.
  • Be sure to follow up with a private message to new connections on social networks or LinkedIn.
Avoiding time consuming networking with new people

How to navigate networks

Unfortunately, this is a severe problem in the art and design sector. I've met several incredible artists and designers who can't make ends meet. It's not always adequately highlighted at school how crucial it is to interact with others, particularly to found or join an influential movement or collective.

Remember that for your creative work and products to be recognized, you must first believe they are as great as those getting all of the attention. There's a lot of luck and perseverance involved in finding constructive criticism about your art from more experienced people than you.

No visual artist or designer achieved success without first listening to others and modifying their work based on criticism. It's also true that no one should be overly reliant on social media to find their voice, but it is also correct to say that no one should be too scared to use it.

Use a professional email address and social handle

Free email services like Gmail don't convey a professional image or build trust. When transitioning from the personal sector to an art business, it's critical to take yourself seriously and create a professional-looking email address, online portfolio, blog, and social handle.

Art school is a great place to start

If you're a student, you might find essential connections through your instructors in the art and commercial realms, such as art dealers, directors, and critics. Make an effort not to get into a conflict with any of your professional connections; word of mouth is the most frequent method to get work.

Identify key players in the art business

Make a study of your area. Learn who the agents, agencies, dealers, art directors, buyers, critics, journalists, and stylists are and how to contact them so you can collaborate with them. How will you get anywhere if you don't know who they are?

It's possible to gain work experience by assisting well-known artists and designers in their offices, design companies, or businesses. Avoid being taken advantage of; what you must do is discover methods to pique people's curiosity so that they can assist your career or promote your work.

Networking with friends and great conversation among artwork

Get yourself invited

Make an effort to be added to as many directories, Facebook groups, newsfeeds, and professional mailing lists as possible. If you're not on the list of invites, it's worth trying to show up at events.

Get an introduction to people in the art world.

Use connections to your advantage. Attempt to meet someone through an event or an email from a colleague, tutor, or friend. It's easier to catch people's attention if you're approved by someone they know well or trust. Even a social media introduction may be beneficial.

Artist collectives and artist-led spaces

Artists are more likely to find opportunities through other artists. For example, if an artist is represented by a gallery and that gallery is looking for new work, the first place they usually go to for advice on who's up-in-coming is by asking an artist they already represent. An art community like a local art group is your key to success in the art world.

Galleries, art directors, and other art professionals are always keen on discovering new talent. Their endorsement will get your foot in the door. Joining or being a part of an artist collective is one way to get your work out there.

Research art collectives in your area, attend an open studio day and introduce yourself to artists there. You'll be amazed by the world of opportunities that will open to you having personal connections to artists in your area.

Critique groups

Getting feedback on your work from artists is an excellent opportunity to learn how others perceive your work and what they take from it.

As the work's creator, we may typically overlook some of its most apparent features. We might miss many finer details since we are so close to it. This sort of feedback is extremely helpful in generating new ideas for development, establishing connections, and inspiring further projects.

Maintain a professional presence as if it's business networking

At networking events, being professional and succinct counts. This is precisely where impressions are made and conversations happen.

This doesn't mean wearing a suit and a tie to a social function as an art opening, but being aware of your body language and keeping a professional attitude will show others that you take a career in the arts seriously. If you want to have a serious career in the arts, show that you have a sincere interest in your future in the art world.

Some networking tips

  • Be confident but not cocky. It's essential to believe in your work and yourself, but you don't want to be arrogant.
  • Keep your word and follow through on commitments. If you say, you're going to be there, attend or give advance notice if something comes up. Your reputation is everything in the art world, and if word gets around that you're unreliable, it will be challenging to overcome.
  • Be patient. The art world can move quite slowly, and it may take some time before you see any results from your efforts. Keep at it, and don't give up.
  • Stay positive. In a field as competitive as art, you need to keep your head up and stay focused on your goals. Remember why you became an artist in the first place, and allow that passion to keep you going.
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Make a great first impression by always appearing professional. This means being aware of your body language and attitude, and following through on your commitments.

How to speak at networking events

Public speaking is difficult, especially if you're single and don't know anyone. It's just a question of practice to conquer nerves and start conversations with individuals if you're alone. If possible, go to events with a buddy; it will help ease any discomfort.

When others look at a painting or product, it's an excellent time to approach them. Ask what the viewer thinks or make an intriguing remark, and they will respond.

Consider what you want people to remember about you and your work. If you are physically in front of your work when talking about it, you can be specific about the piece people are looking at. People are often curious about the thinking and process behind a piece.

Try to avoid generic small talk, tell your own story, and give them insight. Also, remember that this is a conversation, so make it reciprocal; ask questions about the other person, what they think, and what they do.

Not all individuals will respond favorably to technical jargon, dense artistic thinking, or theory. Please talk about your creative work so that it isn't aggravating customers by talking over their heads.

Virtual networking and showcasing

Although it's crucial to utilize social media or an online resource to network or present artwork and services, this isn't a silver bullet technique for meeting people.

It's worth noting that some people find it challenging to connect with other people over social media. Make a call and talk to an existing contact for a change.

Develop a self-critical eye

Many designers, artists, and photographers display way too many photos online. Poor editorial decision-making might lead to difficulties during interviews or while working on creative briefs.

A two-to-five-page PDF with three to nine recent pieces, a brief resume, contact information, and a website address is enough.

Some tips

  • Before posting your work online, think carefully about how it represents your practice.
  • Make the best impression by cutting your work down to its finest.
  • Verify that all pictures are of excellent quality.
  • Make sure that photos are linked to one another as a collection or body.
  • It is not good to throw away something old simply because it's old.
  • Remember that the vast majority of your audience will be seeing these images for the first time, don't assume they have seen your work before.
Working on an elevator speech for new opportunities

When is the right time to follow up?

When following up with a new connection after a networking event, it's important to be timely. Generally, follow up the day after the event. Send a personalized email rather than a generic one if you've spoken to someone and gotten their contact information.

If you haven't spoken to anyone or gotten any contact information, it's best to post something on social media. Thanking the event host and tagging the venue (or the host if they are in a photo) is a courteous way to follow up.

Remember the details

It's also essential to be specific when following up. If you're emailing someone you spoke to, remind them who you are and what you talked about. This will help jog their memory and make them more likely to respond.

This is why it's essential to take notes about what you remember when talking with them at the networking event, even just on your phone.

Using an elevator speech to get advice on networking

Ask For an In-Person Meeting

When you attend an artist networking event, ask for an in-person meeting with the people you met. This allows you to learn more about them and their work and exchange ideas.

Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and would love to continue the conversation in person. Set a specific date and time, rather than a general "lunch sometime." Try saying: "How's Wednesday afternoon for lunch (at a casual place near their office).

Don't be afraid to follow up multiple times

It can often take several attempts to get a response, especially if you're emailing someone very busy. If it was an event on the weekend, follow up on Monday morning, then again on Wednesday, and finally very briefly on Friday. If you don't hear back after a few attempts, it might be time to move on.

Social media and online exhibition spaces

There are now hundreds of social networking sites, exhibit spaces, and online events and galleries. However, keep the following in mind:

  • Who is viewing these sites and networks?
  • Who decides what goes into these internet sites, boutiques, or portfolios?
  • Is there anything you'll be selling?
  • Is it the best fit for you?

It's challenging to know what you should do if your photos aren't showing up on Google. Try posting them on high-profile, reputable showcasing or agency websites. Spend little time promoting yourself and your items on poorly constructed websites or lack editorial discernment or quality control.

It's also worth noting that social media platforms come and go, and they may not always be the best platform to build your network.

Networking with friends talking about business

Conclusion and final thoughts

Artists or designers must get their work out there and connect with people in their industry. You never know who might be looking for new collaborations, commissions, or projects. It's essential to get your work in front of as many people as possible, but be strategic. Quality is always better than quantity. By reaching out to local artists or designers, and more established figures within the arts, you'll be taking the first steps to a thriving art career.

  1. Get out of the studio and build your network, start with building relationships with contacts you already have, and focus on connections with artists.
  2. Attend events, meet new people regularly, and follow up with them on social media, email, or LinkedIn.
  3. The quality, not quantity, is critical for your contacts, networking efforts, and the work you share.
  4. Take the time to produce the best possible impression with your work and who you are as a creative person.
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