Networking to grow your art business

In the age of social media and native advertising, it’s easy to forget about the power of networking to take your art business to the next level.

Something for nothing

As I’ve started to focus on networking I’ve found immediate benefits. Most of the sales that I make result from direct communication with influencers in the area of services to artists.

Recently, I had the privilege of working in the co-working space at Brick and Mortar Creative. This opportunity came about because of networking and also provided additional chances for growing my community and connecting with people that I wouldn’t normally have contact with.

Tucked away behind the Norwood Town Hall in Adelaide, Australia, Brick + Mortar is part department store stocked exclusively with South Australian made product, part all-day cafe, an arts venue for exhibitions, creative workshops, and events, and a co-working space for creative entrepreneurs. And that's where I fit in.

Over the week that I was working there I met a number of artists (hi Sylvy, hi Josh), had in-depth conversations with colleagues about the common challenges of an art business, and, promoted Brick and Mortar to my wider community and had them do the same for me. A co-working space like Brick and Mortar Creative is networking on steroids and I loved it.

One of the key principles of any networking is to provide value to your colleagues without expecting anything in return. This principle has definitely been in play in my networking. I am able to promote colleagues to my Twitter community. This is real value and gives concrete leads to those that I promote. While I was working in the co-working space at Brick and Mortar they did the same for me on their Instagram feed. Over the week I saw a huge growth in my Instagram followers.

Growing your art business

As I was starting Follow Magazine I was focused on product development. That’s the creative, fun stuff. What do I want to make and how do I make it? It involves research, play, and experimentation. I didn’t do much networking because I didn’t really know who else was operating in the space I was working in. And I was crazy busy!

Now that I’ve settled into the rhythm of creating and publishing a magazine I’ve started to make time for other businessy type things like networking. Networking is all about meeting other people in your field. Simply by meeting your art business family you can:

•    Learn what their challenges are and how they are overcoming those challenges.

•    Find out how they are generating leads.

•    Support each other by sharing war stories.

•    Pass on contact details for other businesses and services that you have found useful.

Jumping hurdles.

The thing with sport and track events like the hurdles is that it’s not natural. This is a contrived sport where you run along a lane and jump over the objects in your way. There are coaches and techniques and ‘the right way to do things’. This is exactly like having an art business. Promoting art is not natural. Artists find it difficult and need to learn how to do it.

When you get together with other people who are producing the sort of creative work that you’re producing and selling it to a similar audience to you, you have the chance to learn about their techniques. You can learn about their challenges and how they are overcoming those challenges. You can find out how they do things and share the techniques that you’ve found to work.

Using the Force

There is so much advice out there about how you can generate leads and build your business but how do you know what works and what doesn’t? It sometimes seems like all of the information out there is actually designed to distract you from your goal of building a solid art business, that you have to have secret knowledge to actually make headway. Networking helps you access that secret knowledge. You can use the force.

 A super useful resource I’ve come across recently is Creative Web Biz. Yamile from Creative Web Biz talks about #ArtistEntrepreneurSyndrome. This is what happens when you don’t know where to focus your energy and you end up chasing your own tail trying to get ahead. Yamile has great advice on how to avoid #ArtistEntrepreneurSyndrome. As well as taking a look at her suggestions I recommend getting along to a networking event and asking how other artists generate leads. Do they find new customers on Facebook, through word of mouth or by having a stack of business cards at the local neighborhood centre? Sharing and learning is what this is all about.

The customer from HELL!

We’ve all had that one customer that made us question our whole life and reason for being. Hanging out with other artists is the place you can spill all that pent up frustration with having to deal with the public. It’s a common experience and there’s no need to battle it on your own.

It’s amazing how much of a boost it is to find out that someone else has had a similar experience to you. By sharing war stories you are giving yourself permission to deal with the tough times and to give you energy for getting on with the job. Did I just imply that customers are the enemy? That’s not what I meant but we all know that you will get the odd customer that makes your life very difficult. Share the story, share the journey.

Grow your Service Directory

It can be difficult to find the right person for the job – whatever that job is. The reality is that other people in your industry have already done the research and have the experience of hiring contractors or using the exact same services that you’re looking for. Share your experiences, good and bad, with your colleagues, and they will do the same for you. Everyone gets to grow their service directory with products and services that have been pretested by someone else.

Thanks for reading. Now get out there and get networking!

If you have any tips for great networking ideas leave them in the comments below.

Follow Magazine is a bimonthly journal available on the App Store and Google Play. It is full of interviews with artists about how they make their businesses work. Subscribe now to turbocharge your art business.