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Networking Tips for Artists
by Barbara Markoff, Artrageous!

In this down economy, conventional markets and advertisings such as ads in yellow pages or direct mailings may not actually work to enable a steady stream of business for artists, gallery owners, and others in art related businesses.

Are you networking regularly? If not, you are most likely missing out on a huge opportunity to increase your business. In networking situations you surround yourself with influential members of the business community and keep yourself in the spotlight. The key to networking is to be involved by attending regular meetings and functions and by helping others.

This method of doing business is based on business friendships that are maintained and nurtured in a way very similar to personal friendships. Business friends help each other out by providing information, leads, referrals, sources, and problem solving. By positioning yourself as a networking individual, constantly meeting new people in the business community, you are building a network of influential individuals who will not only use your business but refer their business friends to you. It takes time to cultivate new relationships, but through networking you can increase your business exponentially.

Each business friend you make comes with a network of their own contacts (typically up to 200 people). Grow these friendships based on trust, mutual admiration, and respect and your access to new networks will unfold. Not all of these people need your products or services, but by constantly adding new business friends you are leveraging yourself into being on the receiving end of referrals.

Think of it this way: If a collector needs a painting for their home or office and they want your artwork but need someone to frame it, you are in position to make a recommendation. The framer may then recommend you to someone who is looking for art of your style. You can recommend a sculptor to someone who needs a 3-D work. That sculptor may then recommend you to someone who needs a painting.

Your influence is being spread through many business networks. The more business networking you do, the better your odds of someone referring business to you. The more business you refer to people you know, the more they refer business to you. It is a simple concept; you can never have enough business friends. While you are fine tuning your networking skills, it can also be a lot of fun, a way to socialize and make friends and a way to give back to the community.

Here are some tips for successful networking:

  • Join one or more networking groups where you have the exclusive spot in the category of art. This will block out your competition and allow others to focus on helping you promote your art business. Networking groups include: BNI (Business Networking International), Le Tip, Chamber of Commerce, Urban League and The Executives of San Diego.  For more groups and networking events read the San Diego Business Journal.
  • Show up and show up prepared. Bring business cards and be informative about what is happening in your business community. But remember, it is more important to get business cards from others than to hand out your own. Be sure to follow up with the contacts you make.
  • Communicate well. Be able to describe who you are and what you have to offer in a short period of time. This description should include ways that you provide value. The more value you provide, the more people will want you in their network.
  • Spend time talking to people you do not know. Take a genuine interest in people before you ask them to take an interest in you. Look for common ground to establish rapport. Remember, it is a give and take relationship. The more you give, the more you will receive.
  • Volunteer to help with community events if you do not have time to commit to a networking group. You will meet leaders in the community through charitable and nonprofit causes (like the San Diego Visual Arts Network!).
  • Be resourceful and giving and do not expect immediate results. Be patient and willing to help others. For example, send newspaper clippings, acknowledge press releases, articles, awards, or other accomplishments on behalf of people in your network.
  • Remember it is not about who you know. It is about who knows you and your capabilities. So be yourself, be honest, and be real. Have fun, and do not take this all so seriously. People want to do business with people they like.

Barbara Markoff is a corporate art consultant and co-owner of Artrageous! (5350-A Eastgate Mall, SD, 92121). She is a nationally recognized writer for the art and framing industry and teaches at the West Coast Art and Framing Conference on the subjects of Networking and Art Consultation. Her writing is regularly published in Picture Framing Magazine. As a leading expert in the field of art consultation, Barbara develops art programs that reflect solid corporate identities and promote positive work environments. She represents artists in all media. Ms. Markoff has partnered with author John Klymshyn to offer coaching and sales training to art business people. For more info: 858-452-7280.

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