There are two really important and really simple interpersonal skills artists and creatives need for creating success for your art business.
While most days, we would like to think that we can hide out in our studios and be creative all day, the ability to build relationships and maintain communication are skills needed in today’s art world. This blog post will outline why these two skills are important and some tips on how to improve your communication skills.
1. Relationship Building
All industries operate based on relationships if you think about it. Working with galleries, collectors, clients and other people in the art world is essential to your success. While making art can sometimes be a single-person activity, the creative world we live in operates because of the people.
Mad about the corporate world? Does working with other people frustrate you? While working independently or in your own creative bubble may work for a while, if you are trying to build creative success, you will need to build relationships. Here is just a few examples of ways you will need to build relationships between people in and outside the art world for business success and sales. You will need to be able to:
- Converse about your work to customers to make a sale
- Hire someone to complete a project like documenting your work, legacy planning, or website development
- Reach out and pitch article ideas to press and publications
- Develop a relationship with a gallery that will consider future exhibition opportunities
- Creating a neighborly friendship with the people located in your studio building
While networking can sometimes feel like a dirty word, it’s essential to the art career just as much as it is for any other job. Rephrase the word networking into “relationship building” and “connection making.” There are very simple ways to touch base and maintain professional relationships., for example:
- Ask out a fellow artist for a cup of coffee to chat
- Congratulate others on their success, grant funding, or new work
- Invite collectors or super-fans to your studio for a private visit and behind the scenes tour without asking for sales
- Check-in with galleries who you work with, share and promote their shows even if it’s not your artwork
- Share links, provide advice, give opinions, etc. When its time to ask for help on your end, the people who you have supported and given to will show up for you
I recently dropped off artwork at a local gallery that had planned to sell my art in their gift shop. I had been later than usual on my correspondence and timing to drop everything off, and I felt bad I had not been so prompt.
Upon delivering the art and signing the new art contracts, I had been talking about the business of art and what it takes to manage an art career to the Gallery Director. This lead to talking about the proper way to work with galleries. The Gallery Director then told me that in all the artists who she contacted from the gift shop that she needed to get in touch with, I had been the only one to respond and come in. I was shocked!
Communication is so important! In a time of the digital age, where everything is so instant, viral, and overwhelming, it’s still really important to communicate. Here are some specific communication tips to help with your creative business:
- Responding to someone to let them know you received an email, a package, some content, etc. This is especially great when you can say, I received what you have sent but will get back to you by Tuesday. This lets people know that you are keeping the communication lines open and provide a timeline for when they should expect a response or answer.
- When responding late to some communication or correspondence, do not start out apologizing for your late response. Do not go into details about how busy you are or why you didn’t respond. Everyone is busy, everyone has other obligations, so save it. Instead, thank them for being patient and get on with responding.
- Touch base, always take a moment to reach out and connect with the person you are communicating with to touch base and clear things up if you are unsure, this approach helps make sure you are both on the same page and can save valuable time.
- A quick phone call, believe it or not, can ease tension, or clear things up really quick!
- Millennials! I know we would rather text or email, but the other generations prefer the phone. Learning the ways other people prefer to communicate and using that mode, can help relationship building.
- If you are worried about using your personal phone for business purposes, think about using a Google Number to help screen calls. Then you can publicly list your Google phone number for your creative business but have the ability to screen calls, read voicemails, and messages from a different number from your personal one.
- When you are having a difficult time with communication, sometimes email is the preferred method. Then all of the communication is in writing and you can refer back to specific lines of communication, notes, or other details to help smooth things out.
- When miscommunication happens, it’s best to just own it! Positioning yourself in a mode of “How can we clear this up?” or apologizing for your part of the miscommunication can help transition you out of conflict and into taking positive action. Don’t get defensive.
- If you say you are going to do something, do it! Follow-through is so important!
- While owning your miscommunication is important when it happens, if you continually have issues with someone else, or if they are not responding to you, it’s time to move on. Someone not promptly responding or communicating may not be the type of person to collaborate with or to work with.
- Be polite in your emails, take the time to write out the person’s name and add a subject and write at least one line of text in the body.
- Emails that are sent with the subject line being the entire email are short and rude. Some email recipients will open the email and not see a message and not realize the subject line is the correspondence.
- If you are finding that you are having a hard time responding to your emails because you read them but don’t respond, or you let them pile up, it’s time to find an email management system. You may need to consider a different email program, using Daily Roll up to consolidate the numerous emails you get, or Inbox Zero to help create a system.
To build relationships, you need to communicate, and through communicating you build a relationship (even if it’s just a business or professional relationship). If something in your career is stopping you from achieving your goals, take a look at these important interpersonal skills and evaluate if you can improve these.