Artists and Designers Networking Guide: Part 2 in this series focuses on practical advice that you can do right now to meet other artists. Jump to the other posts about networking:
- Part 1: How to Get Started
- Part 2: Practical Tips
- Part 3: How to Follow Up
- Part 4: How Gratitude Maintains Connection
We looked into how to get started with networking in the first part of this guide and what that really means. I can summarize that post in saying that real and practical networking means to forget about the word “networking” and start concentrating on having real quality relationships. If you have relationships with friends, family, and former coworkers where you’ve already established that you’re freely giving and receiving without pressure. You’re more focused on helping rather than receiving. One of the many parts of your friendship may just be professional or work related, though it isn’t the focus of your connection with any of them.
In the first part, I also introduced social networking’s role in maintaining and creating real life connections. There is an art in conversation to avoid being too pushy or too focused on yourself. You never know what your online interactions will lead to. Here’s a random example of how interacting with Baltimore Magazine’s Facebook page led to my little gem of a comment being printed:
I’m being very practical here because I think this such a vastly misunderstood topic. For part two, I wanted to focus on some real actionable tips that you can do today and everyday. You won’t be able to do all of these every day, though if you create these as frequent habits, you won’t think about the word “networking” much at all. You’ll just live life surrounded by people you care about and who you would help and perhaps could help you.Help people when you have nothing to gain.
How to talk to anyone
The key to talking to anyone is to focus on the other person when possible. I recently listened to the audiobook How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes and that the author’s main advice. How many conversations have you found where you didn’t feel that you were truly listened to? This is a gift we can give others that will help them see that we are their friend. I believe that the trick to focusing on others is becoming truly interested. Find what’s interesting about what they’re saying and lead the conversation there. Give them your undivided attention.
If they ask questions about you, feed their curiosity to do so. This shows that you’re listening and want to give them the information that they desire.
Dress the part.
Dress up, wear something that you feel confident in and feel special. Wear something special that people might even ask about so you won’t always be the one approaching them.
Ask for advice.
Others appreciate being seen as an expert, so ask them questions about what they’d recommend you do. This still keeps the focus on the artist and their event rather than making it about you. When asking for advice, try to focus on you’re asking them what you can do for yourself rather than asking for favors. Rather than ask for their help, ask how you can help yourself.
Focus on what you can do for them.
If an opportunity to help others and be a good friend arises, offer. Don’t be pushy. An offer that is turned down easily is seen as sincere! So even “rejection” is an opportunity to show that you’re helpful. You might ask if they have a website. If not and it’s something they want, you can offer to help them build one. Or let them know about a great service that is low maintence.
Be careful about monopolizing time.
Offer to let others out of a conversation if it feels you’ve been talking for a while. This is also a chance to offer to continue the conversation another time. If a phone number sounds more personal than the conversation would allow, ask if they have a website or Twitter or Facebook.
Avoid being so overly prepared that you are just trying to talk about your talking points. Allow the other person to share the direction conversation. Be interested
Send a thank you.
Feel free to contact the artist via social media or even exchange contact information if the conversation is intense enough.
How to Visit Art Galleries
If you’re near a city or even a fairly well populated area, you’ll have many local art galleries who are open to provide a service to the art community. Galleries have free events, art receptions, and concerts. This is a perfect setting for artists and designers to practice your skills, meet other creatives and talk about your art. The people who attend are already interested in the same things as you. Not only that, you’ll be able to see work to inspire you! I visit the local art galleries whenever I’m in a new town or city. If all else fails, t’s free entertainment.
Here’s an art gallery I visited in Chicago when I was there for a wedding that also sold vinyl, prints and posts from concerts. I had a great conversation about the staff and learned a little bit about the city and the area while I was there. Nothing forced, just natural conversation asking whatever I was curious about.
Show up at art openings and events. Dont expect too much, just brief conversations. Think of this as practice and play Otherwise just enjoy the art! Ask the artist questions about their art, focus entirely on them. Inevitably they may ask a little bit about you, use the chance to have two or three sentences about your artwork. Then gently focus back on them. Stay positive and focus on what you like or love. It may be their sense of color or even their bravery for simply being there
Talk with the gallery owner and staff. They tend to be very passionate about visual work, have a rich background, and a lot of inspiration and advice to give. You might be interested to know about the history of the space, how they decided to be in this career path, or to know what other events they have planned.
Share and talk on social media. Promote the events and shows you think are interesting, just like you do with your favorite restaurant or with other parts of your day. When you visit, take photos for instagram, tweet about the show, and connect.
Respond to call for artists. Make art and submit to any open calls that interest you. This one isn’t just for artists. Graphic designers take note that many designers create work for shows. If you illustrate or design something interesting, submit it to a show.
How to Volunteer
Look for volunteer work related to art, design or even other unrelated interests. This is a way to meet new people, introduce yourself as an artist. I play piano and often when I was in college would play piano at gallery openings. See my post on why you’d want to be a design volunteer for a more thorough explanation on how to gain work experience, portfolio pieces, education, confidence and friends through volunteer work.
How to Interact with Art Organizations
Find the local art and design organizations in your area. You can volunteer with your local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, without becoming a member. Many formal and informal organizations post to Craigslist and MeetUp.com with various art related activities as well. A simple google search for local events will give you a ton of ideas about what you can do.
How to Take Classes
They offer classes at galleries, art supply stores at a variety of local businesses. Anywhere you can go and see the same people more frequently will encourage more connection building. Once people are familiar with your face, you’re more likely to easily strike a conversation with them. Even if it’s to say “Hey, we’ve been in this class for a few weeks and haven’t talked! You seem really good at this!”
How to Freelance
Using freelance and paid side projects can be a great way to network and make money while doing it. Look for companies and organizations with a need and see what you can offer them. This is another place where the local Craigslist comes in handy as well as the major freelance sites.
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.