9 Networking Tips for Successful Visual Artists
Updated June 24, 2022
Visual artists create pieces in a range of media, including photography, paint and sculpture. They often rely on gallery exhibitions and individual commissions to support them as they work. If you want to develop your career as an artist, learning effective networking skills can help you find opportunities and attract buyers for your artwork. In this article, we explain why networking is important for artists and provide nine networking tips to help you meet your career goals.
Why is networking important for artists?
Networking can be a valuable tool for an artist as they develop their career. Skills in networking can help a working artist with:
Building a following
One way artists can have a successful career is by building a following of people who enjoy their work. These people might buy pieces, commission special works, share information with friends or promote the artist on social media. Some artists leverage their popularity into contracts with retail companies and other brands. Networking can expose your work to a wider audience, allowing you to attract followers and fans.
Building a strong artistic network can help you find out about new galleries, shows and other opportunities to display your work. Different types of networking activities can help you find a wide range of opportunities. For example, artists' groups on social networking sites often have information about current or future exhibitions that are accepting submissions. You might also join a local artist support group, where you can build relationships with the owners of coffee shops or permanent galleries in your area.
Artists often work together to create new pieces or host exhibits, so building a network can help you connect with fellow artists who might have the same goals as you. For example, joining a local artists' collective might allow you to meet lots of other local artists. If you're a sculptor, you might meet other sculptors who are interested in a group exhibition at a local gallery, coffee shop or outdoor venue. Working with other artists who share your vision or media can give you the benefit of their networking skills, along with your own.
Related: FAQ: How Much Can Artists Make?
9 networking tips for artists
Here are nine strategies you can use to improve your networking skills as an artist:
1. Build a database of connections
During your networking activities, you might meet a variety of people, including investors, patrons, art enthusiasts, professors and fellow artists. Keeping a database of contact information can help you locate a specific person's contact information quickly. Create a spreadsheet for your contacts, including their name, position, contact information and any other relevant details. Consider sorting your spreadsheet into categories. For example, you might have separate sections for fellow artists, venue managers and potential clients, all in a single file. When you return from an event, add the information from any business cards or fliers you receive to your database.
2. Submit art to diverse venues
Submitting work to a wide range of institutions can ensure that your pieces get more exposure, enlarging your network of clients and fans. While traditional galleries can be excellent places for an artist to get exposure, it can be difficult to get a gallery spot when you're starting your career. Consider other venues, like craft fairs and community center exhibits. Local coffee shops and restaurants often hang artwork by local artists on their walls and allow patrons to purchase pieces. If you see artwork hanging in one of these venues, ask the employees how to submit pieces for purchase.
3. Keep a current online portfolio
A formal portfolio with a selection of your work can show potential clients and partners your style and skill as an artist. There are many online portfolio sites where you can create a professional art portfolio for free or for a small fee. The way you display your art might depend on your medium. For example, if you're a sculptor, your portfolio might feature photos of your completed works from every angle, plus detailed images of specific design elements. Include your contact information and details about your commission fees on your portfolio page so potential clients can contact you.
4. Talk to visitors at your events
If you get the opportunity to feature your work at a college show, gallery exhibition or another venue, attend the opening and engage with people who come to see your work. Because many art shows feature multiple artists, you can draw on other artists' social networks. For example, an art buyer might come to a gallery of local artists to support one artist and find a new sculptor or painter to support as well. Stand or sit by your artwork and answer questions from viewers who might want to know about how you made the piece or what motivated you.
5. Build connections with other artists
Artistic communities can be very effective networking tools because you can find new collaborators and learn about opportunities in your area. These art groups might meet in person or over social media. To find a group of artists in your area, you can search online or contact local community centers and libraries. Along with opportunities for collaboration, artist groups often provide mentorship services and allow members to find support and resources to help them in their careers.
6. Use social media
Along with a formal online portfolio, you might create social media accounts for your artwork. Using a social media platform can help you engage with potential buyers and artist communities. One benefit of social media is that you can use it to post content that might not fit on your formal portfolio, like process videos or sketches. By employing multiple media formats, you can build an online following that can increase your commission rate and even help you get gallery space. On your social media accounts, provide links to your portfolio and any online marketplaces that host your work.
7. Create a narrative
It might be helpful to rehearse a few short speaking points about your art style, philosophy and process, so you can introduce yourself effectively at events. By creating an engaging narrative, you can connect with potential clients and make yourself memorable, which might increase your exposure. To craft your speaking points, think about why you became an artist and what drives you to create your pieces. Identify your art's major themes, subjects and intended audience and explain what makes your art unique. Consider using a journal to write down your narrative so you can remember it easily.
8. Use business cards
Business cards are an easy and effective way to give your contact information to potential clients and other contacts. As an artist, you might choose to create a business card that reflects your skills and style. There are many print shops and online vendors who let you design your own business card, so you can put an image of one of your art pieces on the front of the card to connect your work to your contact information. You can also use a digital version of your card in your email signature.
9. Attend events for other artists
Going to art shows and events can help you build a network, even if your art isn't featured in the exhibit. Art events can give you the opportunity to meet people who are passionate about art, including fellow artists, patrons and agents. When you go to one of these events, exchange business cards with the people you meet and add their contact information to your database. If you have a long conversation with anyone, send them an email within a few days of the event to follow up on your conversation.
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