The SOFT Approach: Introducing People to Your Work
"Aren't you darling? You're going to be gangbusters." - Joan Holloway
In the past I have been guilty of the following faux pas: inviting people to my studio as soon as I was introduced to them. This is the equivalent of, “Hey, I know you don’t know me, and we did just meet but I think, sometime soon, you should take time out of your day, transport yourself to my studio and listen to me talk about my art for at least 30 to 45 minutes”. This is just bad artist etiquette. The problem isn’t inviting the individual to your studio, it’s about neglecting the important step of building a relationship with them.
I am currently holding a personal challenge of having 100 Studio Visits in one year. It started about 2.5 months ago and I have already had 18 visits! Yay! So this post’s subject of relationship building and studio visits is very near and dear to my heart.
Building relationships with individuals will entice people to come to your studio to see your artwork, but it may take time. This is a professional relationship that we aim to build here, one where you will do the best to keep others updated about your work, ask their professional advice and get an opportunity to get to know them a little better. You can stay in touch with these prospects in a variety of ways from personal emails to a friendly phone call. Eventually, if they are interested in what you are doing, they will come to your studio and check out your amazing art work. That old adage is true of relationships with your clients, if you build them, they will come (to your studio).
I’d suggest that you experiment with a mix of personal updates and public updates and I’ll explain why below.
There are many options for updating people so let’s break down a few of them in the categories of personal vs. public.
Personal updates might include a courteous email directly to the individual - not an email blast to a group of people. I have had luck with keeping art professionals in the loop with my work this way and, unlike if I had sent an email blast, I always get an email back from them. If this is your approach be patient, people are busy and don’t have time to respond to you right away. I know what you are thinking, so don’t even say it. You don’t have time to email everyone, and I’m not asking you to because that would be insane. Select a few people. Maybe just five. Some action is better than no action. Keep it really simple.
Another approach that falls into the personal method of updating people is a quick phone call to the individual. You never know - this may turn into a longer conversation if you pique their interest, ask them a question in reference to their own field of expertise and be very thankful for their time as phone calls can often be an interruption. Stick to a plan in order to maintain calmness. For example the phone call could be in the order of:
1. Thanks for your time, I appreciate your taking my call.
2. I wanted to quickly ask you about.....
3. I’m a painter from Vancouver working on...
Public updates are usually the more familiar approach for artists wishing to keep people up to date with their activities. Old-timey analogue formats can include: postcards, posters, articles in magazines/newspapers. And let’s not forget radio. The internet will also offer you a loudspeaker with which you can announce your activities via facebook, twitter, il blasts etcetera. The only problem with these digital, easy-to-use methods is that they are literally a loudspeaker for everyone else too. You are competing with cats and memes and cat memes! This is why I recommend a mix of public and personal updates - I’m always thinking of your success : )
Your goal is to have someone ask to come to your studio. In that moment you can celebrate with an “Oh how the tables have turned!” moment as people are no longer just giving into your voracious demand to come to your studio. Keep your ego at bay though, and express your thanks that they have:
A) taken time out of their day
B) arranged time and transport to your studio and
C) listened to you speak about yourself and your work
So next time the opportunity arises try resist the temptation to insist that they come to your studio during those first few sometimes-semi-awkward "getting to know you" conversations (whether it's email, phone or in person). Ensure that you are ready to take some time to get to know these future patrons, supporters and gallerists. One day these people might become champions of your work who actively tell the rest of the world that you are such a fabulous artist. In the meantime, do what you can to let them get comfortable with who you are and what you do - it sounds a bit like dating doesn't it?
Don't get nervous, but do wear deoderant.
Welcome to the gentle art of relationship-building!