By guest author Stephanie Ayres
We all have people that we would LOVE to work with, right? Whether they be someone who is the tip top of their field, or someone whose work you admire. I’m an advocate of contacting these people and seeing how you can work with them.
I have contacted several of my ‘idols’ and for the most part, have had a good response. I have, at the very least, gotten my foot in the door somehow. Even just by getting them to look at your work, you have made an impression that will be in their mind somewhere for future reference. So if they do like your work, and they suddenly think… ‘Oh, I really need an illustrator…’ they are most likely more inclined to go for someone who they have had contact with instead of trying to search around for someone that fits the bill.
The Who & The What
So firstly, make a list of who you want to work with and what they do.
E.g, I’m an illustrator and I love natural science and nutrition too. So I would pick George Mc Gavin (Entomologist and presenter for the BBC natural history unit), and Sarah Britton (Wholefood chef and nutritionist).
You can take a look at all of the things you’re interested in and pick out people you admire from those interest groups.
Secondly, envision how you could work with them. I envisioned myself illustrating some of George’s fieldwork, any new species they had discovered. I envisioned myself creating illustrations for some of Sarah Britton’s articles. Get clear on this matter, and make sure that YOU believe that you can do it. Don’t put your idols on a pedestal, realise that they are just human beings too. The worst that can happen from emailing them, is that they won’t reply. Honestly, no one is going to waste their time writing you a reply, admonishing you for writing them a sincere letter.
Getting In Touch
The email itself should be formal but from the heart. If they can’t see how passionate you are about the project you are proposing, then they probably won’t be excited about it either. Get excited about the project you are proposing, and then sit down to write your email. Your passion will shine through.
Structuring the email is advisable, as you need to put your point across well. I always structure my emails in this way:
- Introduce yourself in a formal yet friendly manner, and explain who you are and what you do. This should be very short, roughly 2 sentences.
- Explain why you are contacting them, and say how much their work has inspired you in the past. (Flattery never hurts, but don’t be too gushing! Just a nod to their work is good enough.)
- The proposal: Ask them if they are currently in need of your services in any way and explain the project you want to work with them on. Ask if there are any other ways that they could envision you working together. REMEMBER- you should be adding value to their lives/work instead of asking them for a favour. You are more likely to be successful if you’re not asking for hand-outs and actually proposing something of use to them. At the very least it should be a mutually beneficial proposal.
(At this stage it is best not to mention money if you are wanting to get paid for the project. First get them excited about the project and emotionally invested in it before you even breach that subject.)
- Finally, thank them for their time in reading and considering your proposal. Acknowledge that you know they are busy but thank them and say how much it means to you that they read through it. Link them to somewhere they can see your work, otherwise how will they know that they want to work with you?
Above all, be sincere and believe that your work is of value to yourself, and others. Because it is!
Don’t be scared or feel like you are not worthy of working with these people. Like I said, they are just people. By contacting them you are not imposing yourself too much, and you will either get a good or neutral response, or nothing at all. There is nothing to lose!
Stephanie is a freelance illustrator and expedition artist based in Plymouth, UK. However, sometimes she can be found flitting off around the world on assignment as a natural history artist for research expeditions to jungles and other such fabulous places. When she isn’t hacking her way through the undergrowth in search of the next sketch, she can be found sitting quietly with a cup of fine Chinese tea and a cat or two whilst she conjures up the next exciting illustration.
When you’re looking for a great start for your creative business or you’re just finding ways to get more people to see your art, making these important connections is a clever step to take.
Learn how to build a fanbase and, once you have one, how to keep people engaged and take benefit from this precious group of people.
Since the introduction of social media and the blogosphere, finding connections and reaching out has never been easier. The World Wide Web did allow us to Google someone before, but with Facebook and Twitter quickly growing in popularity, chances are the person you need to speak to has an account on these sites too, and they’d be more than happy to talk to you. The only thing you need to take note of is the right approach. In this lesson, we’ll break down some approaches for finding and making important connections.
To be able to find a person to connect to, we’ll need to think about what actually makes a good connection. Someone you’d like to know might be highly influential, but if it’s in the wrong area, you’ll put a lot of energy in a relationship that will be beneficial to neither of you.
Before searching for people to get in touch with, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What are they reading? What are they watching on tv?
- Who do they listen to? (Who do they trust?)
- Who are they talking to?
This might give you an idea of who you should reach out to. If you’re still absolutely clueless about all of this and you just want to start off somewhere, you could also try to get some suggestions.
Twitter’s “Who to follow” section
Twitter has some great tools built in that allow you to discover interesting people based on your interests. One of them is the “Who to follow” section, which can be found through the #discover tab and by clicking Who to follow in the left side column of the page. (Or, if you’re logged in to Twitter, follow this direct link)
Facebook’s friend browser
Facebook offers a similar tool, but this time to find friends, or better said, friends of friends. It might be interesting to use the selection tools on the left of the page and set it to show you the friends of a friend you believe is similar to you or has the same interests. Once you’ve selected or entered the name of the person you’d like to see a list of, Facebook will show you a list if interesting people to add as a friend, sorted by the number of mutual friends you have. This also works for your place of birth, the school you went to and other criteria.
This is a great way of discovering people you obviously should now, but just never had the chance to add to your inner circle.
Work Your Art Twitter lists
To make the job a little easier for you, I created some Twitter lists around interesting topics. You might want to check these out and hit that subscribe button, since they’re dynamic lists I keep adding new and interesting people to.
Whenever you’re reading an interesting article in a magazine, from now on, take note of the author and write their name down. Use the Twitter search to see if they’re on there (most reporters are) and say hi to them, telling them you appreciated the article. Just this tactic alone has provided me with some great connections and writing jobs for the magazines I had been reading for years. Actual human beings are writing the articles you’re reading, and since it’s not as interactive like writing for a blog, they will love to hear your thoughts.
Commenting: a good first impression
Once you’ve figured out who you would like to reach out to, start finding ways of commenting on their work or anything else they’re broadcasting online. Try to find them on Twitter using the options listed above, find their website, look up a fanpage (but don’t connect with them on their personal profile, most people won’t appreciate it) and post a sincere comment about their work.
What not to do
Building a relationship with someone doesn’t start with you reaching out by saying something about yourself and, even worse, asking them if they could please take a look at your work, like your page, or even buy your art. (It happens) This will just give them an awkward feeling and doesn’t provide a good start for a good conversation.
Offer them help
One of the best ways of connecting with someone, is by breaking the ice with some useful advice or helpful commentary. Influential people are usually very busy with their work, so a small detail is quickly overlooked. When browsing someone’s website, looking at their portfolio or engaging with their work in any other way, look for things that can either be fixed or improved, and send them a quick shout out about it. Make sure it is indeed a useful tip or addition and explain why you feel this could be an improvement. If you’re up for it, you could also offer them some kind of help like guest blogging, writing articles, or anything else you’re particularly good at. When the person you’re trying to connect with is someone you would absolutely love to connect with, a bit of your time might be a good investment.
Anybody doing anything online will greatly appreciate a link to their website, so if you like to connect with someone, create a link on your own personal space on the web, whether this be a blog, a website, a page, or anything else, and tell them you did so. Getting links is extremely valuable to those who are serious about being found in the search engines (since number of incoming links is a big factor in Google’s algorithm and will therefore get you in the top 5 of targeted keywords quicker, more about this will be addressed in this lesson about being found and getting a lot of visitors) so linking out to someone basically tells them that you like what they do and that you would like others to find out about it too.
Writing a blogpost about them on your blog
Closely related to linking to someone is including someone in a blogpost, or better yet, devoting a whole article to them. This doesn’t have to be a complete love letter about how absolutely and utterfly awesome someone is, but it could be anything from including them in a list of people you’re inspired by to a positive review of their work or their website.
Twitter has made it easy for you to share something you like and at the same time tell the person you’re retweeting that you liked the post. You can retweet anything you find interesting, intriguing, funny, exciting, shocking, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you think it’s worth the read, you can retweet it. When you do, the person who tweeted will get a notification in the ‘connect’ tab on Twitter.com or in any other Twitter client they’re using. This might not be a stand-a-lone solution for deeper connections, but it adds to the overall experience of letting them know that you value their work and their opinion.
Sharing Facebook updates
Facebook’s equivalent of retweeting is sharing. When you see something interesting pop up on Facebook, you can basically republish it to your friends by sharing it and thereby reposting it on your timeline. When you do so, the person who posted the update (and anybody seeing the post for that matter) will see a little share icon next to their update, and, when clicked, read what you added as an optional comment to the shared post.
Staying in touch
The secret of all the tactics listed above is mixing it up and more importantly, staying in touch. Leaving a comment once in a while, retweeting their tweets, liking their posts, everything together will certainly get your name noticed by the person you’d like to reach out to. When you’ve done some of this work, it’s a good time to reach out to them and ask for a favor, or a collaboration, depending on what your goals are. The reason why I suggest you take some time to, over time, give little hints of interest to this person, is because when you do reach out to them and you tell them that you’ve been following along and reading about their life and work, they will know that this is true, because they saw you, and that’s it not just a cheesy intro to an email in which you’re asking them for a favor. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be too obsessive about this, since it would feel a bit like stalking when there’s absolutely no getting around your presence day in day out.
When it’s time to reach out to the person you’d like to connect with, drop them an email, send them a card, or pick up the phone; do something that will get you some one-on-one time with them. Make sure you do this after you’ve gotten some kind of a response from them in the earlier stage of reaching out, otherwise it would still feel a bit like stalking. Tell them that you appreciate everything that they’re doing professionally and that you’d like to start a collaboration (or, depending on your goals, would like their help with something).no responses
So what if you feel confident enough to show your crafts to the scary outside world? You have a nice collection that you would want to get exhibited in one of the art galleries in your area – but you have never done it before and you’re not sure what to expect. In this post I will help you understand how to go about exhibiting your artwork and the best ways on approaching art galleries.
When asked for advice, surprisingly enough most people will tell you to take on sales practices and step into a gallery with a leather (!) band portfolio and try to pitch them on your work, using persuasive techniques and, of course, your bright smile and friendly face. While this is of course one way to do it, I myself find that a more gradual approach will get you better results and build better relationships with the people that will help you improve your art career in the future.
Visit their shows frequently
Visiting other artist’s shows will help you understand the style and preferred collections of the art gallery, and will also give you some inspiration on your own work and ways of presenting your collection. If it were your show, how would you arrange things? Would you do things differently? See if you can attend the opening, so you have the chance to talk to the artist and exchange business cards. Check their website and drop them a note when you get home, following up on their work and giving your honest opinion on the show. Everyone appreciates a short review, and contacting them after your first encounter will help them remember you.
Talk to the visitors
If you can’t make it to an opening, try visiting the art gallery at a busy time, so you have the chance to talk to other visitors about the work and get to know how they feel about it. Also ask them for a business card (if they’re doing business) or ask if you can call or email them for some comments on your work. Don’t hesitate doing this, most individuals would love the opportunity and would be flattered that you asked them for their opinion. After all, people visiting art galleries are a big part of your target audience, so adding them to your address book is always a good idea.
Become a regular
Art gallery owners are usually very happy to see regular visitors and will undoubtedly want to chat with you when they start to recognize your face. Just like you, they want to know who their customer is and will value your opinion. When you get the chance to talk to them, don’t try to pitch and sell them your work just yet, but give a review of the past exhibitions, showing them you truly care about the gallery. Connecting with others is usually done best by teaching them something about themselves, and after that, explaining more about yourself.
Do have your portfolio ready and make sure you have the bright smile and the friendly face, but make sure to build a good relationship with the gallery and the owner first, before you approach them with your sales pitch.2 responses
One of the crucial factors of using your full creative potential, is having an optimized workspace, online as well as offline. Clutter on your desk can turn into clutter in your head, which will often times lead to getting stuck in the execution of a great idea or getting a writer’s block. Let’s explore some options for clearing your head, so getting to work on your art gets easier and your inspirational flow gets going no matter what.
What’s on your desk?
Let’s start with an easy question: what is on your desk? Are you working on your writings, photographs, or paintings with a bunch of grocery lists, coupons and old mail lying around? Get rid of things that do not inspire you in your work and will just make you think of the things you have to do in the future. Make sure that everything around you encourages you to work on your art and focus, don’t let things you can’t act on right now get in the way of your creative thought process.
Only allow inspiration and real people
I have a simple rule when it comes down to my email inbox: I only allow either real people, or inspiration. This blocks out newsletters from online stores, social media notifications, advertising from websites, and other automated messages that are being send out. When I receive a newsletter I didn’t ask for, I immediately opt-out from it to prevent procrastination and newsletters cluttering up my inbox daily. But because I also want to be notified about cool inspirational blogs and articles and I don’t want to get out there to search for it or browse an RSS reader on a recurring basis, I subscribe to inspirational and motivational email newsletters only, to make sure I don’t miss out and get an inspirational boost when starting off my day. Some websites that are allowed to email me are Mixergy, for new educational stuff on startups, and Etsy, because their newsletter is just fun to read. Think of websites that will inspire you, and exchange the Amazon newsletter for something useful. *cough* Work it weekly *cough*
Update your address book and stay in touch with important people in your life
Updating your address book can be a real pain, because sometimes there are just too many people on there; most of them you don’t even remember. If this is the case, then maybe it’s time to remove those contacts from your address book and make room for new people you meet. Removing names you don’t even recognize anymore can also help you glance over your list and remembering to catch up with people you care about. See if you can create your creative hive from the people you want to keep in your file, and tag them, if possible. This way you will have your support system ready whenever you need some feedback, or just a quick chat to catch up.
Do you remember what the days were like in high school? After class or at lunch time, you would gather with a group of friends and hang out with the kids you liked, because of, well, various reasons you couldn’t even explain yourself back then. As a grown up, we are not moving around in these small groups anymore, but part of the human behavior that lies underneath is still a big part of our lives, and it influences the way we think about our art and our business as well. Why?
The average of five
Jim Rohn, a well known motivational speaker, once said: “You are the average of the five people you spend most time with.” I couldn’t agree more. The decisions we make are normally based on culture, that what we learn, hear and experience throughout our lives, and not nature, that what we are born with. How were you brought up? In what part of the world are you? How do people treat you? What things do you do, read, and feel? Thinking of the five people you spend the most time with will give you insights on how this relates to your own behavior and achievements.
In order to get the best out of your artistic abilities for the coming year, writing the names of those five people down can give you good insights on where you are heading with your own personality and perhaps even the selling of your art. If the number one person you see the most is your mother, think of how she advices you to lead your life. Does she want you to get a job at an office, for security and stability? Or does she cheer on the fact that you are perhaps wanting to change that, and would love the idea of being an independent artist? Or is it your partner, your sister, your daughter, your best friend?
Creating a small hive
If there are two to four people on your list that would rather have you work 9 to 5 jobs and think your dreams are fantastic but unachievable, don’t worry. Don’t ignore your mom, but go about it the other way around: create a small group of another five people around you that cheer on your dreams and ideas and have a lot of knowledge in the industry you would want to be in. Are you an aspiring painter, or a professional wanting to become more famous with your work? Surround yourself with people that are trying to achieve the same, or, sometimes even better, already made it and would love to give you some advice on the best ways to get to your destination.
Surround yourself with a small hive of people that will inspire you and, whenever you meet or see them, will spark your ambition and help you to reach your goals. Want to help someone out or are looking for members of your hive? Feel free to drop a note in the comment section below or contact me if you would like some feedback on your progress.7 responses