Advice for Artists: The Value of a Personal Network

Arts advocate and marketing expert Rickie Leiter shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for building a network to appreciate and amplify your art marketing message.


Build Your Artist Network


Everyone knows people; we all have contacts ranging from personal friends to business colleagues. You can utilize your network of contacts, even if you have not seen some of them for a long time. It’s a matter of re-establishing relationships, which can ultimately amplify your marketing voice and reach. While social media has a wide reach, statistics show that staying in touch personally has a deeper effect.

Your contacts are gems. Some of them might be rough around the edges and others may sparkle right away, but they are all valuable assets to you. Start by assessing your contacts.

Who is in your network?

Start by taking a large pad of paper and make a list of everyone you know (yes, really).

  • Column #1 will contain their name.
  • In column #2, note the essence of the relationship (vet, dentist, librarian, friend, co-worker in bank).
  • In column #3, note how the person can help you build your network by including you in theirs. Who do they know that you would like to know?
  • In column #4, note the best way to communicate with that person.

Give this serious thought and get creative. Relationships are a two-way street, so you must also be helpful to them; paying it forward is the best approach. What do you have to offer them?

You will be asking contacts in your network to share the passion you have for the art you make as well as good news such as an upcoming exhibition or event. You may be asking them to write a referral or recommendation at some point in the future. At some point they may make a purchase. Consider your timing and answer WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) with that person in mind. This is what every person wonders when asked for help. Complete altruism is alive but rare.

Here’s an example: My friend Sally’s favorite charity is animal rescue, and I paint pet portraits. How can I approach Sally to suggest her charity use my portraits for a fundraiser? In our agreement, I will get commissions and the organization will get a percentage of the sales. Sally feels great because she not only helped her favorite non-profit, but also helped me, her friend! (In this scenario, I would present Sally with a thank you gift for her generosity. She will remember that forever). It’s a win/win.

Communicating with your contacts

For those in your network who are acquaintances, try an email with some images of your work or an announcement of your next exhibit. Let them know how you excited you are to share this news with them, and your hope that they will pass it on.

Or, call and invite the contact over for a studio tour and tea (“I’d love to show you my newest pieces and pick your brain for ideas of how to help a non-profit and promote my art.”) If you know a number of people who fit this category, publicize an Open House and send specific invitations to the people on your list.

For contacts who are decision makers, make an appointment and meet with them. Let them know you appreciate how supportive they have been of your creativity, and approach them about a potential exhibit at their bank….library…vet office, etc.

If the contact is excited about helping and wants to recommend potential collectors, you might offer them a commission on any sale for their extraordinary help.

Give your publicity legs

Any time you have an announcement or get publicity, you will want to continue to amplify that news beyond the event. How? Have a sign-up sheet and offer a small discount to anyone who signs up for your blog (this helps you capture new email addresses of people who have just self-selected due to their interest).

Don’t have a blog? Don’t stress! By sending out a press release-type email, you are staying in touch. Tell recipients what you are currently working on. Share a small photo, or work in progress so they’ll want to stay in touch to see the final outcome. You can use a teaser, like a piece of thread with a question mark – what will this turn into? I look forward to some artists’ emails so I can track their progress in a competition they mentioned a few months ago or I can see how their work is evolving.

Hand out business cards to everyone who steps into your booth. Stamp or label the back with a message of a small discount for up to 2 months from the date of your show. When someone buys your product, give them a business card to keep and two more to share with friends. You are establishing a relationship. You want them to come back and buy the next in a series of paintings, your newest color scarf, or just to tell you how much they appreciate your talent because it gives them so much happiness!

Share the love

When you read other blogs (such as The Rickie Report) you’ll see many events that are not feasible for you to get involved with. Either it is too far away, or you already have a commitment. Ask yourself…”If this were happening in my area, would I apply?” If the answer is yes, start looking for like-minded groups, non-profits, or local civic associations who are always looking for new ideas. Send an email to the person in the article or to the publisher and set up a short telephone discussion to get ideas.

Creators are passionate people who are eager to share with others. Don’t be afraid to ask. My most exhilarating moments are brainstorming with people. You never know who might be in my worldwide network that I am happy to put you in touch with. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a reference librarian because I could see the delight and excitement when a lone question could elicit a treasure trove of knowledge. The passion of sharing is exhilarating!


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