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How to Professionally Present Yourself as an Artist


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There are many moving components to juggle when aspiring to becoming a successful, professional artist. In my blog post What Makes an Artist Successful I go over the core components that I have found are fundamental to balance:

 

●      Mastery of Skill and Technique

●      Authenticity and Individuality

●      Persistence and Resilience

●      Networking and Building Relationships

●      Business and Marketing Acumen

 

Removing the creativity aspect for a moment, let's focus on what is required from you professionally as an artist. Many of these points are transferable skills that are required in setting up your own brand or business. Knowing how to professionally present yourself as an artist, in person, is key. Whether you are meeting and greeting people at a private view, at a networking event, meeting a potential collector, discussing your work with a journalist, a gallery representative, a curator or doing an artist talk about your work, having a clear perception of how you come across is essential.   


First Impressions


There are many latent stereotypes that are connected to being an artist: always being covered in paint, consistently tardy and unreliable, exhibiting eccentric behaviors, always being outspoken, not being good with business affairs, leading a bohemian lifestyle and generally having a nonconforming attitude.  

 

Early on in my career as an artist I looked to other successful artists to work out what they were doing right. What I noticed (apart from their work itself) was that they maximized every opportunity. They seemed to approach their art career as you would run your own business and they were very deliberate in their actions and presentation.

 

-       Be the face of your brand - you don’t have to look like Claudia Schiffer, nor wear outlandish Lady GaGa-esque attire to get noticed. Be authentic, dress for the occasion and consider how you come across as you would for any job interview.  

-       Be present - Building a network is essential. Not everyone enjoys going to art events, private views and studio openings, but each occasion whether it is in a formal setting or a very casual setting is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression. 

-       Every interaction is an opportunity - The magic of this industry is that it’s full of surprises. Sometimes you don’t know who you are deep in conversation with at a private view. On occasions I have been told after the event, that the simply dressed elderly person I was talking to was in fact a top collector. Influential people can be very discrete.


Get Organized


Use everything at your disposal to make a lasting impression and grasp every opportunity to make yourself available. Strike while the iron is hot!

 

So many opportunities pass people by for silly administrative reasons: a lost email or phone number, a forgotten name, a website not working properly. This goes hand in hand with my points from the previous section – make yourself available and be organized.

 

If you are going into a meeting, going to an event or taking part in an exhibition – take the time to be prepared for receiving and generating interest. You need a reactive and proactive approach.

 

Online

 

Nowadays it's essential to have some sort of an online presence. Most artists have a website or electronic calling card. Not everyone is electronically inclined but it could be as simple as having a LinkedIn page or a professional email address. People need to find you electronically and you may lose opportunities if you continue to resist. Be prepared with digital documents to send at the drop of a hat. My suggestions include: 

 

-       LinkedIn Profile page

-       Website and professional email address

-       Social Media

-       Digital documents (see my online document guide for the essentials)

-       Portfolio (either live or digitally ready to send)

 

Obviously, these elements will only work for you if they are professionally presented to work with your brand as an artist. A social media channel full of private view party pictures may not aid your career. If you are not good online, consider hiring someone to set these things up for you. More importantly, only take on what you can consistently manage. An unchecked email account is probably worse than not having one. 

 

Check out my top tips for arts marketing: traditional techniques and online to see what methods are best suited to you. 

 

Print

 

Having printed material is also very important in my opinion. It is common to see people leaving out fliers and business cards at print fairs or at their shows. People visiting exhibitions also still like to have a takeaway if they like your work – this may be in the form of a press release or something simpler. Don’t overlook this aspect of marketing as that moment you take a coffee break during an open studio event may be the moment that a curator is passing through.

 

I recommend having the following printed items: 

 

-       Business card (always)

-       Fliers with visuals (for group shows, fairs, sales events)

-       Press release (for shows)

 

There is no one-size-fits-all. Find the techniques that suit you and don’t be afraid to experiment. If you have any other tips please share them below in the comments.


Don't forget to sign up my monthly newsletter to get updates about new shows, events, and many more :)

 

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