We all know we have to network to get anywhere in our careers, but how many of us actually do it?
Whenever I hear the word ‘Networking’ I am always split between two distinct thoughts; how and where do I begin networking, and why do other people make it look so easy? The latter is the hardest to accept, and probably the most common and relatable struggle we have as artists. I don’t exactly exude confidence, and I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an introverted artist either, but the idea of having to leave the comfort of the studio, the ever reliable pencil and sketchpad, is an increasing dilemma.
We were always being told at art uni that networking is vital in making a career of your practice, and they weren’t wrong! Why go through 3 years of developing and establishing your practice if you then don’t continue to explore and propel yourself further?
So, let’s face the ugly truth. The only way to be successful is to get your work seen. It doesn’t do anyone any good creating a huge body of work to then store it away in your studio collecting dust. Not only will you be constantly frustrated with yourself, your studio will gradually and increasingly become diminutive and cramped – not a particularly inspiring environment to work in!
But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. I have gathered some very useful sites and articles that give you some handy tips and advice on how to start networking, on and offline.
Firstly, lets start with the quick and easy option first and look at websites:
- Contemporary Visual Arts Network – The premise of the CVAN is to nurture contemporary artists and their practice to crate critically engaging work. They list regional network opportunities and have a great list of resources and information.
- Artslant – Although a magazine, they have great online resource of jobs and opportunities. You can sign up for free as an artist, and create a public profile. This will help you become searchable to other artists, art enthusiasts and curators.
- Art Bistro – It’s a great resource for relevant blog articles, useful tips and getting help with developing your art career. You can also create a professional profile to help you connect with artists.
- Axis Web – As their mission statement says, they are a charity, a platform and network who support the development, sharing and showcasing of contemporary art. There is a sign up fee to become a member but it is so cheap and definitely worth the money if you want to connect with other artists.
- NANE – The Network Artists North East is for those artists obviously residing in the North East. There’s an artist directory and include artists’ emails and social links, and details on artist workshops and events in the area.
For some more helpful websites, see my Links page
So we’ve now laid the groundwork for networking online, it will hopefully help you see that networking doesn’t need to be difficult or scary. You just need to put a bit of time and effort in creating professional profiles that reflect your current practice. This decisive start will have a meaningful impact on your artwork. Not only will it be seen by a supportive network of artists’ but also by more influential and prominent figures. And by making this simple (and fairly do-able) step, without even realising it, you have begun networking. Yay you!
Now, I’m going to share some practical advice that will aim to build your confidence so you can start promoting yourself and your practice.
- Determine your current network – You might not think it but anyone and everyone is part of your network. This isn’t even an exaggeration. Friends and family are the best place to start when building up your network, as they could be an invaluable source of leads and are already (hopefully) a supportive network. Other artists you’ve met along the way should always be included in your network. To learn new skills and techniques from, be inspired by and to be part of a community with shared interests and goals. Also, look at influencers in your field who you already follow online and engage with them. See what events their participating in and introduce yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?
- Head to private views – Okay, don’t panic! This doesn’t have to be a scary task, but it is a necessary one if you want to see contemporary exhibitions, engage with an artistic community and be knowledgeable on what’s relevant today. I’d recommend bringing a fellow artist and friend, so you’re not totally alone, and that way you can encourage one another to make conversation and start networking. Tip: Remember to bring your business cards, these can be valuable in starting or closing a conversation (and also if you forgot to mention your name and what you do, this can be a handy back-up).
- Follow up your leads – So you’ve done the hard part and made contact! Not with an alien race, but with someone who may be able to advance your practice in some way. Make sure you a). Send a friendly email b). Follow your contact on social media and continue networking there and c). Drop them a phone call. Completing a and b is a must, but I would only do c if a and b have failed, otherwise you might seem too pushy. You don’t want to stink of desperation after the hard work and effort you made to network and get that contact in the first place.
If you want anymore tips then these articles are very handy:
I understand the predicament you’re in, believe me! But hopefully I’ve shown you, that by making a few simple, easy steps through promoting your artwork and heading to some private views, seeing the art and having a casual chat with a person with mutual interests, that you can network successfully. And by doing this, you would have advanced your practice from studio to the real world. You have to learn to be an advocate for your work, because let’s be honest, no one else will do it for you, unless you ask of course.