One thing I see separating the artists I work with who become successful from the artists I work with who don’t is surprisingly simple: professionalism.
I know this sounds like a *yawn* article, but before you switch back over to Instagram’s pretty pictures, do take a second to think about how you act in specific situations like these two.
1 SARAH MESSAGES YOU ASKING THE PRICE OF A LARGE PAINTING SHE SAW ON YOUR INSTAGRAM FEED.
a) you hurry to get back to her right away and even offer her a discount
b) you wait a few hours and then write her a clear reply with the price, the shipping details, and how to pay
c) you wait a few days and then pop a quick note back with just the dollar amount
2 YOU HAVE A MEETING WITH JILL FROM A LOCAL BOUTIQUE TO TALK ABOUT STOCKING PRINTS OF YOUR ART IN HER SHOP FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON.
a) you show up 15 minutes early in an ironed pantsuit with presentation materials
b) you show up on time in dark jeans and a nice blouse with one sample print and images of your art ready to pop up on your cell phone or tablet
c) you show up fashionably late so she doesn’t think you’re desperate, wearing whatever you had on that day and figure you’ll respond to however she wants to run the meeting
LET’S DISCUSS THE POTENTIAL ANSWERS TO SITUATION 1.
In option a), you actually come across as desperate!
This might be surprising because our instinct is that good customer service is quick and gives the customer more than they thought possible (like the discount).
But in reality, people can read you better than that. They know that a thriving art business wouldn’t have the artist waiting by their phone for direct messages, emails, or calls so they can answer them right away. And they know that an artist with a thriving business wouldn’t offer discounts to everyone who asked about purchasing.
In option c), you’re taking too long to respond so Sarah has probably already forgotten about the artwork, or at the very least she has lost the excitement she had when she reached out. You’re also not interacting with her enough, because you only gave her the price with no supporting information, to make her feel like you care.
Sarah would probably think you aren’t a competent person and extrapolate that to mean that you might not package the artwork well, get it shipped on time, take care of any problems that arise, etc.
So option b) is our winner here. It’s a middling approach where you show up in a timely manner, but not so early you seem desperate; you’re clear and concise but also friendly and informative; and you help her more than she asked by leading her along to the next step of the process.
IN SITUATION 2 WE’VE GOT A SIMILAR RESULT.
Jill is going to feel desperation oozing from you if you go with option a). And no one, especially no one in business, wants to work with someone who is desperate. It’s not attractive to we humans.
WE LIKE PEOPLE WHO SEEM CONFIDENT, RELAXED, AND LIKE THEY DON’T REALLY NEED US THAT MUCH BUT WOULD JUST LOVE TO WORK WITH US ANYWAY.
And if you went with option c) then Jill would probably think you were that stereotypically flaky artist she can’t trust to deliver the products on time, communicate clearly, or even continue producing new work if her customers loved your stuff and wanted more.
So option b) is again our winner. It makes you look calm & collected, prepared but not obsessive, and just plain professional.
ARE YOU SEEING THE PATTERN?
All the good qualities are middle-of-the-road.
Like timing – you’re not showing up late, but you’re also not showing up super early.
Or grammar – you wouldn’t want to have a lot of grammatical mistakes in an email (or in your speech if you’re talking in person or over the phone, for that matter), but you also wouldn’t want it to come across as stiff and formal.
Or clothing – you should put on something nicer than your paint-splattered tshirt, but you don’t want to go for the full-on suit.
WHAT SIDE OF IT DO YOU FALL ON RIGHT NOW?
Are you the type who is maybe a little over-eager to impress and you’re going to far and end up looking desperate? Or are you the type who is maybe too relaxed about business and expects it will all just work out if it works out so you end up looking incompetent?
Kudos to you if you feel like you’re roughly in the middle!
It can be a difficult balance to strike and you deserve a little pat on the back (or fancy glass of wine or fizzy bubble bath!) for nailing this part of your art business.
If you feel like you lean toward one side or the other, don’t worry! It’s something you can change with just a little attention.
WE ALL HAVE OUR PERSONALITIES AND YOU’RE NOT GOING TO COMPLETELY ERASE A PERSONALITY TRAIT. BUT YOU CAN SOFTEN IT.
For example, I can be a little Type A. When I’m writing emails to clients answering their questions, I often go on and on into the little minutiae for fear that I’ll miss saying something that is important for them to know.
But over the years, I’ve softened that quality simply by asking myself anytime I’m writing an email for ‘too long’ if I might be giving too much information and overcomplicating things or overwhelming my client.
It’s usually really easy for me to tell once I’ve stepped back and asked. And then I can just delete a sentence or two and move on to the big points that are the most impactful to that person’s situation and question.
If you find you’re “too professional” or “not professional enough” and so you’re coming across as desperate or incompetent, respectively, then you just need to start asking yourself before you make business decisions, “Is this too much?” or “Is this too little?”
It’s a good thing to run past yourself when you’re marketing your art, answering emails, writing a product listing, fixing your website, planning & strategizing, etc etc.
And it will give you that little bitty nudge you need to soften things and find that middle ground.
THAT WAY YOU CAN LOOK PERFECTLY PROFESSIONAL IN YOUR ART BUSINESS INTERACTIONS, LEADING TO MORE OPPORTUNITIES AND MORE SALES.
Wishing you could have a more specific conversation with me about your own personality traits, being a professional in the art world, and succeeding with your business? My clients get that level of access to me all the time and I’m still accepting 3 new clients for a January start date. 2019 could be your year! Apply here and I’ll be in touch.