How To Effectively Build an Artist Network

Building a Simple Database in Notion

Building a Simple Database in Google

I’m, basically, an art hermit. I’m in my office/studio 90% of the day, every day, working.  After 10 years of this the paintings tend to pile up.

We just moved. So trying to move all these paintings without them getting damaged is a pain. I can’t wait to sell these things.

But I’ve barely sold any of my art and the outlook on selling anything in the future looked bleak.

Until now

Lately I’ve focused on building a network and I’m seeing some huge changes in possibility. I have real hope that I can actually sell my work now. When I see such a massive change in a short period of time it’s obvious that this strategy is working. And I need to share it with others. So listen up, take notes, and get ready for some practical wisdom on one of the most powerful actions you can take to boost your art career.

The Book

This is the book that really changed things for me. “Your Music and People” by Derek Sivers

All of the ideas that I’m going to share in this (video) come from this book. It’s pure gold. AND, it’s short with small chapters densely packed with wisdom.

There is no rambling in this book. He gets straight to the wisdom and ruthlessly eliminates any extraneous words.

Packed with goodness!

Now, Let’s get into WHY it’s important to start your network right away

“Every person you’ve ever met has the potential to help you.”

Derek Sivers

Think about it. If no one knows you, or your work, there is zero opportunity. On the other hand, if the gallery down the street or the potential buyer halfway across the planet knows you then you have potential. But, you have to keep in touch and stay on their minds. If you do, then there’s a good chance an opportunity will come your way.

Out of touch, out of mind.

The difference between success and failure can be as simple as keeping in touch. Because, “People Can Determine Your Success”

It’s simple math.

If you know one person, maybe a gallery owner, and you keep in touch with them regularly. Then let’s say your opportunity is equal to 1. 

Well, if you add a second person wouldn’t your opportunity multiply? 

If you knew and kept in touch with 10,000 people then you would have a tremendous amount of opportunity right?

If you have little opportunity then you have little chance for success. If you have a ton of opportunities then you have a great chance for success. It’s like people playing BINGO. 

People buy up more cards so they have a greater chance to hit the right numbers. 

Van Gogh did something similar. He found that for every 12 paintings he did only one was successful. So he started churning out a painting a day to increase his chances for success. 200 paintings in two years while in Paris… crazy!

We see this every day with social media. If you had a million followers I don’t think you would need to worry about the rent payment…

The obvious next step…

With opportunities come success, so the number of people you connect with can determine your success.

Start connecting with people

The practical aspect here is that you have to start connecting with people. Derek Sivers says. “Aim to meet 3 new people every week.” The crazy connection through the internet and social media I don’t think 3 a week is too hard.

But, the connection I’m talking about, and Derek Siver is talking about, is stronger than the normal tenuous connections we have on social media. It will always be better to meet someone and create a REAL connection rather than just interacting with their digital self.

But, I’m all about stacking things so use every method you know to connect with people. In person, virtual meetings, social media, email, phone, website, carrier pigeon. Whatever!

Just make sure that the communication is UNSELFISH!

Derek Sivers says. “When you contact someone it should be unselfish, and sincerely caring how they are.”

It’s super easy. Just ask, “how are you doing?”. “What’s going on in your life?” Then see if you can help them in some way. Don’t just message them asking for favors if they don’t know you or you’ve not talked to them for months. That’s insulting. 

“Most people are so bad at keeping in touch that t hey will really appreciate you doing it.”

Derek Sivers

And most people love talking about themselves. Or complaining. Complaining is great because you can identify something they need help with that way and actually help them. Actually make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Reminds me of a poem from a wonderful song by “Benjy Wertheimer” called “Gayatri”. It goes…

When these bones

Are only bones

All that matters

Is how much we gave,

How much we loved.

Beautiful.

When connecting with others, be unselfish, focus on giving and loving. Okay let’s get practical with this. You need to stay in touch with hundreds of people. So you need to make a simple automatic system to keep in touch without relying on your memory.

This is why you need a database

With a database you can keep track of. Your private notes about people.  You can add tags to help you find people. You can note their physical location. That way if you’re in a particular area you can let them know and meet up for coffee. You can add a note of when you should contact this person next. 

This is the most important because continuous communication is what keeps you in their mind for increased opportunities. 

I do this digitally because search is powerful. If you have a database of 100 people it’s super easy to just search by their name and reference your notes when they call you out of the blue. 

Before having this I was always wondering. Who is this person? When did I last talk with them?

Now I can pull up my notes and personalize the communication. 

Oh high Josh! How’s it going! Are you and the kids finally over the flu? How’s the progress on the latest table you’re building? I know you were having some trouble with the clamping of the joints last we talked.

This is my second brain. I can’t remember everything about everyone. I use technology for good! To make real connections! You can set calendar reminders as well. 

Just look at your database daily or several times a week and send someone an email or give them a call when their time is up. Now let’s get into some…

Recommendations for databases to use

First let’s look at some Essential aspects for a database

  • It needs to be digital. As your network grows, searching, sorting and filtering are essential. 
  • It Must work on multiple devices. You never know when you may need to update your notes on someone and having your entire database in your pocket, on your laptop and on your desktop is essential.
  • Speech to text is a plus. Having a database on your phone where you can just talk to it to add updates is a huge time saver.

You can go analog with this by using a rolodex…

Who remembers these?

Or pencil and paper but you’re going to make your life harder in the future. For digital, I’ve found that the easier the database is to use, the more expensive it is. Monday and Clickup are among the easiest to set up and use but they can get expensive. If you want easy on the setup and easy on the wallet I would suggest Clickup over Monday. 

But, the problem with these applications is that your data lives on their servers. Sure you can export it all and move to a different database but I’ve found that none of these services can use each other’s data well. You will export from one then have to manually enter all the data into another.

If you do a search on google for a personal database you’re going to get a ton of returns. 

I would suggest staying away from CRM’s. They normally come with a ton of bells and whistles that just complicate everything. 

Your database needs to be simple.

Derek Sivers suggests Cloze.com and Monica but both of them come with too much stuff. Too confusing. Keep it simple.

The next suggestion is Notion or AnyType. AnyType is brand new and only in open alpha right now but it looks very promising.  These two have a steep learning curve at the beginning but when you get the hang of it there is no problem managing either one.

Notion is really nice because it’s just a set of principles that you can build into anything you want. There are a bunch of tutorials online for Notion but most are trying to sell templates that are already created. The best way to learn Notion is to do it yourself, step by step.  I’ve created an extra video walk through on how to set up a simple database in Notion.

While I was writing the script for this video I did a test to see if I could set up a database in a Google Sheets similar to what I have in Notion. And it worked!

It worked so well that I decided to move over to Google sheets instead. I also created a video of how to do this as well. 

However you decide to set up your database. Here is a list of things that you MUST track in order for the Database to be as useful as possible.

First we need to prioritize our contacts

If we didn’t do this then we would be spending all our time every day on email, phone, social media, and not getting any painting done.

Here is Derek Sivers’ suggested prioritization. 

  • A list: Very important people.Contact every three weeks.
  • B list: Important people.Contact every two months.
  • C list: Most people.Contact every six months.
  • D list: Demoted people. Contact once a year, to make sure you still have their correct info.

Second we need to track when we contacted them last

A simple date here is good.

Third we need a date of when we need to contact them next

Simple date again.

If I contacted Josh today and he’s on my A list. Then I would update the last contacted date to today and change the next contacted date to 3 weeks from now.

Fourth we need to track methods of contacting them

Email, phone, social media. I have email as one of the first columns in my database, phone later and social media as the last.

Remember we want the communication to be as personable as possible. A phone call is more personal than an email but many people would rather answer an email rather than deal with a call out of the blue. 

Email is more considerate in some situations.

Fifth, are notes

Every time we contact a person we want to jot down some quick notes of the conversation. Keep it short and sweet. Hit the highlights of the conversation.

Those are the 5 main pieces of data to track.

  • Priority for each contact. A, B, C, D
  • When we contacted them last.
  • When we need to contact them next.
  • How to contact them, email, phone etc…
  • Notes about them and the conversations you’ve had.

Here are some others that are optional but could be helpful.

  • Relation: as in friend, professional, close friend, family.
  • Group: I like to use Peer, Support, Challenger and Mentor.
  • Profession: Artist, teacher, gallery owner, business owner, etc…
  • Physical location: City is best, but state is good as well.
  • Website and all social media links.
  • Company

There you go. 

Do this and begin adding data from what contacts you already have. I added my family and close friends first. 

Because, well, they are the most important right!

The next step is to begin filling your database with people that can help you. You could add everyone to your database but I don’t think Bob the plumber is going to help further your art career… He’s a great guy but I don’t need to put him on my database.

The fastest way to fill your database with high leverage contacts is to attend an event.

I attended the Tacoma studio tour and my database doubled overnight.

Now it’s full of a huge list of amazing artists that have helped me tremendously and I’m keeping in contact with them so I can help them as well.

This is where I found Derek Sivers book the most useful. The chapter is called “how to attend a conference”, but the methods work for any event.

Here is how to build your network quickly and maximize any event you attend.

Before the event, come up with a super interesting sentence about your work. Read the book for some amazing suggestions here. 

Keep it short and keep it interesting. The only thing worse than a boring answer is a long boring answer.

When you’re at the event, for each person you meet, think about how you can help them. Have a conversation that is all about them. Keep asking questions. Be genuinely interested in their work, how they do it, what their biggest struggles are, their history, etc…

If you go to a studio tour like I did, I understand that most of the artists there are trying to sell their work so if you are a fellow artist that just wants to connect and not purchase anything tell them right up front. Don’t waste their time. If there is someone else in the room interested in actually purchasing their work let them connect with the artist first.

That’s how you can help them without them even knowing it!!

Right after you connect with each person. Jot down notes about the conversation and about them. I just spoke to my phone in a notes app and it took seconds. After the event is over, or if the event spans multiple days use the time in between to send them a message immediately. 

Connect the digital you with the physical you. 

I had a mask on during the studio tour so in my email communication I sent a photo of myself wearing a mask to help them connect the physical me with the digital me.

They just met a ton of people. Help them remember your face.

Again, when you contact them,  keep the communication genuine. Mention something in the conversation. Tell them how you can help them. Keep it short.

I’m going to keep repeating that, it’s so important.

This whole method of connection is NOT about you. It’s all about them. You’re building real relationships and that starts with giving.

Don’t try to do business during the event. The real business is done in the follow-up, not the event itself. Everything happens in the follow-up and the continuous connection. Remember this, and you’ll do well.

If you’re an introvert like me, first understand that the terms Introvert, extrovert and ambivert are just descriptions for how each of us get our energy. Introverts are energized by alone time, extroverts are energized by connection with others and we are all really ambiverts. A mixture of each.

So, if you identify as an introvert, push yourself to get out of your comfort zone for the event. Then plan on recharging after the event with a good book or some personal time.

But most of all.

Don’t be a mosquito!

Don’t go into an event or meeting just trying to get something from someone else. I’m going to say it again. It’s not about you it’s about them! Be considerate!

I love what Derke Sivers says.

Wonderful!

That’s it! Now go out and use this! Use this system!

When you make this a habit, it’s easy to stay in touch with hundreds or thousands of people. I guarantee that you will see a huge movement forward in your potential for success.

If you have any questions about all that I talked about here please don’t hesitate to reach out. I send out personal emails to everyone I get an email from. My purpose here is to help you become a better version of yourself and be a successful creator.

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