From time to time I agree to consult privately with an artist.
With such consultations, it's my client's job to set the agenda. They're paying for it, so they should determine what outcome they want or need.
The most important questions I ask before agreeing to spend an hour with someone on the phone are:
What is it you want to accomplish? How do you think I can help?
Whether you're working with me, asking for help from another artist, or signing up for a mentor session at a conference, it's imperative that you know what outcome you want.
You need to be uber-specific. I cannot tell you what you want or need.
Please don't email me and say “I just started selling my art. How can you help me?” This is a waste of anyone's time. When I receive email like this, I think that this person is lazy and hasn't even bothered to find out anything about what I do.
I suggest these steps for hiring a consultant.
- Become familiar with the consultant. Read her blog and newsletters, talk with her other clients, follow her tweets, and gather as much information as you can. You not only want to ensure that you're hiring the right person for you, but you also want to show the consultant that you've done your homework.
- Start gathering your questions. When I consult with experts (and I do) I keep my thoughts and questions in a computer notebook and add to them over time. I know that not everything will come at once and I want to be clear about my purpose.
- Request an appointment with the consultant. Use my questions above to formulate your request. What do you want to accomplish? How do you think this consultant can help you?
- Collect facts and figures to help the consultant get the big picture. The data you share depends on your goal for the consultation. For example, the consultant might need to know your income, your blog stats, or the number of people on your contact list in order to give you the best advice. You might also share your other commitments and the time you have to devote to your art business.
- Send your questions and concerns to the consultant by the requested deadline. I like to have them 24 hours before a consultation, but this will vary from consultant to consultant. The main point here is that it's your responsibility to be organized with this information. The more you share in advance, the higher the quality of help you'll receive.
Reasons why you might hire a consultant:
- To clarify goals (for your business, career, event)
- To receive honest feedback (on marketing material, on a situation). Don't hire a consultant to make you feel better about this or that. Hire someone because you value his or her input.
- To save money in the long run. Two-hundred dollars doesn't seem like a lot of money if it saves you hours of hassle.
- To validate a direction you're headed or to help you make a correction
Read more about my work as an artist business consultant.
What advice do you have for someone looking to hire a consultant?