Instant Relief from the Pressure of Pitching Your Art

There is so much pressure when you're making new connections.

I get it. You want to hit a home run when you contact someone about your art. You don't want to blow the opportunity.

Skyler Lovelace painting
©Skyler Lovelace, Prairie Spring. Acrylic on paper, 16 x 20 inches.

Maybe you're planning to send an email to an interior designer, set up a meeting with an art consultant, or write a letter to a gallerist.

You want the recipient to show your art, buy your work, or represent you.

Whatever the situation, you’re not alone in wanting to get it just right.

Let's see if I can alleviate some of that pressure for you.

Think About This Differently

Much of the stress of meeting new people comes from the mistaken notion that this one contact is your only opportunity.

If you think about it as your only opportunity, you aren’t leaving open the possibility of developing a meaningful relationship. And strong professional relationships are what will grow and sustain your art career.

Instead of thinking about your first contact as a one-time chance, consider it only an introduction—your first of many contacts.

You never want to ask for anything in the first contact with a new prospect.

Introduce yourself to people in order to build lasting relationships, not to try to get something from them.

It Takes Longer

Nurturing relationships is a long-term investment in your art career and life. It's a process, not a one-off correspondence.

You are building name recognition and trust throughout—proving you are in it for the duration.

There is no perfect timeline for this process. It requires patience and commitment.

If you're staying in touch and following up, you’ll know when the time is right to ask (for representation, a show, a referral, whatever).

This was first published on March 19, 2014 and has been updated with original comments intact.

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30 thoughts on “Instant Relief from the Pressure of Pitching Your Art”

  1. Actually, that doesn’t make the pressure go away. Introductions and new people have always scared me. (Except when performing, teaching, or giving a talk.) I think it’s the fact that I have to share control of the situation and that requires a kind of trust that I don’t seem to come by. Hm.

    1. It is a fear I have been working on for most of my life but despite advances I have yet to completely overcome it. I mostly just grit my teeth and force myself. It is painful.
      Perhaps the reason you don’t understand how sharing control is scary is because you have never experienced some one else having control over you and hurting you in a very fundamental way.

  2. Alyson, Excellent post! This is a very helpful way of approaching this subject and life in general. We, for the most part, are in our daily lives are to get something we want or avoid that which we don’t in our ego-centered way. Many times that doesn’t work in our best interest. But what you are suggesting, is to look at this as making meaningful connections and relationships that will support our careers by way of being open and curious about those we are approaching for help, respresentation, etc..

  3. Great article Alyson! I agree it is all about building relationships. This not only goes for galleries but also works wonders with journalists. People want to deal with people they like, they feel they know and trust. Relationships!

  4. The last thing I wanted to do was to say anything negative about pitching and public relations on this blog, but you can see how Alyson answered my private message to her regarding this post, so….
    I hope you’ll leave this as a comment on the blog, Deb.
    On Mar 19, 2014, at 8:30 AM, Deb Keirce wrote:
    You are so right Alyson!
    I might add too… I have been featured artist on Artlist, Artsy Shark, in numerous gift guides, won all sorts of accolades and signature memberships, have the honor of being one of Art Renewal Center’s Living artists, etc., etc. I feel like we create these lists of accolades from our pitching and “poof!” nothing happens. I would never say that in a public forum, because nobody likes a Debbie Downer. But as you say, it’s the relationships, and NOT the instant accolades that result in sales and successes. I have not had a single sale from being in a feature or a gift guide. But I feel like the people those opportunities have put me in contact with are constant sources of inspiration, and that is priceless.

    1. Debra: This doesn’t sound negative to me. Unless you’re saying that being featured did nothing for you. In which case I’d ask what you did in return for the favor of people featuring your art. How did you nurture those relationships? Did you stay in touch with them?

  5. I definitely agree with this and am in the process of doing it. I applied to be part of an exhibition at an upcoming art fair in NYC. The gallerist told me that they liked my work but ultimately, I wasn’t selected. He did, however, sent me an newsletter about some of the projects he was working on and I in turn shared my latest newsletter with him and asked him how he was doing with his work and his gallery. He just emailed me today, thanking me for sharing my work and invited me to attend the art fair to say hello to everyone. He also asked if he could participate in an ongoing project that I am working on. I’m really excited about developing this opportunity.

  6. Brava! Thank you!
    When I train law students on professionalism issues, one of my strongest points about networking and business development is that any equivalent of “Damn glad to meet ya! Can I have your children?” is inappropriate and ineffective. Putting the cart before the horse doesn’t work in transportation and it doesn’t work in developing business relationships.
    Making connections that matter takes time and effort.

  7. Hi Alyson, It is about building And nurturing relationships and then remaining in contact. it’s about being willing to share information in open relationships as in online art communities like this that have an international following. Six years on and yours is still my favourite (I’m UK).

  8. Hi Alyson! I recently read an article about following up after a job interview and decided that wasn’t too different from contacting galleries. After e-mailing a new gallery recently and not hearing back after a few weeks, I followed up with a visit. Turns out they HAD written back, but I didn’t get it because they had forwarded it and wound up sending it back to themselves. They now have nine of my paintings after a lovely welcome, and we probably wouldn’t have connected at all if I hadn’t followed up.

  9. This is one of my favorite topics, Alyson! What you are describing is a form of networking. Going into a “conversation” with someone without expectations of getting anything, and being willing to give. Asking them about themselves, without pitching yourself.
    This truly works. I’ve built my business almost entirely by networking.It takes a lot of work, but the benefits are that you have sewn many seeds of goodwill, and people come back to you with business. You can create Win/Win situations where referring customers to you is a pleasure for others you have reached out to.
    I think it works mostly because it’s human nature to do this. Consider this quote from Dale Carnegie: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get them interested in you.”

  10. Thanks Alyson, I have printed out the four introduction tips and put them on my business museboard, above my computer.
    You’re the best!

  11. Great article, Alyson! I’m a new reader, and I’m really enjoying what I see so far.
    When it comes to business relationships, I think many people focus on the business and forget about the relationship. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about love, friendship, or business, no one likes feeling used.

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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