March 19, 2014 | Alyson Stanfield

Instant Relief from the Pressure of Pitching Your Art

That’s the sound of the pressure vanishing like magic. That pressure of trying to hit a home run when you contact someone about your work.
Maybe it’s an email to an interior designer, a meeting with an art consultant, or a letter to a gallerist. You want them to show your art, buy your work, or represent you.
You’re not alone in feeling the pressure to get it just right.
Much of the stress 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 relationship. And strong professional relationships are what will build and sustain your art career.
What if, instead of thinking about your first contact as a one-time chance, you considered it an introduction – your first of many contacts?
During my brief stint as an art consultant, I received a flood of letters from artists with similar wording. They all started with: “I’d like to introduce you to my work.”
I never heard from any of these artists again. Just that one letter from them.
They didn’t want a relationship with me. They just wanted something from me.
I advise my students and members never to ask for anything in the first contact with a new prospect. I suggest the following rhythm for introducing yourself.
Open with how you know them or know of them.
Compliment their work or mention mutual friends, etc. Show you are familiar with them and their business. People like to know you’ve done your homework.
Then you can mention your art in 1-2 sentences. Keep it short and punchy, and invite (not command) them to visit your website.
Finally, thank them for their time, and tell them you look forward to meeting them in person.
That’s it.
You will then make note of this contact in your database and set reminders for sending future postcards or personal email messages.
You are building name recognition and trust during this process. You’ll know when the time is right to ask.
Doesn’t this feel more authentic than developing the perfect pitch?

Did you hear Poof!?


30 comments add a comment
  • 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.

  • 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..

  • Thanks Alyson, I will be sharing this with a couple of my marketing groups … and on Facebook. I think what you mention is very important … relationship, not command!

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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?

  • 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.

  • Susan Gainen

    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.

  • Phil Kendall

    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).

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • I am reading your “I’d rather be in the studio” book and truly appreciate all your wonderful information. Now I’ll also be following your blog. Thanks!

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

  • This was a helpful reminder, and I believe will make it easier to approach galleries.

  • Mani

    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.

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *