Implement a Policy for Answering Questions

Are you someone that other artists naturally trust?

Are you being peppered with questions about how to do this or that—whether it’s an art technique or business practice?

Questions about how to do something usually come from someone with good intentions. You want to help—of course! The problem is that the people who are asking questions don’t realize that you have 14 other people asking the same thing.

Being the Go-To Answer Guy/Gal can be exhausting. The Internet has made it uber easy for us to shoot our questions to anyone . . . So we do! And now your Go-To Answer Guy/Gal inbox is overflowing. These questions can suck the energy right out of you! You don’t mind sharing, but you don’t have time to answer everyone.

You need a policy for these situations.

Nick Pace
Nick Pace, Monument (second version, detail). Oil on canvas, 78 x 28 inches. ©2008 The Artist

Being the Go-To Answer Gal that I am, I’ve been using just such a policy for years. When I’m faced with such questions in my inbox or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook—and it’s pretty clear that they’re not looking for or needing a paid consultation—I share my policy in a personal message.

Wow, Sarah! That’s a great question. I have a policy that I will consider such questions for future newsletters and blog posts so that everyone can benefit. Should I use your name, or would you prefer to remain anonymous?

I make no promises that it will appear or when it might appear. I only promise that I’ll consider it. And the last question in my message (Should I use your name?) is critical. Some people are angry if they’re not given credit, and others have good reason to remain anonymous. See the policy in place.
Don’t think of a policy as a wall that is erected between you and those who trust you. Instead, consider its benefits. A policy like the one I’ve implemented can do the following:

  1. It allows you to be helpful to one person.
  2. It benefits more than one person.
  3. It provides you with content for your website or blog.
  4. It creates boundaries and honors your most important priorities.

FINAL WORD: If you’ve become a Go-To Answer Guy or Gal, it’s time to implement a policy that will preserve your sanity. Consider using my example as a starting point and creating your own. Perhaps you can adapt it for in-person situations like open studios and festival booths.


The podcast is an audio version of this article.

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11 thoughts on “Implement a Policy for Answering Questions”

  1. Thanks Alyson for this blog. My inbox is getting to the point where I could answer questions for several hours a day, and while I enjoy helping people, it’s time for me to think about a policy so that I don’t get burnt out and can be productive with my own work.
    You’re the best!

  2. I’m all for helping people and sharing knowledge, but I have found (usually on specific-topic art technique groups or forums) that some people (often beginners) want *everything* handed to them. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they are inconveniencing those who take the time to answer their questions, nor do they seem to have the concept of Googling or doing their own research *first*.
    I am quite happy to assist when I can, but really the onus should be on the questioner to try to find their own answers before asking for help, not asking for help as an automatic default mode.
    Goodness knows almost anything can be found online without that much effort if you know how to type in the right keywords.

  3. Great post! I get the same questions over and over, but this happens *much* more often when I do a show, not so much in my inbox. I’ve even considered hanging a FAQ in my booth, but I don’t know if such a thing would go over well! Any suggestions for handling this in person? When you answer the same questions for the 50th time in a day, it’s difficult to NOT sound rehearsed or like a recording!

  4. Alyson Stanfield

    All: I hope this solution works for you. Jan’s right. It’s win/win.
    Julie: Yes! I do have an idea for handling questions in a booth. Tell me, is it usually an issue that you have a lot of people in and out of the booth and answering questions gets in the way of helping others?

  5. Hi Alyson,
    Yes, at times it really does. I can remember once or twice such an interruption stopped the closing of a sale. If you have ideas for juggling such a situation I would be forever grateful.

  6. Pingback: Conversation Techniques for Your Artist Booth or Art Opening — Art Biz Blog

  7. Pingback: The Secrets for an Endless Supply of Blog Posts — Art Biz Blog

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