You’re an artist. You create. You don’t want to be a marketer or master negotiator. Nonetheless, art is a business. At some point, you will have to deal with that end of bringing your art to the public. If that thought makes you cringe, you’re definitely not alone.
It is important to not only know what you are creating but also to be aware of what other artists are doing. Participate in the local art scene by going to galleries and attending any open studio dates that come up. Look closely at the media and genre you work in, then follow the careers of similar artists who excite you and align with your own style. Also, stay in touch with trends. What are people buying? Having this sort of knowledge will allow you to assess the value of what you’re doing, discover how crowded (or not) the market is, and give you a sense of what other artists are commanding for their work.
Ask For More Than You Want
Never go into a negotiation asking for only what you need. It is prudent, rather, to ask for more. This will do a few things. It will increase the perceived worth of both your time and your work. It will also show that you have confidence in what you are creating. And it will provide some essential wiggle room to strike a deal. Because you asked for more than you needed, you can give up something that you weren’t set on getting in the first place. The ability to make a concession is more powerful than you might think, as it lets both parties involved in the negotiation feel good about the process and outcome once you reach an agreement.
Do Not Negotiate With Yourself
Stay out of your own way and avoid overthinking things when going into a negotiation. Don’t try to anticipate every little thing that the other party might say or do. You’ll just end up awakening insecurities (both about your art and your business skills) and possibly talking your own price down before you even get to the table. You should definitely be prepared for contingencies, but don’t talk yourself out of your position before the meeting. Instead, go in with an open mind and listen. Let the other person share their thoughts and make their points. Try not to do those things for them as you’re probably going to be much harsher on yourself.
Maintain a Professional Attitude
Negotiation is about getting what you want and need. It’s not about winning, and you should not let your emotions get the best of you. Thankfully, in the art world, most negotiations are friendly and have the goal of arriving at a mutually beneficial place. You want to sell or show something, and the other side wants to buy or show something. Doing business should be a positive interaction with no casualties at the end of it, and both sides should feel good when walking away, whether an agreement is reached or not. Remember, the people you are dealing with are colleagues, curators, and collectors, and it is very likely that you will run into the same faces many times in your career. You want to keep them on your side. So be civil and professional; it will go a long way in the future.
In the end, consider your happiness. If you’d prefer getting a root canal to negotiating a deal, then maybe it makes sense for you to outsource the job. Hiring an agent or business manager is a viable solution. Yes, it means paying someone, which means less profit for you. However, it will also remove an awkward hassle from your life and allow you to focus on what you want to be doing. Agents and managers also bring with them their own established connections, instantly providing you a wider audience with more prospects to pursue. It might not be possible to hire someone right from the get-go, but it is a very serious thing to consider as you begin to emerge into the art world.
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