How do you ask a question when you are squirming in your shoes with your toes all curled up? Essential pointers from a creative girl in the creative business.
Being brassy and asking for that which you might or might not receive.
Google the question 'what is the best way to ask a question' and a gazillion answers come up. Go find and read them to find out ways of controlling your nerves, your breathing, body language - they all help and knowledge is power. My article here today is about working for yourself and getting your wares out, to be seen and therefore purchased.
Ask & ye shall receive - you shall receive dear heart but perhaps not in the way that you initially set out to. Having worked as a solo artist for over 20 years now, I've had an awful lot of reasons to ask for an awful lot of things. I've gotten much better at it over the years and believe me when I stress that for the major part of my career, I've asked whilst not truly believing in my talents, not really feeling like I am worth that which I'm asking for and generally feeling like an utter fraud. This is entirely natural and generally speaking all part of being a creative. It's the doing that matters here - not the thinking.
I've heard it said many times that 'artists don't like to promote themselves and their work' 'Solo creatives aren't great at getting out there' etc etc and I am sure they have large swathes of truth in them - the thing is though that unless you are prepared to ask, you're not going to be going nowhere, anytime.
I have two examples.
The first of which is from a time that I was new new new to being self employed in the mid 1990's. I was on benefits for having a broken arm - (yes, my painting arm) and was convalescing at home, bored out of my mind and on benefits. I decided that I would send out pictures (no internet then - can you imagine?!) to FIFTEEN GALLERIES PER WEEK. Fifteen letters, by hand and all with photographs. That amounted to an awful lot of asks over the month period. It cost me my benefit money in photocopies, stamps and paper, but beans on toast wasn't so bad - for a month.
In total I sent out about 200 letters - that is 200 asks. Naturally, as is the way of things, I got a mere 7 replies all of which said a polite - no thanks and the rest of the galleries didn't reply at all to me. I was sore (with a broken arm) and very fed up. A year and a half later, I received a telephone call from 'The Pump House Gallery' in Battersea Park (one of the galleries I wrote to) asking me if I would like to have a two week solo show with them in the height of the summer, August. Further to this, the TV company LWT (then bigwigs) were making a film about the park called 'ParkLife' and they would like to include my work, my story and my show in two programmes. Wow. I did, it was a success and all was jolly - however, how the show went isn't really the point here - the point is that one of my many asks I sent out came good in the end. Your asks are still asking - long after you have forgotten them.
My second example is more recent. In 2014 we moved to Suffolk. Away from most of my client base I recognised that I really needed to get booking in some things locally and start introducing people to my work. I had no studio and my art materials were all packed away, still in storage boxes but I had to begin somewhere so I got my thinking cap on. I looked at the big events held in this beautiful county and thought about how I might try to muscle myself in. Latitude Festival is a huge event here and each summer over 25,000 people come up, en famille to rock out, chill out and generally have a ball at this groovy three day party. All my target audience. I wrote to them.
My letter asked if they might need any artists workshops? I would be happy to deliver drawing workshops to anyone - children or adults and happy to offer as many as were needed, in exchange for tickets and simply being there working and doing my stuff. They wrote back and expressed delight at my asking as they love to work locally with artists and craftspersons and hope to show off local talents as much as their own. I was in and all due to my asking them.
So my pointers in asking are:
- See it as very likely the answer will be a no, utter silence or we'll get back to you.
- Keep your ask polite as can be. Not grovelly, just the right side of humble but assertive too.
- ASK IN ABUNDANCE! Ask away people. 20 asks will very probably yield only one possible yes.
- Have in mind a plan in case your yes comes back as a yes and NOW!
- Ask and then move away from your ask. Don't breathe over it. Send your letter and walk away. Perhaps a polite 'just checking your received my proposal' email or call a few days later - once you know they did - leave it be and DON'T HOVER.
- Dream up another 100 asks and ask away by letter, email, social media, carrier pigeon, etc.
This Summer I'll be at Latitute Festival again, delivering my workshops to families for my third year running. It's a great festival and one that I highly recommend - the line up this year is wonderful too, the best I've ever been to.
Make a list of your asks and let me know how you got on. Be brassy and ask!
Samantha - ps, enjoy the short film of me at Latitude 2015.
Keywords, Latitute Festival, The importance of asking, creative clues from Samantha Barnes Artist, Solocreative, artist working from home.
Tags, working for yourself, being a creative, top tips for being a self employed artist