First impressions are important. When I was newly finished high school and applying for my first job, I had no experience, few references, and I was seventeen and often lumped into the “irresponsible teenager” stereotype. The only thing I had to offer a prospective employer was my best first impression.
With my mom’s guidance, I knew to dress neatly, to be direct and polite, to approach an employer at the beginning of the day at the beginning of the week. Business owners are more receptive on Monday morning than Friday afternoon, was her reasoning. And I got my first job on the basis of the first impression.
Today, I use my mother’s advice every time I promote my art. When I dress nicely and present my work in a professional manner, when I make appointments to show my work to a gallery, rather than dropping in cold, I am showing that my relationship with them will be a professional one; that I won’t be disorganized, late, sloppy, or emotional.
I’ve noticed too that timing is important when making a first impression. Once I approached a business owner about redesigning her (very sad looking) brochure, on a barter basis. I made the mistake of rushing into my purpose for approaching her, rather than taking a minute or so and building up to my intention. After she turned me down, we talked for a few minutes more, and I could see her impression of me improving. If I had waited just a minute or two longer to state my business, I may very likely have gotten a different response. Not that I recommend any artist waste a business owner’s time with meaningless small talk, but whenever it is possible, take a moment to introduce yourself, show an interest in the other person and build a bit of a rapport.
It’s not hard to find common ground with a gallery owner. They too love art. They too know how hard it is to market and sell art in today’s society & economy. They have opinions about pricing, framing and advertising. They have experience you can benefit from – they have seen firsthand what sells and what doesn’t. I know that in building a relationship with a gallery, you are inward-focused on your image and that first impression, but take the time to listen to what they have to say – it can be very educational, and you may get a good insight into what the gallery is looking for in the artists they represent.