...serenity in motion

Clients or friends? Part 2

Clients Or Friends?

Part II

Clients turning to friends?  This can be a bit more sticky than friends purchasing your art.  When you establish a report with clients can make them seem like friends but if you overshare your life, you can destroy a lucrative relationship with someone you didn’t really want to be that close to.  You can also confuse how close you really are and make a collector feel uncomfortable.  Collectors will overshare and not realize they have crossed a line they weren’t really ready to breach.  It will be up to you to pay attention and help to keep the moment light.

When I had a nail technician business, the inevitability of the overshare was a professional hazard.  It was here that I learned that just because my clients shared intimate details, they were only friends with me while I was holding their hands.  One way to tell was their interest level in my life, those who were clients would change the conversation back to focusing on them.  Some of my clients would even judge me if I shared something they disagreed with.  A lot of drama happens in a nail salon, and this can be why.  I still have friendships with many of those clients, but definitely not all.

As a professional in any industry you need to learn how to read the room and pay attention to your audience (client) as it were.  Do they look away as you are talking?  Shift from foot to foot or avoid eye contact all together?  My best advice is to always keep it light.  If you share personal anecdotes; make them light and if possible, funny.  Be sympathetic to anything they share and never show the slightest judgement.

Ron Adamson is a wood carver and chainsaw sculptor who used to share many personal stories but they were always about his adventures in finding his material to carve on.  He is very popular and has maintained relationships throughout his 45 year career.  He would have all of us in stitches with his tales of woe, clutching our sides as his collectors fought to purchase the piece in front of them.  By sharing his life this way, he was creating a client bond that stayed on the surface and never crossed boundaries.  You will have collectors who will want to have a closer relationship than you want, I don’t mean physical but more emotionally intimate.  Keeping your conversations light and even changing the subject when they try to talk about your personal life can help.  They still like their art collection and if they want to add you to it, so be it.  You do have a right to maintain social distance.  Phrases such as, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” Or even, “I don’t want to talk about that, thank you for understanding” can be very effective.  It invites them to be sympathetic and will help them feel magnanimous.

Remember, buying your art doesn’t mean buying access to you.  Collectors might confuse this so try to always be genial and respectful.  You don’t know how many gallery sales they might be responsible for.  Good luck, it does take practice.  Take your cues from successful artists, they might have more advice to offer.  I am always asking questions.  And speaking of questions, ask Ron Adamson about his adventures in finding cottonwood bark.  It is worth the time, I assure you.