Some of us are naturally good with people, and some of us are not. It depends on so many factors, the ability to read emotions and to communicate with confidence are the first two that spring to mind. We all stand somewhere on the scale of people ability. Artists tend to feel more, and have more conscious awareness for perceived subtle energies in social situations. This can make it harder to know what best to say, where as others see a straight path to success some might see a complex cobweb of eggshells and possible faux pas. Someone told me once that we have to pick up our own eggshells because its not for other people to avoid certain areas. Its passive aggressive to have eggshells or be easily offended. For an artist this may be shocking to hear, but its true. It's also passive aggressive to deliberately go for the eggshells. We have to accept we are human and that means beautifully flawed.
Here are some key skills artistic people really need if they want to be socially cohesive to superhero levels.
Know what you do but also do more. That's right, have a key area but don't let that stop you exploring something else. That's especially true if the money is right or if the opportunity fits right in with what you already do. Sometimes drawing red lines in our expertise can hinder us when it comes to evolving into something even more successful and long-lived that we were before. Imagine if Moby said he'd never write a ballad because he makes party music. He sold considerably more records when he adapted his sound to fit more people's ideas. Don't be a failed pop-star because you were too focused on one particular edge. Opportunity knocks on a daily basis, are you prepared to take it?
Naturally, be a skills sponge. It's okay to be tired of learning, brain-busted, full to the brim. Don't over-do it but really try to learn one or two new skills in depth every year. If it's just something simple like brushwork or calligraphy then that's exactly what you need. So if you want to learn computer programming, it might take half a decade and that's okay too. You know what's best. Always be on the lookout for genuine courses that teach valuable skills. You're already in the Alternative Fruit skills resource, check out the front page.
You need to be online and active. It possibly goes without saying but there are some people out there who think that they can still go to the local library or some other indoors venue and be noticed. They might be noticed but unless your project is centred around retro ethics and the internet is against the rules then use it. It will look bad if you don't, people will think about getting in touch with you and then they won't because they can't find you online. People want to interact with their artists these days, even if it's just to like a picture on their page. Social media skills are really worthwhile learning.
Don't lose yourself. You'll want to work on lots of projects involving many clients and some of them will be paying you. This doesn't mean that you must stop doing what you want to as well. Of course, to get far we need other people so always consider working with others first and be prepared to work for free if it's on par with your general career. Experience and contact lists count for a lot more than a page of likes! Always make time to work on your own projects just for you. That way you'll be less tempted to insert a bit of ego or vanity into someone else's pet project.
Be a student, be a teacher. Pass on what you know in a way that makes sense to you. Go over what you know, put it in simplistic terms so that anyone can understand it, then it'll become subconscious. Once we begin to think without trying we can spend more energy on doing what we love without worrying if it works.
Learn sales. You and your work are a product at the end of the day. Your time and talent is for sale and you want to get the best price possible. This means you need to learn how to sell that product properly, fairly, and in a way that respects you and the customer. It's a new skill or an update to a skill that you have to get to know. Once we learn the basics of marketing ourselves to the right people, we can learn the ropes with each client. It's something we have to dip in to and then learn to swim in.
Find a good network. We are a product of our surroundings, and what we consume. Our media is as important as our diet for our mental health. Our network of people are influential beyond media. A human presence to an idea makes it even more adhesive. If we like that person, then it's practically glued to us. So be careful who you mix with and remember that we don't want to be king of the roost. If we're surrounded by people who look up to us it will give us a biassed view of reality and prevent us from learning new things. We each have our own unique talents and skills, find a blend of people who nurture and validate at the same time.
Talking talking talking. Get used to it. It's nervous business when talking to strangers but we have to do it or we'll not get anywhere. We could wait around for people to talk to us, and if we're in particular demand that might be okay but for most people, we have to instigate conversations. Learning communication skills is paramount to establishing that healthy network mentioned earlier.
Find that thing that's simply you. We can parrot from others at first when finding our feet but a true original merely hints at the masters that came before. Learning how to hone a unique and identifiable style is what will make people want you the most. When your signature says something more than the name, when you represent some kind of feeling or atmosphere, you have found your niche. Ride it.
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Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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