Have you ever felt discouraged about asking for things? Maybe you sometimes feel that you’re going to be rejected anyway. . . so why bother? I know I’ve often felt that way, but time and experience has taught me to get back on the horse and try again.
In fact, one of the best things I’ve learned over the last few years as an independent artist (and writer) is how important it is to actually reach out and ask for opportunities.
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In general, this is good advice in life! And yet, if you’ve ever talked to anyone outside the creative world about your ambitions as an artist, chances are they offered encouragement by saying something to the effect of “Well, maybe you’ll get discovered and sell all your paintings and be rich and famous.”
When I hear these words now, I usually shake my head ruefully (if I’m on the phone) or nod politely and inwardly roll my eyes. When I was studying to become a teacher, no one suggested I wait around and hope to be “discovered.” It was all about finding opportunities to get my foot in the door and land a teaching job. Why do people have such a different expectation of artists?
When you want a job, you have to go out and apply for the job (sometimes, you’ll apply for many jobs at once). Applying for a job means you are putting yourself out there and asking someone to hire you. I’ve found that every artistic and writing opportunity that’s come my way has done so as a result of my asking for the opportunity.
Now, as an artist you may not get the chance to reply to an “Art Wanted” ad with your resume, but there are still plenty of ways to “apply” for creative opportunities.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do:
1. If you don’t clearly ask, you probably won’t receive.
Speaking up and asking for things is not my strong point. I’m the type that would rather suffer in silence than draw attention to myself and ask for something. But being an artist has pushed me far out of my comfort zone, so putting myself out there is something I’ve had to get used to doing.
Some of these opportunities come up as a result of conversations—even though I’m an unashamed introvert. At events, however, I go out of my comfort zone and try to get to know some of the artists, along with attendees who come to look at my work.
If the conversation turns to an opportunity that sounds like a good fit for me, I speak up and let them know that I’m interested. I may never hear from the person again, but so what? Sometimes I do hear back, and then I’m grateful that I spoke up and asked for the opportunity to be involved.
2. You may not be perfectly qualified—ask anyway!
If you come across something creative that you would like to do, reach out and sell yourself by describing your experience and what you have to offer. Again, nothing might come of it. I’ve contacted people and put my name in for things and never heard back plenty of times.
However, I’ve also sent my information to people who contacted me after a long while. . . in one case, a writing opportunity came a year later (to my surprise!)
Each time that happens, I feel rewarded for the effort spent sending out my information. As a bonus, the connections you make and experiences you gain with each interaction tend to build on each other, improving your resume for the next opportunity that comes along.
3. Keep your “feelers” out for every opportunity
It may seem a bit opportunistic, but as someone who earns money on a freelance basis, I tend to keep my senses sharp for experiences that will help me build my creative career. And of I see something that would work well for me, I reach out and make contact.
Sure, I could sit back and wait for people to find me, but is that any way to go about getting a job? It may be uncomfortable (and even feel a bit insulting, at first) to repeatedly need to ask for opportunities to use my talents, but if I don’t speak up for myself, who will?
So the next time you find yourself considering an artist call or creative opportunity, take your interest a step further and reach out. Apply, submit your work, pitch your ideas, and sell yourself.
Even if you don’t hear back right away (or at all) you’ll be accomplishing the most important step for bringing those artistic opportunities your way—just by asking.
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