How to Hire a Consultant for Your Art Career

Princess Rashid and Alyson Stanfield

Princess Rashid talks with me about her portfolio at a workshop.

From time to time I agree to consult privately with an artist.

With such consultations, it’s my client’s job to set the agenda. They’re paying for it, so they should determine what outcome they want or need.

The most important questions I ask before agreeing to spend an hour with someone on the phone are:

What is it you want to accomplish? How do you think I can help?

Whether you’re working with me, asking for help from another artist, or signing up for a mentor session at a conference, it’s imperative that you know what outcome you want.

You need to be uber-specific. I cannot tell you what you want or need.

beginning
biz basics

Please don’t email me and say “I just started selling my art. How can you help me?” This is a waste of anyone’s time. When I receive email like this, I think that this person is lazy and hasn’t even bothered to find out anything about what I do.

I suggest these steps for hiring a consultant.

  1. Become familiar with the consultant. Read her blog and newsletters, talk with her other clients, follow her tweets, and gather as much information as you can. You not only want to ensure that you’re hiring the right person for you, but you also want to show the consultant that you’ve done your homework.
  2. Start gathering your questions. When I consult with experts (and I do) I keep my thoughts and questions in a computer notebook and add to them over time. I know that not everything will come at once and I want to be clear about my purpose.
  3. Request an appointment with the consultant. Use my questions above to formulate your request. What do you want to accomplish? How do you think this consultant can help you?
  4. Collect facts and figures to help the consultant get the big picture. The data you share depends on your goal for the consultation. For example, the consultant might need to know your income, your blog stats, or the number of people on your contact list in order to give you the best advice. You might also share your other commitments and the time you have to devote to your art business.
  5. Send your questions and concerns to the consultant by the requested deadline. I like to have them 24 hours before a consultation, but this will vary from consultant to consultant. The main point here is that it’s your responsibility to be organized with this information. The more you share in advance, the higher the quality of help you’ll receive.

Reasons why you might hire a consultant:

  • To clarify goals (for your business, career, event)
  • To receive honest feedback (on marketing material, on a situation). Don’t hire a consultant to make you feel better about this or that. Hire someone because you value his or her input.
  • To save money in the long run. Two-hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money if it saves you hours of hassle.
  • To validate a direction you’re headed or to help you make a correction

Read more about my work as an artist business consultant.

What advice do you have for someone looking to hire a consultant?

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8 comments to How to Hire a Consultant for Your Art Career

  • Alyson,

    This is the first time I disagree with you; though you are right. :)

    “…it’s my client’s job to set the agenda…”

    I think there are many artists out there, great ones too, that don’t know where to begin, and for sure don’t know what questions to ask when it comes to dealers, collectors, and the media. And not even have begun to think what they want or need from them. It is as if they are autistic.

    Any success I have had came by chance, my collectors were simply inspired by my work and by my dedication, and ignored my retardation for business of art.

    I think you would have an awesome workshop or hour session, carefully taking an artist or group getting them to find out what they want from the outside world. This may be too psychological for you, but I think you would be surprised by how many intelligent artists are out there that are completely blind about how to go about their careers. And I think their request to work with you is a cry for help.

    Cheers,

    Michael

    • Michael: I get that. But even when you were in the dark, did you not know what you wanted?

      Did you have questions you wanted to ask?

      • That is my point Alyson. I have been totally clueless, with a vague image of huge museum shows, and not much in-between. I didn’t know what questions to ask. And only recently discovering that I can kill a collector/s enthusiasm, because I didn’t know what they need to know from me. It is nearly impossible for an artist to see things from a normal collector’s point of view. The technical things that can excite us, can bore a collector and make them run away! So we need to know how to excite a collector, and at the same time be totally genuine.

  • Yes Michael, I know what you mean. I am great with seeing growth for other artists, but when it comes to me, I am terrible. Every since I have been following Ayson, since she started online, I have wanted to hire her for help. Then it’s like ok…ugh….where do I begin. I have even talked with Alyson via emai and she sent me the above outline…or simular. Ok I said, let’s gather my thoughts and…..so what, about four years later I am still saying I need to gather my thoughts and compile what I want! Thank goodness Alyson, you have added to your-what to do first. Hey, it’s only taken me four or so years to prepare…and save the money. ;)…Ugh now where to start first.
    Don’t get me wrong, I have grown in my business….thanks to your book and workshop, Alyson, but I know there is more for me. There is a bigger picture, just don’t know which fork to take in the road. :)
    Hope some of my ramblings made sense.
    laura.

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