How to Be a Joy to Work With

What makes someone want to work with you?

Sure, it might be your art, but there are a lot of talented artists out there. If you don’t approach your business with the same professionalism you give your art, you are likely to be passed over for other artists.

Based on my conversations with heads of arts agencies, curators, and gallerists, here is a list of nine best practices you can follow that will make you a joy to work with.

Helen Hiebert paper weaving

Helen Hiebert shares Weaving #14 from her current 100 x 100 Paper Weavings project.

Most of these are easy to adopt, but also easy to overlook. Don’t make that mistake.

1. Send short emails and state your purpose in the first paragraph.

Busy recipients of your messages shouldn’t have to guess as to why you are writing or search for the answer somewhere in a long story of your situation.

2. Sign your emails.

Regardless who you are writing to, it’s rude not to sign your messages with your name.

I receive emails daily that are unsigned. Don’t use the excuse that you’re on your smart phone and can’t type well. You shouldn’t be sending business emails if they aren’t proper. Wait until you get to the computer if necessary.

Practice by signing emails to your close friends and family. Soon, it will become a habit for all of your messages.

3. Do your homework.

Before asking for help with anything or sending a request to anyone, read and research. If you can find what you need with a Google search, don’t ask someone else to do the work for you.

This brings me to . . .

4. Value other people’s time.

Remember your appointments, arrive on time, and, again, search for answers before asking for someone else’s time.

These are matters of personal responsibility.

5. Ask for (and meet) any deadlines attached to projects.

Understand that your business partners also have other artists, clients, and customers.

In most relationships, you won’t be the sole focus of the other person’s business. That means (back to #4) that you must acknowledge they are as busy building their businesses as you are building yours. When you miss your deadlines, you can’t expect others to hold your place in line.

6. Forgive.

People aren’t perfect and should be forgiven just as you would like to be forgiven from time to time.

But . . . if you’re always doing the forgiving in a business relationship, things are out-of-whack and it might be time to find different partners.

7. Be positive.

Negativity feeds on negativity.

We understand that things get bad sometimes, but if you’re always Debbie or David Downer, no one will want to be around you. This can’t be good for your art business.

I am still amazed at all of the positive energy that was in the room at the recent Art Biz Makeover. I told my guests it was because I don’t attract negative people anymore. Those people have fallen to the wayside after I started setting boundaries and got very clear about my ideal clients.

8. Be generous.

The more you give, the more you receive. The more you keep to yourself, the less abundant you will be.

It’s really that simple.

Be generous with your information, your gifts, and your praise.

9. Be grateful.

You will never experience abundance until you are grateful for what you already have.

I still have a few Thank You notes to write after the workshop and I’m particularly mindful of the people who went to great lengths to make the event a success – people who probably work with a lot of cranky, demanding customers.

Yes, I paid these people, but they put up with my changing orders, nitpicky questions, and early deadlines.

I won’t sleep well until they are all thanked properly with gifts or handwritten cards in the mail.

What makes you happy to work with someone?

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20 comments to How to Be a Joy to Work With

  • I am so happy when good communication is reciprocated. By this I mean it is obvious that the other person heard/read was said, and responds appropriately and in a timely manner. It also means being succinct and respectful. Even if it is challenging topic, staying with good communication usually will solve any problem.

    • Kathleen: Yes, communication is so important. We get frustrated when people don’t hear us. But when that happens, we have to ask “How could I have said it differently to get a better response?”

  • I love to work with people who take pride in what they do. Who put in the time to do that little extra or improve an idea. Recently I asked my printer to print some jpegs I’d taken. The colour wasn’t quite right on them (my fault not his) but he’d spotted it and corrected it without me having to ask and saving me a return journey.

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. In other words, deliver what you promised to deliver. That goes for being a seller at a show, a website manager, a show coordinator, etc.

  • I love to work with people who are open to ideas, and whose first response is curiosity or possibility. Same goes for me, as I welcome ideas and possibilities from others. When one of their ideas or requests won’t work in a commission, first I tell how I tried to make it work (usually multiple times), and then I offer another option. They feel heard, taken seriously, and their ideas are valued, becoming the springboard for new ideas. I love to work with people who offer me the same.

  • I do interviews somtimes with artists on my blog and it is so refreshing when one of them has everything all ready for me. By this I mean links to other artists they mention in their interview answers, captions for their images, names of the works in the images, things like that. A few of the artists even give me additional info like their bio, online sites and contact info to include. They make it easy for me to promote them. I think these are all things that we can think about when others offer to help us out. But I guess that’s really the core of Alyson’s teachings – always be prepared to help someone help you.

  • Alyson, as an artist and individualist we are so used to working by ourselves and do our own thing that we forget sometimes that there indeed is “Strength in Numbers”. How important it is to be a team player. I like working with my fellow Artists/Painters and respect what they bring to the table instead of viewing them as a threat or a competition. This positive attitude has enabled me to forge strong relationships with some of the most creative professional artists, sculptors and painters. How? By simply being upfront, honest and helpful – just the way you have stated above. Helping them helps me because the word does get around and there is no better way to establish a great reputation which is my brand. (Smile) I even created a painting on this very cocept. http://roopadudley-artblog.blogspot.com/2013/08/team-mate-commentary-on-embracing-our.html

  • This is fabulous Alyson!
    Thank you.
    I am looking for the Linked In share button…did I miss it? Or do you not have that as an option on the Art Biz blog? I love to share your posts! All best, dd

    • Click on the whole post (the title). There are Sharing icons at the bottom of every post. The last button is “More Options” and that’s where you’ll find LI.

      Thanks for asking, Debra!

  • Dee

    What makes me happy to work with someone is that they follow through with what they commit to. It’s a plus if they do a quality job as well but sometimes it comes down to just delivering the item/product on time. I used to run a small magazine and not every article was fantastic, maybe a few of them were, the rest would be considered filler. But the filler is important, too. Someone has to do it.

    It also helps when people have enthusiasm and positive attitude about what they are contributing to. If they aren’t into it, it shows. So I would adjust accordingly and offer choices to people who wrote and give them flexibility in content/subjects. So I think the strongest factors are: determination, flexibility, adaptability, and enthusiasm.

    For me as an “employer” I can tolerate some amount of difficult personality if someone makes quality work, but if they do not have any of the above qualities eventually exhaust me and I give them up (as a sole 1 person run kind of operation)

  • BJ

    I recently did a collaborative 2 week event with a new person I hadn’t worked with before. She was very professional,but had some participants different from what I usually draw. One particular person was very left brain and going thru some personal crisis. Nothing would satisfy except to tell her how to get from A-Z step by step. Since my process is creative visualization, it made for some awkward moments that affected the entire group, much as we tried to buffer.I followed thru to the end,despite the sabotage.
    I hope to say I have learned from this, but as an extremely right brain person, it’s a challenge to encounter people so bent on being difficult.
    Mom used to say ‘you have every right to disagree, but not to be disagreeable’ I’m really going to think about some coping strategies in case I should find myself in a similar situation.

    • BJ: Do you really think she was trying to be difficult and to sabotage your work?

      I wouldn’t write off all left-brained folks because of this experience. They can usually be an excellent sidekick to the right-brained approach.

      So, what will your strategies be the next time because you will have to work with l-b folks again?