Are you an introvert?
I am most definitely an introvert, and I have tried hard over the years to overcome my introversion. Being an introvert simply means that being around groups of people takes a lot of energy out of me. (If you want more details on my personality, I am one of the elusive INFJs according to Myers Briggs personality types. Basically, a rare emotional unicorn who over-thinks, over-feels, and craves deep connections with the world around me. Yay, me! Not. But seriously, take the test. It’s fun to learn about your own personality.)
Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not a synonym for shyness. I’m not shy. I’d just rather stay in my own bubble. Regardless, my introversion was a huge problem for me when I first started selling my art.
Introversion in the Outside World
When I say overcome introversion, I don’t want to give the impression that introversion is bad. It’s not. I love being an introvert. But, it does mean that you need to shift your perspective when you decide to start interacting with customers or art lovers. What feels natural and instinctual to you as an introvert might not serve you in the outside world.
Take shopping for example. I am one of those shoppers that walks into a store, avoids eye contact, and shops in silence. If people talk to me, I am less likely to buy something, because I am incredibly indecisive and I need to consider a ridiculous number of factors before committing to a purchase. Small or large. Shopping with me is annoying. Don’t rush me.
When I first started doing art events, I treated my customers as if they wanted the same thing. That was my instinct, but that wasn’t serving my goal of making sales. I learned at many failed events that if I don’t talk to someone when they stop by my display, they are far more likely to keep walking.
You mean, I have to talk to people?! Oh, the horror!
One of the perks of being a full-time artist is that I can hang out by myself all day long while creating. It’s glorious. The only social interactions I have to have in the studio are the ones safely initiated from my laptop and phone. It’s an introvert’s dream.
Then there are the few days a month where I have to ‘people’ for hours at a time—it’s a really rewarding experience—but it also kicks my ass.
It’s a sad truth, but if you want to sell your art at local events, you have to step out of your comfort zone and pretend you are good at human interactions. At least for a few hours…
How can you overcome your introversion to increase sales?
If you are a true introvert, you can’t make yourself suddenly get energized by talking to a bunch of people. The solutions I am about to offer are only temporary, but since I’ve implemented these tips, I always have a positive experience at events.
This is how I do it:
Mentally prepare yourself for nonstop ‘people-ing’.
Accept that it’s going to happen, and you’ll likely need to hibernate for a few days once you’re done with the event, but the mental prep can help keep your energy up.
Also, when you take on the task of interacting with people fully, time goes by much faster.
Pack pain relievers, snacks, and water for your event.
I usually get a tension headache from being ‘on’ and smiling a lot, so I make sure to stay hydrated, keep my blood sugar up, and have a few ibuprofen on hand to stop any headaches that might develop. It’s simple, but it helps!
Bring an event buddy.
I like to attend events with other local artists or bring a friend with to keep me company and give me a support system while expending so much energy on strangers. This helps keep you talking even when there aren’t customers around.
Slow and under-promoted events are a special kind of misery… event buddies help.
Shift your perspective.
Do you hate being a ‘salesperson’? Pushing sales can feel really disingenuous to me. I don’t want to make someone buy art they don’t want or need. To make myself feel more comfortable, I try to adopt a new perspective and goal at shows to connect with people and share my passion, not just make sales.
People can tell when you are being genuine or when you are just aggressively trying to get a sale, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be aggressive! I have a lot of success with my gentle and genuine approach.
Treat each interaction like a relationship.
Introverts get exhausted by surface-level interactions and generic pleasantries can be tedious, but if you can connect with a few people on a deeper level through your event, you might feel a little less exhausted. Large groups may be draining, but those individual and meaningful interactions can recharge your battery.
Be less concerned with pushing sales and focus on the people taking the time to look at your art. It makes the whole experience much more rewarding.
Also, there is always something interesting about a person and I make it a goal to find it. The more you connect, the more trust you build, and the more likely a sale will occur.
Initiate the conversations.
This one is the hardest for me. When someone walks up to your display, be ready to engage with them. You may feel hesitant or maybe even too shy to do this, but someone has already walked towards your art which indicates that they are interested in what you have to say as the creator.
I like to have a few generic questions ready “What brings you out today?” “Are you shopping for anything in particular?” “What kind of art do you like?” It might seem fruitless, but if your customer is an extrovert, they will happily answer your questions and then some. Be friendly and inviting. Seriously, a smile goes a long way.
If you can get someone talking, they will stay at your display longer. The more people that hang around your display, the more you will attract others to stop by as well.
Learn to read your customers and match their communication style.
If they don’t seem responsive to your questions, end it with “Well if you have any questions, I will be over here,” and a smile. Congrats, you met another introvert! Since you didn’t come on too strong, they may come up to you once they are done looking to initiate a conversation.
If they are super chatty, indulge them the best you can! You may not want to talk to strangers, but showing them body language that communicates the contrary will help them feel more comfortable with you.
Again, trust and comfort=more sales.
Don’t think of your art as just a product to sell.
Think of it as a conversation catalyst. If you can catch someone right when they walk up to your display and get them talking with the generic questions above, they will likely want to talk to you about your process, materials, etc.. Your art pulls people in, and it’s your job to finish the story.
If it’s what you are passionate about, the conversations come more easily.
Lastly, put on your artist face.
You are part of your art brand, so decide how you want people to know you. I used to hope that my art would just speak for itself and sell without human interaction, but it’s not the case. When I do events, I wear a different persona of sorts. It’s me, but the constantly smiling, welcoming, chatty version of me who is over the moon with excitement to tell you about how I create my art.
I save my energy throughout the week so I can perform during my events. I want to be a pleasant person to be around and someone who customers will enjoy talking to. This is a conscious decision on my part. Even if I don’t feel like talking to people, I focus on how my customers will remember me.
When someone likes an artist, they often like their art even more. The opposite is also true. I have met artists that were not pleasant to be around and this made their art unpleasant to me as well. You never know who might buy from you again, so always make a positive impression. Think of yourself as a spokesperson. How can you best represent your art and your brand?
Then, when you go home, you can take off your artist face and go back into your bubble of introversion while counting the money you made that day.
Now if you will excuse me, I must go prepare for my very own event that I have this Friday. Clearly, you can tell where I got my inspiration for this post. I’ve already started mentally prepping myself and counting down the hours until the event is over and I can hide in my studio again.
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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.