Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
business of art / Deal Making

It’s not WHAT you Know it’s WHO you Know – How to get to Know Them

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Remember the old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” when it comes to getting big opportunities.

This applies to every business, especially acting, writing, art and music.

The person who gets the gig is not always the best or most talented; it’s usually the one that is personally connected to the decision makers in an industry.

Why?  Because people like to buy from people they trust.  And, we tend to trust people we have met in person or who have been vouched for by someone we trust.

One of the biggest “whales” we ever landed was one of the largest hard drive companies in the world.  To date, they are the largest client we have ever worked with.  They commissioned Drew for a few big projects over the past few years.  We connected with them through a friend who works there, whom we spend a lot of time with at parties!  After a few face to face meetings with the marketing department, we were commissioned to create murals and fine art surfboards and other projects for them.


HOW does someone like me (and you), a solopreneur, working in our humble little business, get to meet the big, powerful decision makers?

There are a few easy strategies, and I call it Power Networking, but it’s not as hard as it sounds! It’s actually fun, if you allow it to be.

The idea is to get you out of your safe little studio and into the world of meeting the right people who can make things happen for your career.

There are three very simple ways to get in front of the right people in a relaxed and easy and enjoyable manner.

And why is “relaxed and enjoyable” important? Because the more fun you’re having, the better you will connect with others.


Some people are afraid to get out and meet people, because they are introverted or not sure how to talk to others.  If this is you, please know that most people feel the same way!

It takes practice to learn how to talk to other people and feel comfortable doing it.  That’s why I stress the importance of having fun and enjoying yourself and keeping busy while you network.  The more fun you’re having, the more relaxed you are and the easier it becomes.

I think the easiest method for an introverted person is this:


Recently Drew attended a science conference in Phoenix.  It’s our intention to market Drew’s new work based on physics and science at events such as this one, but we didn’t have any connections in this industry.

So, I wrote the event planners and asked if I could be a volunteer at the event.  At first they said they had all the volunteers they needed, but, I persisted.  Finally, they said yes!

At the conference I helped at registration checking people in, mingled with the VIP’s and contributed in every possible way.  I was a huge help to the people running the event, and also, I was able to connect with them in such a way that we are now good friends.  The best part?  At the end of the event, the CEO of the event asked if we would want to do an art exhibit at the next one!

Working behind the scenes at an industry event or trade show is an excellent networking opportunity, because while there you:

  • Get to personally meet the movers and shakers of the industry.
  • You are now on a first name basis with the decision makers (and you get their cell #!)
  • You have the opportunity to rub elbows with influential people
  • You learn a lot about the secret happenings in the industry that you cannot learn by sitting home and reading about it.

ASK YOURSELF:  What industry would my work fit in with best?  Then Google it and look for trade shows and events that are coming up, and volunteer to work it for free.  Set the intention to network and get to know as many people as you can at the event, all while being a contribution.

AFTER THE EVENT:  Follow up with the people you connected with, send emails so they have your contract info, and plant seeds in their mind of what you do best and how you can offer services to them.


There are opportunities everywhere to mingle with the people whom you want to meet.  You just have to look.

One of the artists I consult ran into an old acquaintance at a party in New York.  The gal mentioned that she was now working at an art consultant business and suggested that his art might fit with one of their projects.  He followed up a week later and met with her team.  The result:  He got a $20,000 order for art prints for a hotel project!

The reason the artist got the deal:  First, he put himself out there to meet people.  Then, he followed up with a lead quickly after the event. And last, he set up a meeting, made a presentation and GOT THE DEAL!  All of this, just from going to a party.


  • “Who do I know that is involved in the industry in which I want to sell?”
  • “Who can make an introduction for me?”
  • “Who can I spend time with at an event so I can be introduced to the right people?”

For example, if you wish to sell your work in the action sports industry, you would find a way to attend the various trade shows of that industry, such as the Surf Expo or Outdoor Retailer.

You could offer your services to one of the companies that will have a booth there.  Or, you could walk the show and be sure to attend the many networking parties and events happening during the show.

Once there, you would make it a point to meet as many people as you can, making contacts and giving out business cards.

Some of the best business deals I’ve ever gotten have come from being at an event or trade show and meeting the right person.

When you are in a relaxed atmosphere and having a good time, you are more attractive to others and more likely to win someone’s heart as a longtime friend or acquaintance.


This technique is similar to number one above, except, you are being paid to paint live or perform at an event.

This works for artists who are comfortable painting or performing live at events.  For my husband Drew, who is an introvert, he is so much more at ease in a social setting when he’s painting and people are watching.  It enables him to better talk about his work.  And, of course, he likes being paid for it.

Live painters are often hired for corporate events and parties, trade show booths and brand promotions.  This is a great option, because, well, you are getting paid to network!  (For details on how to get live painting gigs, check out my e-book on the topic).

People prefer to do business (or buy art from) people they know.

“Working” at an event helps you get to know many people in an industry, on a first name basis.

A BRAINSTORMING EXERCISE:  To help you determine the best way for you to reach the people that will want to work with you, grab a piece of paper and write down the questions below:

  • Who are my desired clients or collectors?
  • What do they love or do?
  • Where do they do it?
  • What industry events or shows will I find these clients?
  • Who are the top 3 people that can introduce me to the decision makers?

Spend time brainstorming – when you take the time to THINK, answers come to you!

Find a way to attend the next industry show or event.  Then, figure out a way to get your work involved.

Have fun, meet people, and remember to follow up with those you meet, right after it’s over.  Some will eventually become your friends, and some your clients, I promise!


Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve networked in this way, and what your results were.

Or, if you feel hesitant to follow these suggestions, tell me why.  I’d love to hear from you!

Your comments on my blog provide the encouragement that I need to continue sharing my strategies.  Please share your feedback with me.

Here’s to our great success –

Maria xxoo


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25 Comments It’s not WHAT you Know it’s WHO you Know – How to get to Know Them

  1. Lauren Tannehill

    You are the best! I love this! So simple and easy and the best way to get jobs! I notice how much my art biz slows down when I’m not self promoting and meeting people face to face. I love talking with people, you never know who you are going to meet! Thanks for the email!

    1. Maria

      Lauren, thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your thoughts on this. I appreciate it. I’ve been watching your art grow these past few years (along with your family!) – and it’s great to watch!

  2. Peter Nein

    You are a loving inspired genius that is giving truth in such a pure powerful way !
    You and Drew …….the tip of the spear in new paradigm high level upgrades ‘

    Thank you for Sharing your insight …..the knowledge thru your wonderful experiences together ‘

    Keep sharing sister *
    The head waters keep flowing the pure and clear water ……..ya’ll are the headwaters ~*~

  3. Kassie

    Thank you Maria, so inspiring and generous in your expertise.

    I have contacted many charities related to my art subject, offering free prints and commissions but nobody would ever reply (admin and staff costs I feel) and I felt disheartened that my work wasn’t wanted.

    I now believe I should work with them, get to know them, though difficult financially, rather than look like an artist just looking for a cross marketing link up – my intentions are genuine but they don’t know me from Adam, hehe, so your advice here is really insightful, thank you.

    1. Maria

      Kassie, thanks. The best way to get to know what’s important to an organization (and then be able to help them reach those goals) is to spend time at their events, and, subscribe to their newsletters so you can keep close to what they’re up to. And then, when you read about a new initiative or event they are putting on, you can contact them and say “how can I help?”

  4. Kara Rane

    Hi Maria
    As always I get so excited when I see your article in my inbox. So agree with your very actionable based insights. One thought I always like to keep in mind when I get in the mindset that “if only that one person would like my art, then I would be set.” Is that the world is not composed of just Kings and Paupers. Everyone has importance and value. Each person who likes what you are doing is an influential ‘person to know’.

    1. Maria

      Kara, first, thanks for saying that you get excited to read my newsletters! Best compliment ever.

      And, I love what you wrote about everyone having importance and value. I totally agree. If only we could all be taught this at a very young age!

  5. Duane jones

    Hey Maria,
    Great article. Not building relationships in the real world has held me back for a long time. This article was a reminder to keep growing my “face-to-face” network.

    1. Maria

      Duane, thanks for the comment. Glad to have been able to “kick you in the butt” and get you out of your comfort zone! Once out of that zone, it becomes fun meeting people and making new friends and making things happen!

  6. valerie lorimer

    Hi Maria! Great article and something I always need to hear. I’m definitely an introvert and would probably never think to put myself in one of these situations but know I need to. Thank you. Hope all is well with you and your family!

  7. M

    This is great advice but it doesn’t apply to everyone. I am sensitive to perfume/scents and it makes meeting people on the spur of the moment VERY difficult. I can’t just show up at a party, convention, tradeshows etc. without ensuring that it is a fragrance-free space, and that the people attending have shown up not wearing any scented products. Unless the company you work for has a strict scent-free policy across all their departments, it makes advancing one’s career very hard if this is the only way to do things. I would like to hear some other examples of ways to meet and connect with people instead of just out of the blue. There has to be another way. I am a talented artist with ambition and drive, but this disability is a huge barrier when it comes to networking.

    Do you think I could find an assistant to do these types of events on my behalf? I know people prefer to meet the artist in person but it’s impossible if someone is wearing scented products.

    1. Maria Brophy

      M, thanks for the comment and the question.

      It must be difficult to be that sensitive to smells. I have a little of that myself; perfumes make me ill, too. But I can tolerate it if I have to. Luckily, people don’t wear perfumes so much anymore.

      But to answer your question – yes, if you have a manager handling sales for you, then they absolutely can do this for you. The trick is to have someone that you will be working with for many, many years. Business relationships are long term and if you stop working with your manager, they will take the relationships with them.

  8. Lance Klass

    Hi Maria – this is one of your best blog articles yet, and the importance of personal contacts in licensing artwork or gaining art commissions can’t be understated.

    In art licensing my first step is always to locate a company that creates products where the art I represent would be a good fit.

    The second step is to locate the person at that company who is responsible for licensing in good art for their products.

    The third step is to develop a warm, personal relationship with that person so that they (a) feel comfortable communicating with us, and (b) think of us when they need new art.

    Of course, there are companies that wander in from a Google search or stop by our booth at a trade show, and neither of those can be discounted, but even in one of those situations the immediate goal is the same – to create that direct, easy, two-way communication with the person and, often, their associates in the company. Not only does that lead to success, it is also very pleasant to have so many friends in so many companies, helping us and themselves do better and be more successful.

    You’ve really put your finger on the importance of free and easy, pleasant and supportive communication. Thanks, once again!

  9. Ken Ashe

    I feel that the phrase “it not what you know, but who you know” is universal. Even though I’m in a completely different industry than yours, I find this is be very important in the corporate world as well, and that volunteering is a great way to make connections with people that you otherwise wouldn’t meet.

  10. joanne healey

    Thank you so much for your information. You really have a talent for what you do.

    When I would talk with people at trade shows or parties, where I get stuck is the how to.
    What do I say to them?
    What can I offer someone? a company?
    Also some of the logistics of what I can do/offer them- say a company, etc.

    Concrete examples would really help me.

    1. Maria Brophy


      Great questions! Here’s my answers as to how to talk to people at events:

      1 – Get yourself in a super fun mood before going to the event (listen to music, dance, whatever you need to do to get yourself into a fun vibration)

      2 – Set the intention to have FUN and to CONNECT and to UPLIFT everyone you meet (you are making it about THEM, not YOU; when you take the focus off of yourself, you are uplifting others. This leads to connecting.)

      3 – Make it your number one priority to have a lovely and fun conversation with as many people you can, and in that conversation, your main focus is this:

      A – Uplift them
      B- Get them talking about themselves by asking genuine questions and be interested in them
      C- remember that right now you are not selling anything; you are buying into who they are and enjoying getting to know them

      D- Look for what you admire about each person you talk to and focus on that

      E – Don’t sell anything – connect with people by doing the above. And that will make people want to know more about you, and when they ask, you tell them what you do in one short sentence (make it a descriptive one).

      And, have biz cards or something to show them if they are interested.

      Above all, have fun, make people feel great in your prescense. This is more effective and powerful than anything.

  11. alan phillips

    Maria! Thank you for the strategy emails I get from you. I appreciate what you and Drew give back. This morning as I was strategizing about just who my clients are and where they can be grazing so to speak; your email came about ‘who you know’…perfect! Your thinking is perfect too..there’s a point at which you talk about people getting your contact information but you say ‘contract’ information, leave it…I love that..I’m saying that from now on. I have just started on the journey of making new friends…or building my network and your encouragement is priceless. Thank you again. Alan

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