It is hard for us to sell our creations. As creators, we lavish attention on our work until it takes on a life of its own. Our latest masterpiece is almost a member of the family. Most creative people also struggle with self-doubt. This self-doubt masks itself in the belief that work should stand on its own. We think, “If my work is actually any good, others will see this on their own and offer to pay good money for it.”
Don’t Be Vincent
Even great work does not sell itself. Many of the greatest artists who ever lived faced long periods of anonymity and rejection. Some even died before achieving any financial success. I don’t want to discourage you, but we must believe in our own work and sell it before others will buy it.
Though the great impressionist Vincent Van Gogh did sell some work during his lifetime, it was not enough to keep him financially stable. Don’t be Van Gogh. Make sure your work reaches its audience. But how can we become confident creators and marketers who sell our work without apology?
Deby Dearman is an artist who is making a career of selling her paintings and teaching art classes. I asked her how she learned to sell her work. “Start with a humble, teachable attitude,” Deby said. “Learn about Facebook marketing. Find creative ways to build an email list. Then, nurture that list by developing relationships through consistent, valuable communication.”
Marketing creative work online feels inauthentic to many of us. Trying to connect with others, we sit alone at our computer and pour out our hearts. We would never be so transparent in public, but we are able to hide behind a world-wide web of glass and light as we do so.
But the discomfort will be worth it in the end—and after all, it’s unavoidable. Effective communication is only learned by repetition. Emulate others whose work you admire. Make mistakes until you find your voice as a confident promoter of your work. Even if you are clumsy, your honest interest in helping others will build relationships.
Relationships are a prerequisite for sales, and relationships are most effectively nurtured through email. Email is the oldest and most personal digital marketing tool. High impact email marketing starts with a well-designed website. Always have an easy-to-spot email opt-in form. We often make it hard for people to become our fans. Make it easy.
And, don’t forget the power of face-to-face relationships. When people show interest in your work, ask if you can add them to your email list.
Email opt-in forms work best when accompanied by a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a valuable offer for which your customer will be happy to trade their email. Visual artists offer computer desktop background images of their artwork (often called “wallpapers”). Software developers offer free trials of their products. Writers offer free ebooks.
Facebook ads can get sign ups for your email newsletter. Before advertising, find a coach with proven ability, or take a course that others recommend. Jon Loomer and Grant Cooper can help you get started. As people get to know you online, they will begin to subscribe to your email list through your opt-in forms.
Do these two things to build a valuable email list:
- Send regular, helpful content. Let people know about your work. Tell a story your customers will find interesting. By default, human nature is self-focused. Before you hit “send” on your email, ask yourself, “If I was receiving this, what would be in it for me?” If you don’t know what they want, here are some tips that may help.
- Give people things to click on. Get your list used to taking action on what you share. Without this habit, your list will not buy when you have a product to sell.
Be a Real Friend
Concentrate more on your email subscribers interests than on selling your products or services. Be a real friend. Have you ever met someone at a networking event who launched into a sales pitch without getting to know you first? It’s a bit like asking someone to marry you on the first date. Don’t do it. Common courtesy goes a long way toward making the sale.
Ask for the Sale
Remember, relationship building has a point. People buy from those they know, like, and trust. If you’ve been giving more than you take and giving things of real value, don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. You have value to give, and your customers will appreciate it more when they can pay you for it. Don’t let fear and doubt stop you from saying with confidence, “I made this. Buy it!”
Without effective marketing, your art is worthless. Well, not worthless. The creative act has intrinsic worth. Appreciation of your work within your circle of friends has immense value. It just has no monetary value. It won’t buy groceries or pay the mortgage. For that kind of value, you must learn to market. As Deby says, “Without marketing, fabulous art seldom goes far. But with marketing, fabulous art can bless multitudes.”