I work with creative people: artists, writers, photographers. Many are highly imaginative, prolific, brilliant even.
Some are not.
The thing about artists is that they are often so right brained they cannot function in any other mode. They want to make their art and then they want someone who is linear and logical and business minded to tell them it is worthy and sell it for them. They want agents, consultants, brokers, galleries and jurors to deem their work worthy and sell it. They just want to make a product and not worry about anything else.
Can you envision any company working that way? Did Henry Ford say I just want to make cars and I’ll let someone else tell me they are good cars and everyone will want one and buy one? Does the widget manufacturer focus only on creating widgets? Does the chef only make gorgeous, tasty food and hope someone finds him in his kitchen slaving away with mounds of polenta, grilled snapper with peach salsa, and flourless chocolate cake stacked in every corner? No, of course not.
Yet many small business owners think that all they have to do to run a successful business is create a great product or service and suddenly everyone will be clamoring for what they offer.
Kevin Stirtz of the Smart Marketing 101 blog says:
“We focus almost all our resources on building the operational part of our businesses. We develop our skills. We rent space. We hire people. We buy supplies and equipment. We design and develop a product or service that will knock people’s socks off.
We put so much into WHAT we offer people, we forget to tell people about it. Or we don’t tell enough people.”
In other words, we don’t go out and find the customers who want to buy what we have. We don’t announce our arrival to the world. We don’t shout from the windows I’m here and I have what you want!
I’ve worked with artists who do not want to talk about their art. Artists who refuse to provide their resumes and bios. Artists who live surrounded by their own brilliant work and think it should “speak for itself” and they never do anything to help it sell. Small businesses are often the same. They open up and hang a sign on the door and wait for the customers to arrive.
For artists, they believe the dirty work of selling is the job of the gallery (if they are lucky to get represented by a gallery). But the way a gallery sells art is by talking about it, the way you sell any product is by telling a story about that product and how it will make the buyers life easier, better, safer or fill whatever need the customer has.
Yet every writer or artist is a small business owner. And every small business owner must invest their time equally in marketing and selling their work as they spend in creating their work. Marketing and selling is as necessary as turning on the lights in the morning, opening the door, or making a deposit at the bank.
There are ways to market that cost very little or nothing. There are ways to promote your work and your business without investing huge piles of cash. With the Internet and new technology you can find cheap printing sources for postcards, flyers and brochures. Try VistaPrint.com or GotPrint.com where you can order 250 business cards for under $10. Network: join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Women’s Networking nights or other organizations and talk about your business. Put up flyers in coffee shops and bulletin boards. Send personal letters to friends and family, acquaintances. Send an email to everyone you know. Pick up the phone and make some telephone calls.
This week, I read in USA Today about some successful artists who are using the Internet and technology to make a living selling their art. They are blogging. Yes, blogging. Now, I have a blog, I’m a writer. That’s what writers do, they blog, but visual artists?
Google “Painting-a-day” and the first site that comes up is for an artist named Duane Keiser, an artist who paints every day, small postcard-sized paintings and auctions them on EBay for $100-$1,200. Keiser has sold thousands of paintings to people who want to buy original art, but don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford a $20,000 painting.
Will Keiser become famous and collected by museums and high-end art collectors this way? Who knows? What really matters is that he is creative, doing what he loves, making a living doing it and selling his work every day.
The kind of success every small business owners strives to achieve.