Facing Our Fears About Selling
I have been trying to figure out why selling feels so difficult, so loaded with emotion and so tangled up with long held beliefs, why we can even feel we need to apologise for doing it. As artists whether it’s selling our art or selling our courses, there seem to be so many hurdles to overcome… or is it only me? Of course, if you are creative and make art purely for the pleasure of doing it, selling may never be a problem. But for those of us who choose to do this as a way of making or supplementing a living, it can be tricky with numerous obstacles to overcome before we even get started on the practicalities of actually advertising what we have for sale.
What we create is part of ourselves
I believe much of the problem stems from the fact that what we are selling is personal, we have invested our time to create something and so it is in some way part of us. I have worked in shops in the past and have never had the slightest hesitation in selling any of the produce. If people don’t want it, then it doesn’t matter. But if people don’t want to buy our art it can feel almost like a rejection. We question that maybe don’t they like it, that it isn’t good enough, or it is too expensive. This is obviously a totally ridiculous reaction because there will always be some who do not like what we do, maybe others will think we don’t have enough talent, or that we charge too much. But for each of those individuals there will also be someone who absolutely loves our work, the person who thinks we have amazing talent, or those who feel what we are selling is a bargain. What we need to do is remove ourselves from what everyone else thinks, because let’s face it we can’t please everyone all of the time, much as we may want to. We need to stop people pleasing and realise that if people don’t like what we do it’s not personal.
Another hurdle is money. In some ways pricing is a totally separate topic from selling but they are so intertwined it is impossible to think of one without the other. Although I have earned a small salary from my art for several years this has largely been through teaching at venues that have been run by other people. Although I will have promoted my classes I rarely had to be there at the point of sale. I never set the prices and I never had to deal with the handing over of money. I merely got paid for turning up and doing a job. But now I am in a position of selling my own courses online and more recently trying to sell paintings, I need to set my own prices and deal with the exchange of money. I’m not sure why this should feel so difficult but it does. The whole issue of pricing feels fraught with difficulty. There have been many hours comparing with what others charge, not wanting to appear too cheap which would be underselling myself, after all if I don’t value my work how can I expect anyone else to value it. Selling too cheap also undermines what others are trying to do. I have been guilty of selling ‘craft’ items at low prices ‘just to fund my hobby’ in the past but it doesn’t do anyone any favours. But likewise I don’t want to be too expensive and price myself out of the market. But trying to compare like for like doesn’t really work because our work is unique and not like anyone else’s, whether that is a piece of art or an online course. Ultimately we have decide on a price that feels comfortable and appropriate and it is the customer who decides on value. What is valuable for one will have no value for someone else. That is out of our control.
Whatever we make and whatever the price, we can’t possibly hope that anyone will buy from us unless we get the word out and let people know what we have for sale and that means ‘selling’. We wouldn’t expect a large department store or any business not to tell us they have things for sale. They don’t worry that customers might get fed up hearing about what they are selling, they just keep on telling us. It means we must be confident telling people what we are offering, we must be confident about our pricing but most of all we need to be confident about ourselves, our ability and the fact that we offer value for money. It’s all about casting aside limiting beliefs (No one will want to buy from me, I’m useless at selling, I have nothing worth buying… sound familiar?), throwing out the imposter syndrome (Me? An artist? Really?) and putting on our business heads. And that means getting the message out and telling people, over and over again. Telling them what they can buy, where they can find it and how much it will cost. No doubt that will put some people off but then they were not likely to be the people buying from us anyway. Selling is telling!
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
In summary, to face our fears of selling we need to stop people pleasing and worrying about whether people will like what we are offering. No great artist ever set out to make a name for themselves by playing it safe and making art that they knew would sell. They didn’t make art for other people; they made art for themselves. If people don’t like it, then it’s not personal. We need to stop worrying about price and charge what makes us feel comfortable not what we think people will pay, because we don’t know what they can afford or what they are willing to pay. And finally, we need to be confident in spreading the word and repeatedly telling people what we are selling.