Those words “sales” and “marketing” have often felt icky to me. Marketing definitely has a stigma caused by the incessant, bludgeoning advertising and empty promises that assail our modern lives.
And sales? For me it’s often had a sleazy, even traumatic feel; but hey, my ex husband was a salesman, so what can I say?
Among other reasons, that’s why I’ve gravitated to branding, because it’s more about relationships, being authentic, and having clarity. But the thing is, there’s always going to be a time when you have to “sell” or “market” yourself your your work.
I think for a lot of us creative types, there’s a disconnect between the heart and soul we put into our work and being able to package it up in such a way that it sells. But in whatever form it is, we must sell if we want to help people understand why they need our product/book/service/writing/art.
So if we want to get better at selling our stuff, we’re going to need to make some changes. And like most epic changes, it’s more about mindset than a to do list to check off.
There’s no magic cure, no “just do these 5 things” formula to make you a rich artist. Dangit! With the mountains of information online, there are so many ideas and methods and formulas and systems, how do you know which ones are right for you?
After over fifteen years of making my living creatively—except (full-disclosure) a few years when shit hit the fan and I had to take other jobs—I’m still learning new methods. And I think that’s a good thing.
What I know (and have learned the hard way) is that it takes more than just actions to get results. It’s the quality of those actions, paired with a mindset shift that makes all the difference.
For instance, when I first started submitting my writing for publication I submitted exclusively to literary magazines and contests. My rationale was that if I wanted to build my career the fastest way, it would be through accolades.
Over time, and spending money on submission fees, only to get rejections (mostly), I realized that accolades weren’t as important to me as writing that reached people and discussed the kinds of issues I cared about. I wanted to change the world (still do, and I don’t care if anyone things that’s silly).
That’s why I love writing in the first place! Duh!
One kind comment or email from a reader who felt moved by what I wrote was worth more to me than an award. So I shifted gears and began pitching to more widely read publications, ones that got back to me more quickly, actually paid, and didn’t cost a dime to submit to. I also stopped submitting quite as much and poured more energy into the actual writing itself.
Of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek awards, literary journal publication, or apply for residencies, retreats, fellowships and the like. You totally should if that’s what you want! I applaud and respect that so much. And I’m not saying I never would again.
But regardless of where you decide to pitch your work or display it in the world, it’s of the utmost importance to get your mindset in a productive space. Otherwise you’re working against yourself.
There’s a saying from the Bible I’m going to drop right here, it’s one that still resonates for me:
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36
To me this means you can drive and muscle your way to success; you can do all of the things to get the awards or the money, but unless that “success” is the kind you really want, what’s the point?
And this is, I think, where most creatives and artists get hung up when it comes to sales and marketing. They feel like “promoting” their work is a greasy business of losing their souls.
I assure you, it doesn’t have to be. It is simply another psychological tool to communicate. Yes, this tool has been abused like a Mofo, but you can still take the higher ground while selling and marketing.
You can both keep your soul and be successful. 😉 Pinky promise.
As someone who fights depression, I can tell you that some of my business and creative failures have been the fallout of me just plain not being able to get my head in the right space in those moments. It’s taken a while for me to be able to admit that, by the way. If you struggle with a mental illness, or a disability, or a physical illness, or whatever may plague you, be kind to yourself.
And by “be kind to yourself” I mean both in the sense that you should cut yourself some slack because it is legitimately harder for you to just operate at “normal” but also that it’s important to do the things that will help you too. Like the things that help you exist in a healthy headspace.
For instance: get sleep, ask for help, take breaks, set more realistic goals, get more in tune with what’s truly important to you, kick negative people out of your life, etc.
You know, treat yourself like you would someone you love.
Why am I blathering about all of this? I swear, I’m bringing it back around. What I’m going to say next though, isn’t always fun to hear. And it’s definitely easier to say than to do…
You must believe in your work, even if no one else might.
Crazy, right? But this is the mindset key to being able to sell your work, or market it effectively. If you doubt your value, or the value of your work, it is harder to get others see it.
Now of course, when you’re in the thick of self-doubt, or impostor syndrome, or jealousy, or whatever, it’s going to be fucking hard to keep the faith.
I’m going to go ahead and drop another bit of wisdom on ya, one that comes from a loving woman whose definition of success was not financial but oh so applicable:
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
If I’m struggling with wondering how I’m going to reach my goals, the quickest way back to believing in my work again—even if it’s being rejected, or barely read, or seen—is to go back to the WHY of it.
Am I being faithful to the work I want to do? Even if that just means today? Or this week?
If not, if I’m getting lost in the outward manifestations of success, I’m losing touch with my mission and vision on this planet.
And guess what? Then I’m losing ground everywhere.
My version of success looks very different than Mother Theresa’s, because I want to make a difference and make money too. My eyes are on both.
And that’s okay! It’s okay to want both. Contrary to my formerly limiting beliefs, you can be a good person and rich too. In fact, the world could use more of those GoodRichKids.
The next time you’re feeling queasy about pitching your work or selling your thing, I want you to check-in with yourself:
Am I doing the work I believe in?
Why is this important? Isn’t that worth something?
How can I demonstrate that importance to others?
Take some time today to think about why you do what you do. What’s the impetus? What drives you? What makes your work worthwhile?
Entertain ideas that might seem silly or braggadocious. Write them down, read them up, swirl them around in your brainpan and try out how it feels to believe these things about yourself and your work.
Of course I’ll have more branding, marketing, and sales tools for you down the line, but this is the foundation, friend.
This is how you become unstoppable. Even when the dark times come. Even when you’re on top of the world.
Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear.
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