There’s one thing I hear most from artists who aren’t successfully selling their art yet.
And boy do I cringe when they say it.
“I’m not good a technology.”
“I’m not good with numbers.”
“I don’t understand business.”
And there are tons of spinoff versions involving PR, email marketing, pricing, talking to customers, getting feedback, finding a target market, writing about themselves, writing about their art, calling people on the phone, asking someone to help them…
Seriously, this list could go on further.
AND I TOTALLY GET IT!
I don’t cringe because it’s not ok to be slow to pick up technology, bad at math, or not understand business. I cringe because those thoughts are used as an excuse for not pursuing their art careers.
My husband tutors math and he frequently runs across students who will hide their lack of reading skills when looking at a word problem by saying that they’re bad at math.
They’ve practiced the math successfully many times as formulas, but when the numbers are in a sentence, they can’t figure it out – not because they are bad at math, but because they don’t know what the problem is asking. They can’t parse the language.
It’s human nature to feel scared of admitting you don’t know something that you think you should know – like how to read a word problem and turn it into math in your head. So human, that third graders are doing it on a daily basis.
BUT IT’S NOT HELPFUL.
It’s better to identify that fear and realize the thing you’re really struggling with so that you can actually do something about it.
Let me give an art example. The other day, a woman talking to me (let’s call her Julie for anonymity’s sake) was very passionate about her art and excited to describe her vision to me of running a business that let her spend half her time painting and the other half of her time feeling comfortable with the administrative systems required to sell her paintings.
When we started to talk about how soon she could expect to achieve that vision, Julie said those dreaded words, “But, I’m just not good with computers.”
And it was like her mind shut down.
Because Julie isn’t good with computers, she didn’t want to build a website, email galleries, research blogs to get featured in, set up an inventory system for her pieces, or even make simple edits to the photographs of her work.
The alternative of course would be hiring someone to do those things for her, but she was in a difficult financial position and didn’t feel that she could afford the $25/hr it would cost her for most of the admin work nor the several thousand dollars it would cost her to have a website built.
AND WHEN I TALKED WITH JULIE FURTHER, I REALIZED THAT SHE WASN’T ACTUALLY THAT BAD WITH COMPUTERS.
It became more and more obvious that she was just afraid.
Julie is afraid of learning all these new things and not being able to do them, of putting her art out into the world and people saying mean things, of working hard and still failing.
And it’s the same way with most artists I talk to and whatever thing they think they are bad at – it’s an excuse burying an insecurity.
Sure, I might have a client who doesn’t know any blogs she should ask to feature her. But she knows how to use Google and can ask friends and previous customers. She’s just afraid that if she tries to find some, she’ll fail. And then that might mean she’s not cut out to run an art business.
Think about that thing that you always say you’re not good at.
(My thing is marketing in case you’re wondering. We all have one!)
Instead of letting it hold you back from that amazing vision you have of being an artist, I want you to think of one thing you could do about it – either in spite of it or to learn how to be better at it.
Here are some examples:
I’m not good at computers.
Sign up for a SquareSpace site (they’re pretty simple) and watch the tutorial videos.
I don’t understand business.
Take a course or find three people who blog about art business and follow their blogs.
I don’t know how to write about myself.
Find 20 artists you admire and read their artist statements and bios. Then write a first draft based on the things you like about the ones you read and have a friend look it over and give you tips.
I’m terrible talking off the cuff on the phone.
Write yourself a script with key phrases you feel comfortable saying so that you’re never at a loss for words when you call a gallerist or an old customer.
I’m not good with numbers.
Set up simpler systems for working with numbers, like a table for pricing your art or connecting online software to your bank account to track your income and expenses (I like Wave for that).
NOW YOU TRY!
Post your excuse and related action step in the comments or ask for help if you’re having trouble.
You’ll never create the dream art business you want if you let yourself off the hook all the time because you’re afraid to try.
Just take the first action step to combat your excuse so you keep progressing.
Eventually, those little actions will add up. While you’ll probably never feel like a master at whatever excuse you most identify with, you’ll slowly erode its power over you.
Soon you won’t want to tell someone, “I’m bad at marketing.”
Instead you’ll tell them, “I don’t like marketing.”
And that different is monumental to your psyche because it means you aren’t abdicating responsibility for the success or failure of your business. You’re just stating a preference. And that means you can still do the marketing anyway and you can still work on the other parts of your business even though you don’t enjoy this one part.
IT’S TIME TO OWN UP TO THE EXCUSES WE’RE HIDING BEHIND AND STOP LETTING THEM HOLD US BACK.