Why do we think of sales as a dirty process to be avoided? Are our negative experiences with invasive telemarketers and over-inquisitive department store staff causing us to see all sales in a negative way?

I can certainly relate with that feeling. I value my privacy and I don’t like when the sanctity of my personal time and space feels invaded by telemarketers that won’t take “no thanks” for an answer. Nor do I like the fact that when I go to a store to browse around, I have to strategically make paths to avoid the creepily over-friendly sales staff who have a quota or commission on the line.

Can you relate to this?

As you can imagine, my thoughts about selling my own stuff has been affected by my negative feelings towards these methods of selling I’ve experienced in the past, where I felt like a number or a target. I don’t want people to feel like the way I’ve felt when I was the object of aggressive and non-personal sales tactics. And I certainly don’t want to be put in the same category as those who use them.

As a result, my general feeling towards sales has been that I would go to extremes to NOT sell. This has included downplaying my skills and apologizing for my work, which I am ashamed to say I have done.

But there are a lot of problems with this type of thinking, such as:

  • It does not set the stage for a very productive career.
  • It’s hard to support yourself and your family if you are not compensated well enough.
  • It keeps you from believing in the validity of what you do.
  • If you don’t respect yourself, other people will catch on and not respect you either.
  • You will have an unsatisfying career.
  • It will affect your motivation and productivity, causing your work to suffer.

None of the above is healthy for an artist. But neither is the feeling of “selling out” and becoming, as Charlie Brown says in that good old Christmas special, “too commercial” by going all salesy.

So what is the solution?

Is there a comfortable middle ground?

Don’t worry, you aren’t destined to suffer this endless dichotomy… There is a solution.

And it starts with reframing.

Reframing the act of selling

The U.S. Army has a tried and true method of getting average recruits to perform extraordinary things on a regular basis. They know that in order to get somebody to “be all you can be”, they have to reframe their very lives and change every way they do and see even ordinary things. So, “Food” gets renamed to “Rations”. “Velcro” becomes “Hook Loop Tape”. All this is for reframing the way the recruit views their everyday world to set the stage for radical change.

In the same way, we Artists must reframe our worlds to get the kind of change we want. The change, of course, is internal, and the reframing is the way we see the selling our art.

So here are several ways we can reframe our creative sales process:

Reframing Step 1: Boost your self confidence by realizing your unique value.

Since our art is both personal and emotional, we often have a fear of rejection, and this can cause us to downplay ourselves. We hurt ourselves before others can hurt us. This makes it very easy to doubt what we’re doing and see ourselves as unauthentic. You see the progression?

We have to have confidence with what we’re bringing to people’s lives with our creative talents. Think of your self confidence as a child living inside you. Just like a child, it needs positive support and affirmation. If it doesn’t get it, there are both immediate and long-term consequences.

Here are some ways to build that self confidence:

  • Keep an inspiration box of positive reviews, thank you notes, newspaper clippings, anything that people have said about you that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Meditate on the long hours you’ve spent on perfecting your craft, and how you become worth more with each passing hour you spend working on it.
  • Write out the things that make you unique, stuff you do that nobody else can do the same way.
  • Create, finish and ship… Doing the work itself will make you more confident. Take a moment after every completed project and reward yourself, reinforcing the feeling of personal satisfaction.

When we make conscious efforts to build our self-confidence, we can be confident when we sell. When clients see confidence, they will in turn feel confident about you – and the laws off attraction will cause them to find your work even more compelling.

Reframing Step 2: Your tribe exists… and they want to buy your stuff.

Somewhere out there, in this world of billions of people, there is a subset of individuals who like you. Even better, they like what you have to show enough to pay for it.

Can you imagine that? Think about it Someone browsing on their computer finds your art online. As they look at it, or read it, or listen to it, something deep within them resonates. They move their cursor to click the ‘buy’ button. Within seconds, your account shows a payment has been made.

Does that sound too impersonal? Well, the likely scenario is that the stage has in fact already been set for that exchange to take place. You reached out to the world, and it responded. You tweeted, blogged, emailed, or even taught an online course. You gained the attention of people who responded by giving them value without expecting anything in return. And they closed the circle by voting for you, by pointing you out, or by returning a gift of their own.

Doesn’t that sound like a beautiful way to sell? (By the way, did you notice that the word “sell” never appeared in that example?)

Reframing Step 3: Selling is a gift exchange, not a one-way transaction.

In the way we should think about selling, there is no false bravado, no snake oil we’re trying to hawk to unsuspecting rubes before making a hasty exit. We firmly believe in our value, and we only want to sell to people who want to buy.

In Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port refers to the “Red Velvet Rope” policy, where you let in only your ideal clients, the ones who energize and inspire you. He even goes on to say “dump the duds”, by actually showing the door to the people who are not your ideal client, the ones who criticize your work and sap your creative energy.

What would it mean to have buyers, employers, clients, and patrons who would actually line up at your door? Would you feel appreciated, energized, and invigorated? All you have to do is realize it’s possible and within reach.

Reframing Step 4: Rejection is either a way of weeding out your non-ideal clients, or an opportunity for growth.

So, you ‘don’t make the cut’, or people don’t want to buy your work. That’s fine. Instead of feeling like you are rejected, turn it around and see it as them doing the weeding out for you… they duck under your velvet rope and move on, leaving a spot for the client you really want.

Maybe you really wanted that client, or you felt like your initial message didn’t come across well, like they just didn’t quite ‘get it’. Don’t be discouraged… use it as a chance to hone your presentation and marketing skills.

Reframing Step 5: Marketing is simply your way of initiating a conversation to tell your story.

Marketing sets the stage for the selling to occur. It enables the connection to be made between you and your buyers. As such, it is critical for reaching enough people to find the “Red Velvet Rope” clients we talked about.

It is said that artists should spend half their time on making art, and the other half marketing their art. However, my guess is that most of us don’t spend nearly that much time marketing. Many of us would rather hole up in the studio and try to convince ourselves, “if I make it, they will find it and buy it”.

No matter how we try to avoid it, though, we will have to put our work in front of people if we want to be successful. If we reframe marketing as a conversation, we can begin to come out of our cave.

So how do we do that? Well, we can start by thinking about the internal dialogue we have with ourselves about our work. Start a diary or record these conversations. Put pieces of them up on your blog and social media outlets.

You can even make a video your creative process and share it on Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo. Embarrassed? Don’t be! This is your calling, your place of power where you were meant to be. Showing you in your element will portray you in your strongest light. People will be compelled to follow you, and fascinated to see the mythical processes of an artist at work. Before they know it, they will be hooked at the honesty, sincerity, and genuineness of your story.

When this happens, your story becomes part of their story. “Hey, you have to see this great artist I found… I’m thinking of getting a print for my office.” Or if you’re courting a company to hire you, this provides instant credibility.

You don’t have to be an expert in social media or a marketing whiz… there are more channels out there than ever before, and most of them are free and easy to learn. Choose JUST ONE and get started connecting with people. Just remember to be yourself and don’t be afraid to tell your story. The people who are supposed to find you will do so, but you have to initiate the conversation.

Reframe, Rinse, Repeat.

Mindsets are difficult to change. But with diligent self-affirmation, finding and connecting with your tribe, and positive thinking, you can chip away the old way you look at selling and replace it with one that helps you become a successful artist.

You can’t afford to see selling in an outdated, irrelevant way. Reframing is essential to move forward if your art career is stuck in the mud that is the fear of selling.


What ways have you been able to break through these thoughts about selling? In what ways are you still struggling with them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below this post.

Also, if you would like more useful ways of reframing the way you look at your art career, you’re invited to join the Artist Myth mailing list below. You will get a free gift right away, as well as regular, actionable tips on all aspects of your creative business every week, right to your email inbox.