It’s easy to get wrapped up in the product we are creating, at the expense of recognizing its end result.

What sells is not pixels, posters, or paint. What people want is the outcome.

In sales circles, they frequently talk about a person selling drills. To sell a drill, you don’t talk about the noise it makes, the rechargeable battery, or the heft of its handle. You talk about the hole it makes. Because you’re really not selling a drill… you’re selling holes.

Similarly, in marketing circles, they talk about selling the benefits, not the features. Benefits are what the customer really wants.

The outcome is more deeply connected to the emotions of your audience than the features or process are. Which is a good thing, because emotion is the true currency of art, not facts and figures.

What outcome are you selling as an artist?

Focusing on the outcome takes imagination. But as artists, we should be better than most people at using that special set of muscles in our heads… let’s call them imagination muscles. So that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, right?

Well, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Because many of us tend to overthink things. We get wrapped up in the creative moment, the divine act of creation. When we sit down to make stuff, our thoughts roam like a herd of wild stallions. And those stallions might go places we don’t necessarily want them to go…places that make us doubt ourselves.

But when we focus on the end result of our art, the internal dialogue might be different… and it should include your ideal customer.

Your ideal customer, the person who you are making your art for, should be fixed firmly in your head. If you don’t know who they are, that’s okay… make somebody up! But that made-up person should be supportive, glad you made the wonderful thing you made, and superbly conscious of the value of what you’ve given them.

You want to imagine your ideal customer saying things like,

  • “I love this design. It makes me feel like I have a legitimate business.”
  • “This painting completes my room and is uniquely me.”
  • “I can’t wait to give this portrait of the kids to their grandparents.”
  • “Dear… this is our song.”

Go ahead, use those imagination muscles to think about your very special customer, and how they will feel about your art. Go all the way. It may bring tears to your eyes when you think about all the life that will be lived under the watchful eye of something you made.

To your jaded, critical eyes, that art might bother you because you never did get that certain shade just right. Or maybe the website you made for that client rubs you the wrong way because something about it didn’t quite look the way you thought it should.

But take leave of the self-criticism for a moment and project your thoughts into the future… to your customer. Sure, they don’t see your art the same way you do… and that’s a good thing. Learn to not only accept, but appreciate it.

Your customer doesn’t think about the long hours you spent agonizing over color choices or patterns. They aren’t aware of the internal conflict you had over whether to move a line two pixels to the right or left. They don’t care. What they care about is a whole… the entirety of the work you’ve given them from your very own hands. To them, your art will always be more finished than you think it is.

Think of them as an alien civilization who, upon accepting your gift of Nutella on sliced bread, their eyes bulge and they make strange noises of delight. Sure, they’re weird and different than you … but you’ve given them something they never experienced before. The explosion of inspiration they get from your art is something that you have to get into their heads to experience for yourself.

So spare some of those creative thoughts for them… your audience, your customer, that special alien person who actually likes your art and wants to purchase it.

Your life as a creator will be much easier, more inspired, more personally fulfilling when you do.