Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

A Little Stellar, Coming Soon to an Inauguration Near You…?

RebeccaRathArt_MartinStellarPhotoSometimes, I can be a sly one.

Last Saturday, for instance.

I’d spotted that a loyal reader, an Aussie painter named Rebecca Rath, was to have an exhibition in Switzerland…

She and I have been in touch for years, and I have to say, I’ve always loved her work.

We never worked together, and aside from emails and one skype call, we’d never actually met.

And normally, I wouldn’t travel all the way from Spain to Switzerland simply to be at a vernissage.

But, luck had it that I was in Northern Europe anyway, for my mother’s party.

And even more luck had it that a friend in Zurich offered me his apartment, right around the time Bec was about to start her exhibition.

So on the sly, without telling her, I took a train from Zurich to Neuchatel, and then a bus to a quaint little medieval town.

I walked into the gallery, and bided my time.

She spotted me while she was talking to some visitors, but didn’t seem to recognise me.

So I bided my time, and when I saw her talking to her husband, I walked up.

“Hi guys!”

I still chuckle, when I remember the look of surprise on her face.

“Martin! What are you doing here!”

“Oh”, I said as casually as I could, “I was just in the neighbourhood”.

“Bull!”, I think was the word she used in reply.

But it was basically true.

Sure it took a bit of luck and a bit of engineering, but Switzerland really isn’t a big country.

Now, you might wonder why I would plan and do this.

To hunt for business, perhaps?

Oh sure, why not.

Business is always good, and I’m always open for business.

But it would be pretty daft and inefficient to think that simply showing up at a show would land me a client.

And I’m not daft (and only *cough* mildly inefficient).

No, the reason I did it, I told you a few weeks ago at the start of my sojourn:

To meet inspiring people.

And someone from Australia who first spends a month as artist in residency in Italy, and then has a show in Switzerland, that’s someone who inspires me.

And off your friendly little Stellar went, to go say hi.

Who knows, I might just show up at your own show or event…

That said, I can’t keep track of all my readers, so do let me know if you have anything on in the North of Europe, between now and the end of September.

I’d love to meet you!



Go On Then, Tell Yourself a Different Story

During a coaching call yesterday, the subject of pricing your art was raised.

The artist on Skype told me:

“Someone said that the best way to determine a price is this:

“Time spent plus materials = cost

“Wholesale price = cost X2

“Retails price = wholesale price x2”

And yes, that works.

But is it what your work is really worth?

After all, the value a work of art has is quite arbitrary.

Example: there’s a guy who steals other people’s photos online, draws on a moustache or whatever, and then sells prints of it for huge amounts. $200K, I think.

Which is a practice I don’t condone, by the way.

Theft is theft, is unacceptable.

But it does go to show that you can get folks to pay any price you want.

So is the times 2 formula really the best way to price your work?

I say it isn’t.

After all, it took you years to get where you are today.

Your entirely life made you into the person and the artist that you are now.

And, that’s probably been a long and arduous road to travel.

Sure has been for me.

So who should pay for all that practice and experience and learning and failing&getting up…


Or your buyers…?

There’s that nice anecdote about Picasso (retold with artistic liberty – I don’t know the actual details or even if it happened – but the point is EXCELLENT).

Ole’ Pablo was sat on a terrace in Paris, drinking Pastis (or coffee or Absynthe or whatever).

Along comes a wealthy lady:

“Oh Mr. Picasso, would you draw my poodle please?”

He puts pen to a napkin, throws down some squares and circles, and a triangle for good measure, and hands it over.

Thrilled, the lady wants to know the price.

He mentions a number, a high one.

“But Mr. Picasso, that only took you 5 minutes to make!”

To which the eminent artist replies:

“No madam, that took me 25 years”.

And you, are you any different?

Did you get born with a paintbrush in your mouth, did the power of creation just happen to you?

Of course not.

Even if your art career only started a few years ago, it’s your entire life that trained and prepared you for making what you make today.

And that’s worth money.

Good money.

Good money that you could ask for it – IF you dare.

Point in case:

My friend Emma Plunkett showed me some drawings she recently made during a life drawing class.

Except, this wasn’t like your average life drawing.

In this case, the model was a gymnast, sitting in and then hanging from a hoop.

And the pose changed every few minutes!

Put that on your brush and paint it…

And the drawings, they were amazing.

Just a few quick lines, as much as she could put down before the model would change.

But the movement, the power, the elegance and strength in those lines…

You can’t do that unless you’ve been at it for years or even decades.

And yes, those years or decades, they’re worth money too.

So if you tell yourself the story that your art is worth what a simple calculation gives you, you’re selling yourself short.

Tell yourself a different story, and let that guide you.

You art is worth all the years that you put in, + the experience of the buyer.

And that last bit is especially interesting, because the more something impacts a buyer, the more they’re willing to pay for it.

So look for the people who are REALLY thrilled with your work, and THEN set your prices.

As always: it’s all between your ears, including the story you tell yourself.

So maybe you want to tell yourself a different story, one where you value yourself, your work, and all the years that went into it.



You Know, Maybe What You Should Be Is An Anthropologist (Seriously, Read This)

You know, maybe what you should be is an anthropologist (seriously, read this email)

Tell me if this sounds familiar

Guy starts a company/creates a painting/writes a book/produces a film/creates a course.

The ‘thing’ is good – like, really really good.

Useful, beautiful, so very well made.

Worth good money, too.

Guy goes out and starts showing his thing to people.

Because, you know, if nobody sees it, nobody can buy it.

Shows it to 10, 100, 1000 people, and…

No takers.

Oh they all laud him, saying it’s so well made, and how wonderful of him.

But no matter how hard he tries, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who actually wants to pay for it.

I’ll bet ready money that if it hasn’t happy to you, you’ll know someone who’s been in that situation.

And, I know how much it sucks – I’ve been there myself.

But, there’s a solution.

And it’s free, and it’s simple, and if you do it right, it’s a lot of fun too.

The solution is called listening.

And it ties in with that anthropologist quip in the subject header.

Of course I’m not suggesting a career change.

What I’m talking about is the attitude.

Because anthropologists study people.

They look at societies, cultures, and periods in history, in order to find out how these creatures work.

They observe, they listen (and read), they interview and compile input and data, all with the final goal to get their head around ‘what makes people do what they do’.

And if you’re in business, and you want to find takers but it’s proving hard, then the thing that would really help you advance, is adopting the anthropologist attitude.

Specifically, with regard to the art-buying public, and even more specifically, the kind of audience that will buy your art.

Because you can show your work to people until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t know who your ideal buyer is, and what makes them tick, and what they are looking for in the art they buy…

Then you’re going to have a real hard time figuring out where to find those buyers.

Me, I’m not an anthropologist.

But I sure do have the attitude: I study people, every day and all day.

And that’s the only reason that I’ve been able to start three businesses.

And, yes, the first business failed and cost me $150K.

And you want to know why?

Because when I started that tailoring company, I had skipped over the first step:

Learning who buys fancy handmade suits these days.


If you want to grow your business, learn people.

Learn who are the people who will buy your work.

You could call it market research, but I prefer seeing it as ‘understanding who your audience is’.

Unfortunately, it’s not something I can help you with.

I can’t do your learning for you, and I can’t have your conversations for you.

It’s the kind of thing you need to do for yourself.

Something very useful: Seth Godin’s startup school course.

It’s not specifically for artists and creatives, but you’ll find REALLY smart thinking in it, that you can apply in your own business.

Here’s the link:

Hey, and if you already are clear on who your ideal buyer is?

And you want to scale up your existing success?

Then get in touch and let’s talk – see if I can help.



Resistance is Futile

Oh, to have the drive, the will, the inspiration… to commit self to art, to giving shape and building pretty things.

You’ll have heard me complain before, how essentially I’m jealous of proper artists, for their involvement and productivity.

That while I can sing, and write non-fiction and stuff, I don’t actually do it.

Well, I’m known to play guitar and sing when I have an attractive woman visit me, but that’s just having fun – it’s not actually being an artist or musician.

And, yes, for the longest time I have been safely stuck in this bubble, this comfort zone of ‘I guess I just don’t have the passion or the drive’.

Until yesterday, when I told my coach about this, and he called me out.

Either the novel I have in me is going to stay there in me, or…

…could it be that I’m stuck in resistance?

And that I could overcome that resistance?

I contemplated the two options, and thought of the oft-used scif-fi line ‘Resistance is futile’.

Because after all, both options are entirely possible, and either will manifest depending on what I decide.

And yeah, comfort zones are rubbish.

So I committed then and there, to have one writing session a day, for a week, working on my novel – starting yesterday.

And so after the call I dug up my files and notes, started listing all the characters, and this morning – Gasp, even before writing you my daily missive – I started working on the story beats.

And goodness, it feels good.

Will I continue?

Will the book get written, or will it stay inside?

Will resistance get the better of me?

Who knows. I’m certainly not claiming that this time around it’ll get done.

I know myself too well, and it wouldn’t be the first time I promise myself something and then not follow through.

No, for now I’m simply happy to experiment, and to give resistance the cold shoulder.

And that’s the power of working with a coach:

Not someone who has all the answers and solves your problems.

A coach does something different: he’s there to ask you question after question, to reflect your states and attitudes back at you, until you yourself come up with the answers.

Just like my coach did for me yesterday – and then it was my own decision to commit myself to working daily on my novel for at least a week.

Because here’s the thing: advice should never be followed, no matter how good it is.

Instead, advice should be chosen, based on your own careful consideration.

A good coach knows that.

Because if you blindly follow advice, you give away your thunder – you elevate someone else to the level of a guru who has all the answers, and you make yourself the less powerful, need-to-be-led disciple.

And that’s not how things should work.

You have the power, the answers, and a plethora of choices to select from.

Use that power and inner wisdom.

All that a coach can do is help you connect with it, and that’s why I like this work so much.

To see the changes that my clients choose for themselves and manifest, is a joy to witness.

Want some of that for yourself?

It’ll only work if you take action, but if you do, there’s no telling where you’ll end up.

And I’d be happy to walk with you for a while.



Attached to Misery: Some People are Beyond Help, Others are Before Help

If you look around, you’ll find all kinds of people who could do with a little help.

Or, people who really need help.

But quite a few of them – rather sadly – can’t be helped.

Some folk, they’re beyond help.

No matter how hard you’d try, they wouldn’t see the light, wouldn’t embrace chance, and wouldn’t step up to the plate, and take ownership and responsibility.

That’s not to say that there’s no hope or future for them – I am definitely not a pessimist.

But, it’s a fact that in some cases you’d waste your energy on trying to help someone.

You wouldn’t be able to, not until they come to be ‘before help’.

Meaning, getting themselves ready, bit by bit.

Ready to the point where yes, the time has come to make changes, to improve things, and to discard old and dysfunctional beliefs.

For some, getting there requires suffering through whatever misery they’re in, until they’ve had enough.

Others, they just need to sit through it all, in the least painful way possible – bit of an ostrich-approach, but workable if nothing better is at hand.

The worst thing that can happen though, is when people get attached to their misery.

Because no matter how terrible the situation, once the certainty of knowing how crap things are becomes part of us, the misery itself becomes a comfort

A hideously uncomfortable one, to be sure – but just as compelling and restrictive as more positive comfort zones.

Attached to misery – it’s a terrible state and nobody should live in it.

The good news?

Choice, and you’ve got it.

There’s always something you can choose, no matter how far out of control certain aspects of your life are.

So if you’re not happy with the way things are, you could make a list of all the positive things that you have, and another for all the negative ones.

That second column, it might be long.

But if you look closely at it, you’ll find that there are things you can change or remove.

And that choice is yours.

IF you want it.

And if you’re not attache to misery, and if you really want change?

Then maybe I can help…

Send me an email, tell me what you’d like to change in your life.

Let’s see if it’s within reach.

(Hint: it just might be, and possibly closer than you think).



7 Quick Tips to Help You Get More Sales Out of Social Media

A reader writes in with a question about social media – not sure how to make it work for him, and whether or not it’s the way to go.

So here’s what I replied:


Social media is very useful, but there’s a few things to know:

1: ‘Social’ really does mean social.

You can get sales there, but it’s far more common to build relationships first, which then later turn into sales.

A rule of thumb of ‘10% pitch, 90% being a human being’ is a good place to start.

2: Content curation is a grand way to grow your following.

Share the content others create, by selecting the videos/photos/podcast/books/blogposts that are most likely to appeal to your ideal buyer.

3: is a very useful service for ‘other people’s audience’ coming over to follow you.

Pick a person whose audience is likely to be interested in you and your art, enter their name, set the correct filters (read up a bit before starting, you
don’t want duds or spammers), and start following those followers.

If you do it right, you can get as much as 90% of the people you follow, follow you back.

That’s what happened to me.

Paula Mould, a client of mine, saw her Twitter following double, and her intstagram following triple, in a matter of days.

Manageflitter has a service where they do the following for you (I think it’s $10 for 2000 actions, processed by humans so as not to violate Twitter’s T&C.

Worth the investment, given you can cancel your subscription any time, and it takes all the tedious clicking off your hands).

4: Further reading: Kim Garst at BoomSocial is a very good twitter teacher, might want to get stuck in on what she offers.

I bought a $10 course off her once, and it was worth it.

5: Amy Porterfield is known as the queen of Facebook, so if that’s your poison, do check her out. Good gal.

6: General learning: They have podcast too, very useful because they bring on very interesting guests.

7: ArtMarketingAction podcast by Alyson Stanfield – Full of very useful tips.


The short of it?

Yes, you can definitely make social media work for you, but think people first.

You build an audience and you build a reputation with them, you get liked.

That will get you trusted, and that gives you the KLT sandwich that gets you sales:

People need to Know you, Like you, and Trust you – before they’ll give you money.

I’ll assume that liking you and trusting you aren’t the biggest problem if sales are short.

But knowing you – as in, knowing you’re there and knowing what you do, that’s something you can fix with social media.

How’s it working for you?





Shy… Me???

Could have been my photography-playmate… IF I’d have had the nerve to talk to her

I sighed, and told my coach:

“Watch me eat my own medicine”.

He laughed and said: “Do! I’m having a great time!”

Because, if I tell you the tips and tricks to make your life and business better, I should put them to use for myself too, right?

That girl in the photo…

I saw her on one of my morning walks, and she intrigued me.

Why did she take the time to make a photo of a parked bicycle?

Why did she have such a huge lens, and why did she make the picture from less than 2 meters away?

Was she an artist?

An art student?

All reasonable questions, right?

Especially for someone who is a) on the lookout to meet fun and interesting people and b) a photography enthusiast.

But I walked straight past her.

And then I stopped: “Talk to her Martin, why not?”

So I turned back and headed towards her.

Heart pounding in my chest.

And in the end, I stopped short and turned away.

Chickened out, I did.

No idea why, but when I related the story to my coach, I remembered that a while ago I told you that if you have trouble striking up a conversation, one good way to make it easier is to start asking people very simple, innocent questions.

Just as a way of practice, to get better at it.

But I myself, I couldn’t even bring myself to talking to the woman.

“Hi. Want to show me the photo?”

Or: “Are you a student, or a pro?”

Simple. Innocent. Breaks the ice.

But nope, Martin ran with his tail between his legs.

Well, no more of that.

In fact, the next day I saw Wim and his bike workshop, and I walked up and asked if I could make a few photos.

And, we ended up having a really great conversation, and that’s what business needs.

That being shy thing helps nobody.

Not me, not you, and not the people I end up not having conversations with.

Must say, the medicine tastes good, even if I’ll probably find it more difficult when it’s a woman instead of a man.

Still: I’m all for change, and so I’m working on making change happen for myself.

You could do the same thing.

When someone is looking at your work, ask: “What do you see?”

You never know what happens, once you get into a conversation.

But I can guarantee what happens when you don’t: nothing is what happens.

And I must say: change feels good.

You might want to try some for yourself…



Why Do People Pay High Prices for Quality…?

This ‘meeting inspiring people’ thing is turning out to beWimKolb_Handmade Bikes_Zurich_MartinStellarPhoto a lot of fun.

Two encounters this morning, two people doing something special.

Take Wim Kolb, for instance.

Builds bicycles, by hand – starting with hand-soldered frames (not welded – that would weaken the steel too much).

And my goodness, they are gorgeous!

I don’t need a bike, but after seeing these, I really really want one.

I might even join him for a week-long workshop, and build one myself.

But here’s the thing:

Just like so many artists, I believe Wim sells himself short.

Something so special, built by hand and fully customised, should earn him at least twice as much.

And that’s not greed – it’s common sense.

Bikes like that, they’re like the handmade suits I used to make.

They’re made to measure, fully adjusted to your own physique, and designed with all the bells and whistles on it that you want.

And that’s a high-end, high quality, luxury product.

Clearly not for people who shop for suits in bargain stores, or for people who buy cheap Asia-made throwaway bikes.

People who spend thousands on a suit, or a bike, or a kayak, or a work of art…

Those are affluent people.

They are the people who want the best there is, and price is not an issue.

That kind of buyer, they turn – no, they run – away when something isn’t priced high.

Because affluent buyers – the best kind there is – don’t look for a good deal.

Instead, they look for the best possible quality they can get – and they’re happy to pay for it.

Insist on high prices, in fact.

As the famous marketer-turned-artist Hugh MacLeod once told me over a beer in a London pub:

“Why do some people pay millions for a Ferrari? Because they can”.

So if you create high-end things, then you shouldn’t offer people a good deal.

Instead, you should offer them the best you can make, at a high price, with a (true, of course) story that belongs with the thing that you make.

Now obviously, you do need to find those people.

And don’t believe for a moment that ‘these days, people don’t pay high prices any longer’.

They do, affluent people are more abundant these days than ever before.

Your job as a business owner is to learn who they are, where you can find them, and do whatever you can to show up before them.

And when you do?

Then you too get to sell for prices that your work is worth.

Meaning: high prices.

Because if your quality is high and your heart is in it, it’s what you deserve.




On Being and Artist…

“What I really want, is to be a writer”.

My abbot didn’t look up from his book, and dismissively said:

“Then write. It’s what writers do”.

Frustrated, I left the room.

Silly, to feel that way: After all, the year before, I had written a play for children.

And the year before that, a children’s musical about bullying.

And a bunch of short stories, and poetry…

By all accounts, I had written enough to call myself a budding, or future, writer.

But for some reason, 20 years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

So if a writer writes, and a painter paints and a cook cooks…

Then what is the point where you get to call yourself an artist?

When someone puts your work in a gallery?

When you sell you first or 50th work of art?

When someone gives you permission?

See, it’s not about the money of it.

Van Gogh was an artist and he never earned a buck for his work.

Me, I like to make photos and I do it a lot – if you’ve seen my Instagram account, you’ll see I’m documenting my trip.

And so yes, I’m an amateur photographer – photography is my hobby.

But I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a pro.

I know I’m not at that level, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

And it doesn’t matter, because it’s simply something I do for fun.

But I do identify as an amateur photographer.

And this, your identity, is something you get to choose.

And you’d better, because if you don’t get clear on how you identify yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to turn your work into a thriving business.

If you consider yourself as just someone who puts paint on canvas, your choices and actions aren’t going to compound into building a business.

If you think you’re someone who just dabbles in putting words in order, you’re not likely to become a professional writer.

So the question is:

What are you?

What’s your identity?

Are you a professional artist?

Remember, earning money for your work isn’t what makes you a pro.

Even if you don’t sell yet, or not enough, you can still be a professional, in terms of how you think, act, and choose.

And as for that permission thing?

You’ve got my permission, in case you need it.

But the real permission to call yourself a pro, or an artist or a writer or a cook…

…is the permission you give yourself.

Now would be a good time.

Btw, if you want to stay updated as I travel Northern Europe, follow me on Instagram:


Change of Plans, and ‘Coach on a Couch’

So this last week, I’ve been slowing down a bit.

As a good son does, my first stop was my mum’s house, and once here I discovered that I was in bad need of some downtime.

Funny, that sometimes you don’t realise it until the pressure is off.

But it makes sense, because the last few months have been busy busy busy.

Driving out to meet people, days with four, six or even eight hours of skype sessions… it’s been a lot.

Today, I was meant to go to Amsterdam, and gear up for meeting Fun&Inspiring people.

But, last night my friend in Zurich told me I can have his house for two weeks, and he’s leaving tomorrow, this coming Saturday.

Which means I need to get a move on, quick smart, so he can show me around the place and give me the key.

So, no Amsterdam for now, but Switzerland instead.

No big deal, because I doubt Amsterdam will go away any time soon.

And you can find inspiring people everywhere you look.

The house I’m in now, for example:

You don’t know this, but my mother is an amazing and inspiring woman – something I’ll be telling you more about when I’m back in a few weeks.

In Zurich, another friend is also doing something amazing:

Building woodn kayaks, by hand, along traditional Greenlandic designs.

And they are beautiful!

So if I get to have a say, we’ll be selling a few of those over the next few weeks.

Or maybe not – he’s possibly even more stubborn than I am, but we’ll see what happens.

So, I’ve reserved a bed on a sleeper train, and at 8AM tomorrow morning, I’ll be smelling sweet Swiss air.

Yes, there will be pics.

And for the next two or three weeks, I’ll be there, and I’ll be the ‘coach on a couch’.

So what’s the lesson today?

I don’t know.

Maybe something about developing the ability to be agile when things change.

Old me would have protested: Already made plans, got things to do, it’ll have to be later.

New me says: Sure, cool, and thank you. See you on Saturday.

Maybe you think this conflicts with my recent statement that without a plan, just following whichever way the wind blows, you can’t predict what will happen.

But that’s the entire purpose of this trip:

To have no plan (other than ‘meet inspiring people’), and allow myself to be guided.

It’s hardly a plan of course, but I think that in this phase of my life, a little of ye olde unpredictability is just what the doctor prescribes.

Meanwhile, if you live in or near Zurich, and you want to meet up, drop me a line.

Especially if you’re up to big and/or beautiful things…



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