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

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

What to Do When You’re Making Money With Your Art

“It’s going great!”, she tells me.

“People are signing up to my list, and me, I’m just loving the process of writing a weekly email to them”.

Ah… the bliss: it makes me so happy when I see people take action, get their hands dirty, do the work.

And each time I manage to get someone to try out email marketing, it’s just… wah. So rewarding.

“Any sales?”, I ask.

“Yes!” and she starts listing off all the pieces she’s sold recently.

Excellent, terrific results.

“So I’ve been investing in materials: high quality paint, brushes, fine canvases…”


Trouble ahead, because: once you start turning over some money, investing in materials should only be part of the equation.

The other part has to be investing in growing your business.

See, if the problem is a lack of cash or business results, more paintings is rarely the solution.

Or, paraphrasing Maslow: to the man whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

But more paintings (or songs, sculptures, or whatever you make) doesn’t equate to more sales.

In any case, you probably have a bunch of work that hasn’t sold yet, so adding to the collection solves… which problem?

No, if you’re seeing results and you’ve got money to invest, by all means take a slice of that money and invest it in optimising the thing that brings you the results.

Can be anything: hiring a developer to improve your website…

Getting an expert to optimise your SEO, so that you rank higher in Google search results…

Hire a coach (hello!) to give you tailored advice and guidance…

Or – and this bit of advice is extremely valuable but only if you act on it – getting more people on your email list.

Doesn’t have to break the bank either.

Here’s one possible method, and while the steps are a bit technical, it’s not very complicated:

1: Create a landing page on your site, where you offer people something for free, and invite them to sign up

2: Buy Facebook ads to drive people to that page

3: Make use of Facebook’s tracking pixel so that those people who visit the page but don’t sign up will see the ad again when they go back to Facebook

4: Target the ad to what Facebook calls ‘lookalike audience’, by feeding the ad manager the names of your biggest fans and your previous buyers.

(This will cause Facebook to show the ad to people who are similar to people who already like your work, giving you a higher return on your investment).

5: Set a budget of $10 or $15 a day, and monitor results.

If people see the ad but don’t click, experiment with the ad design.

If by contrast the people click but don’t sign up, see if you can tweak the landing page.

Optional but very useful: use the free version of Optimizely to create an A/B test of the landing page, so that you can test which version works best.

On that note: change only one thing (i.e. only the image you use, or the headline, or the call to action – if you change several things on the same page, you won’t know which of
those changes caused the higher signup rate).

There you go: a simple, affordable way to get more people signing up, with iteration and optimisation built in.

Next you send your subscribers fun and engaging updates about your work, and over time you should start seeing response, and provided your list keeps growing, sales too.

This is just one strategy, and there are many to choose from.

If it’s too complex for you or if it’s not how you like to work, just ignore it and do something else – the internet is awash with tips and tricks if only you do some Googling.

But the one thing to not ignore is this:

Invest in your business. Seriously.

If you have questions about the above strategy, hit reply and I’ll do my best to answer.



The Best Business Model for Artists?

A reader writes in, asking what I consider the best business model for artists.

Which is a good question, and the answer is simple:

There’s only one business strategy, in three basic steps:

1. a constantly growing list of interested individuals

2. a well-planned and consistently executed strategy for communicating with them

3. something for sale at the right price.

Very simple.

Very buildable.

And, extremely adaptable: it applies to online as well as offline business, and to any medium or social interaction you could find yourself in.

It even applies when you yourself don’t do the business, but have agents or gallerists do it all for you.

Except in that case you don’t own the list (and therefore you could ask yourself whether you actually own your own art business, but that’s not the point

Now, how you build the list, communicate with them, and what you sell at which prices, that’s when it can quickly get complicated.

Doesn’t have to be though.

I like to keep things simple, and fun.

So, I ask questions like these:

What way of communicating with people do you enjoy most?

Where can you find communities of people who will buy your work, and can you become part of those communities?

How could you create systems for meeting those people, having conversations, and inviting people to sign up to your list?

In what way are you going to talk with those subscribers in order to get your work sold…? Studio updates?

Emails with stories and behind-the curtains insights?

Video blogging?

Invite them to events, shows or meetings, and communicate with them that way?

Plenty of options, hundreds to choose from.

And when I coach people on building their business, it’s questions like these that get answered.

There’s no one single method or strategy that works for everyone – it’s always a question of what will work for you, and a large part of that is an emphasis on what you’re good at.

Now aside from the above very simple business model, there’s another question that needs to be addressed:

Revenue and cashflow – how you gonna get it?

Because if it’s not making money, it’s not a business (yet).

Surprisingly, the best way to have people give you money for your work, is to ask for it.

If you don’t, if you don’t appear open for business, it’s going to be difficult to actually build one.

Not that you should plead with people, or beg, or appear needy.

No, all you need to do is state that ‘this is for sale’, in whatever way fits your style, your brand, and your audience.

Like so, for example:

My brain is for sale.

Get in touch if you want a slice of it.



Making a Case Against ECommerce…?

With all the useful tools available to us these days, it’s tempting to simply do what others do.

However, what works for someone else might not work for you, and what’s more:

It might not what you want to do.

Point in case:

A coaching call this morning, with an artist in Australia.

She had sent me an email, asking which platform to use for ecommerce.

You know: having your gallery set up in such a way that people can just click a button and send you money for the artwork they want to buy.

In itself, a very good system:

The fewer hurdles between deciding to buy from you, and actually making a payment, the better.

Or is it?

Not for this artist.

While talking, she told me that what she really wants, much prefers, is for people to contact her.

And even though that has a disadvantage in that it’s less automated and takes longer, the big advantage is that she gets to have conversations with potential buyers.

And because a sale always happens in the context of a conversation, there’s actually nothing wrong with it.

If anything, it will enable her to create strong relationships with people, before the other person has made a definite decision.

One size fits all doesn’t exist: it’s always a matter of finding a method and process that a) works and b) fits with your personality and preferences.

One guru will tell you that emotions don’t make for a sale, while the next one preaches that a purchase decision is always based on emotions.

Who’s right?

That question is irrelevant.

The important question is: what’s going to be right FOR YOU?

I love working with people one on one, because it’s exactly in that finding out what’s the best, most perfect way for you as an individual, that the magic happens.

I’m ready to help you with figuring out what to do and how.

Question is: are you?

If so, you know what to do.



“But the Artist Shouldn’t Be the One Doing the Marketing”

Ever felt that way?

That as an artist, what you should be doing is making art and that’s it?

I can understand – in fact, I can relate.

Back when I was a fancy bespoke tailor, I thought that what I needed to do – all that I needed to do, in fact – was make fine suits.

I had this dumb idea that the high quality would sell itself, because hey:

Quality sells itself, and the best kind of marketing is word of mouth – isn’t it?

Totally, yes. It is.

But if you don’t do anything to stimulate that word of mouth, if you don’t actively build methods and systems that get people talking about your work, no degree of quality will do it for you.

Oh sure, you can just stubbornly soldier on and wait for magic to happen, and if you’re lucky it just might lead to more sales.

But while you’re nicely tucked away in your studio making exceedingly high quality art, another artist with a more hands-on approach and fewer hangups about marketing will be outselling you.

And the worst of it?

That other artist might not even make art at the same quality that you make it.

Look at the indie film industry: there’s some really exceptional work being made.

But because Hollywood understands and uses marketing, you’ll never hear about those indie films, and instead people flock to see yet another uninspired remake or sequel.

Which just goes to prove my point:

Art makes and defines culture.

Are you selling yours yet?

If not, and if you think that the marketing side of things isn’t your problem or task, let me put it to you like this:

If you want to be a professional artist or creative or maker of things, you only have one choice:

To come to terms with marketing, and to discover which method is most fun for you, and most true to your values.

You’re in business, and you’ll need to act the part.

And the good thing about all this?

Marketing is simply a matter of having conversations.

And even if you’re shy or insecure, I’ll bet you still enjoy conversations with the right kind of people.

So the task at hand is to get clear on who those people are, and finding ways to meet them, and have those conversations.

Marketing shouldn’t be a chore, it’s not a necessary evil.

It’s a highly creative endeavour, which fills your life with people who are precious to you and you to them.

And, if you do it right and keep at it and keep getting better, marketing is the one thing that can help you fill your bank account with monies.

And don’t get me wrong: money isn’t the end-goal.

It’s just a measure of how effective you are at getting seen and having conversations.

And, it’s a pretty useful tool for giving you peace of mind, as well as enabling you to invest in developing your skills.

So… can you live with marketing?

Are you ready willing and able to get out there, and do you want specific, tailored advice on which steps to take and in which order?


Let’s talk because I just might be able to help you.



Efficiency, Viability, and: FUN…!

A reader writes in:

“Not sure what you think about this but I think this is something other artists should know (but I might be doing it wrong).

“It’s about that 80/20 rule. I realised today that I spend most of my ‘marketing’ time on the internet. But 80% of my sales happen from doing exhibitions.

“So basically I could be putting my time into the wrong thing.

“I’m not saying I should quit the internet but i should probably be putting in less time in.

“True the internet connects you to the whole world … but it connects everybody else too.

“And I also think this about numbers and people too: The internet promises big numbers but it’s often when you get in front of real people not numbers that you get results.”


Very nice. I love seeing people take action and become more aware, with the things I teach.

That 80/20 rule, in case you’re not aware, is what’s also called the Pareto Principle.

It says that in general, 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

And yes, this reader makes sense: if most of his sales are offline then it’s good thinking to put more effort into getting in front of people.

But there’s more to it.

This is what I told him:


You need to take a step back there.

Your thinking is very good, but look at the bigger picture:

It’s not so much a question of how much time you should put into internet marketing, but rather how you apply that time.

If 80% of your sales come from direct interaction, then how can you modify your internet efforts so that they result in more offline conversations….?


See what I mean?

Yes it’s good to get seen more.

But you’ll need to make that happen, it takes work.

Visiting people, phone calls, emails – if you sit still you won’t get into exhibitions.

So the question is: if you want to get into more exhibitions, how can you use the internet most efficiently to make that happen…?

As always, start with fun: What’s the most enjoyable method for you?

Next, determine how viable it is, in other words: Is it likely to get you the most results for as little effort as possible.

Note that the last question isn’t about getting results automatically, but instead about efficiency.

Fun? Viable?


Next step: take action.

And, if you want help in figuring out which actions, and guidance on how to iterate and optimise them?

Then I’ll coach you through it.

Just hit reply if you want me on your team.



To Automate or Not to Automate – That’s the… Unicorn?

Just like unicorns don’t exist, neither do failsafe solutions.

Point in case: you know that I’m a stickler for systems and automation.

I publish to my blog? Automation instantly shares to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy ( handles that for me, btw)

Other things though should definitely not be automated.

Writes a reader:

“I think if you are planning on having a small but intimate list (say only 500) people (but people who buy) then I think a personal welcome email rather than an automated one is a great idea.

“I think a lot of these automated systems are great except what people really want is to feel they are interacting with a person not a machine”.


The one thing you can’t automate is social interaction, be it online or in real life.

Those ‘Thanks for following me’ automated tweets?

Very bad idea.

Either do it manually, or don’t do it at all.

As for a personal welcome email when people sign up:

Brilliant idea!

I do it too sometimes, and it’s fun to see people respond ‘Huh, there’s a real person here?’

See, at any moment you have an opportunity to start a relationship with people, and believe me, it pays off.

Sure if you get 100 new subscribers a day you can’t email all of them personally.

But most of us don’t have that kind of numbers.

So why not?

It only takes a second to send that email.

And when you do, always end with a question.

For me it’s: “Quick question: what’s the one thing you struggle with most in your art business?”

For you as a maker of things, it could be something like: “What do you look for in art?” or even “who’s your favourite artist”.

The actual question can be anything, as long as it’s relevant and invites people to answer back.

And that’s how you reach out your hand for people to accept and start a conversation with you.

Oh hey, and speaking of reaching out, extending your hand?

Guess what will happen when you reply to this email and ask me a question about how to improve your creative business?

Only one way to find out…



Do You Suffer From Indecisive Buyeritis? There’s a Cure For That…

One of the most aggravating things is when someone tells you they’re ready to buy from you, but then they seem to fall off the planet.

What happened?

They were excited to get started, send your money, own your work… but all you hear is crickets.

The first thing to do at such a moment, is to take a step back and realise:

It’s not you, it’s them.

Meaning: don’t get nervous, insecure, worried, but instead realise that people always have their own reasons for doing what they do, or indeed not doing it.

People have their own lives, with responsibilities, distractions, and fires to fight.

This is important, because if you don’t allow for that, you’re likely to mess up when you take step 2:

Reach out and follow up.

If you’re not coming from a place of calm and confidence, where you’re aware there’s a good reason for not taking action, over on their side, you easily appear nervous or insecure, or worst of all: pushy.

Instead, just get in touch, and simply ask:

“Hi, we discussed you owning my work and you said you’d like to. I’m writing to see if you’d still like to proceed?” or whatever variation works for you.

Another tip: never write or call to say that you’re “just checking in”.

What are they, an airport?

Checking in is an empty, lame and wildly overused non-statement, and it should be avoided at all cost.

Instead, just go straight for the message: “still up for it?”

You might have to do that more than once, over a few week’s time, and don’t be shy to do so.

As long as you’re not nagging or looking desperate, there’s very little chance that it’ll turn them off, in fact chances are that they’ll appreciate it, and that you’re not in any hurry.

If all else fails, there’s one more thing you can do: apply the scarcity principle.

It works like this: we want what we can’t have, it’s a psychological mechanism.

If you tell a child to not touch the heater, the very next thing you’ll be doing is running cold water over their hands.

The tree and the apple and don’t eat it?

Exactly, and look at the mess we’re in now.

Ok, but seriously: when something isn’t available, it simply becomes more desirable.

So by letting your potential buyer know the work might be sold before too long, you’re giving them a compelling reason to think about their decision to buy, or lack thereof.

But for this, it’s extremely important that it’s genuine and not artificial.

Don’t be like the real estate agent or car salesman who phones to say ‘you need to make a decision, there’s potential buyers’ when that’s a fabrication.

Only when there actually is a new potential buyer can you do this.

After all, we’re ethical people here, and we don’t want to lie or manipulate.

But, there’s nothing wrong with letting someone know:

“I understand you may have changed your mind, which is why I need to tell you: People like this painting, and I’d be happy to sell it.

“I’m thinking of taking it to my next show in a few weeks, and it only seems fair to let you know in advance”.

Very possibly, the little jolt is enough to have people rethink their delay, and make a decision as to yes or no.

There you go: the cure for indecisive buyeritis.

No medical prescription required.

Want me to help you with things like these, and help you write or speak the kind of messaging that makes all these things easier?

It’s what you get when we work one on one.

Think about what it could do for your communications and sales…

And of course, let me know if you want some of that.



Priorities Don’t Exist

You know, some days I wonder if I’m sane.

“Priorities don’t exist” – for real, Martin?

Yep, very real.

And yes, no worries: I’m pretty sane.

Oh by the way, did I ever tell you my father was a motorised coffee pot?

Anyway, let’s get serious:

‘Priorities’ is a word that stems from 14th century Latin: Prior.

And ‘prior’ means: first.

Can you tell me how many things can be first?

That’s right: only one.

For some reason, the previous century saw the usage and meaning shift, and these days we talk (and think!) in terms of having several priorities.

But that’s simply not possible.

There’s only one priority, ever.

This became very clear to me today, reading a book called ‘The ONE Thing’, which goes on at length about, yes, how to choose one thing, one priority to focus on.

It’s a long read, but I’ll give you the core message:

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Think about that for a while, and then a while longer.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the choices and distractions and opportunities, but all we end up doing is multitask our little tush off, and most likely make little progress.

But if you take just one thing and really focus all your attention and effort on it, you’ll see real progress, and faster than you thought possible.

So let me try to help you:

You go and think about the answer to that question, and then you send me an email to tell me what that one thing is.

I’ll reply back and give you my best tip or advice on how to do it or do it more efficiently.



Thinking cap on… GO!



Questions, Questions, Questions… SALE!

One of my clients, Anook Cleonne from Holland, went to a big art fair a few weeks ago.

I gave her a list of questions for her to use as conversation starters.

Because – say after me – the sale always happens inside of a conversation.

I asked her to tell me which of them had proven most effective, and I thought I’d share her findings with you.

They work when dealing with people in real life, but you can also adapt them and use them in emails, on the phone, or even Facebook Messenger.

But, they are the most useful when you’re showing your work ‘in the field’, so to speak.

Remember, when you ask questions, they are not meant to be used as icebreakers, for you to go off on one and tell your story.

No, these (and all questions, in fact) are intended for you to get the other person talking, so that you can express an interest in them, and they can tell you what you need to know in order to get them more interested in your person and your art.

1: What brought you here?

Actually a dead giveaway, but I’ll bet it’s very underutilised.

Perfect starter though.

You might get a plain answer, like: “Passing by, saw the sign, and figured I’d have a look”.

That’s not a dead-end, it’s a perfect setup for another question, such as:

“Interesting. What kind of art do you generally come across, when you take a chance like that?”

2: If they look at one painting for a long time (or return for another look): What do you see?

Anook said many people laughed or chuckled at that question.

Then she did something clever, which I hadn’t even thought of.

She asked:

3: “When was the last time you saw art that made you laugh?”

Or, if the people tell you it touches them, inspires them, moves them or whatever else:

“When was the last time you had that reaction to art?”

4: When you buy art, is it a mind decision or gut decision?

These are just the top 4 from her experience.

In practice, your art or the actual situation might call for different questions.

But a question is most always the best way to start a conversation and start building a relationship, and set the situation up for a sale, another appointment, or – excellent choice – asking them if they want to stay updated by email.

Get people talking.

It endears them to you, it builds relationships, and: it will give you clues on why people buy art, which you can then use in your own answers to their questions.

That way, you enter the conversation that’s going on inside their head.

So, I’m curious: what questions do you like to ask people when showing your work?

Hit reply, let me know.



New! FOMO! It slices, it dices, it picks your kids up from school, your shirts will never be whiter!

Here’s one of the reasons so many entrepreneurs fail to make the progress they deserve:

FOMO: The fear of missing out.

I suppose it’s partially a normal human condition, but a VERY large part of the blame goes to the advertising industry.

All those gurus, coaches, teachers, emailing and blogging and facebooking with yet another course, training, or program.

And they all tell you:

You need this, without it you’re going nowhere fast.

Act now!

TV ads are just the same: engineered to convince us that our lives just won’t be complete without this widget or that powertool or brand of beer.

Pushing your buttons has become a science in itself, and the industry is really good at it.

Back when people didn’t yet brush their teeth, some advertising executive came up with a clever idea:

“Run your tongue over your teeth – do you feel that smooth film?

“That’s plaque! Brush your teeth with our toothpaste, and they’ll last much longer!”

When in reality, that film is a normal consequence of the enzymes in saliva, and actually helps protect your teeth.

But it worked: toothpaste sales went through the roof, and fast too.


A couple of advertising geniuses found a way to have the public perceive it as a ‘medical condition’ with a ‘cure’, and Listerine became a HUGE brand of

Soon, we’ll have a century of scientific advertising behind our teeth (ha!)

And all of us get exposed daily to messages that tell us that without this book we won’t be a success, and without that detergent our shirts won’t be
white enough.

In other words: the entire advertising industry plays to one key psychological fact:

Nobody wants to miss out, and therefore many of us stay stuck in non-action because we first need to read or learn or practice something.

When in reality, if you were to tune out all ads and ignore all the ‘you NEED this’ messaging, and really look at what you need, the answer would
probably be:

You need to get out more, do more, take action, have more conversations.

But all the marketing tells us: ‘Sure, but this first’.

Fear of missing out.


Don’t fall for it.

If you look back at everything you’ve learned and tested and experienced, you very very likely have everything you need to spring into action.

Yes, learning is always good and honing chops is necessary.

And a lot of the online teaching is for real, useful and worth its money.

But don’t let that stop you from taking action, some sort of action…


Which action?

What’s the best thing you can do to start building business success around your art?

How, in fact, do you sell more art?

Have more conversations, whether online or offline.

A sale always happens inside a conversation.

Every potential buyer has a conversation going on inside their head.

It’s up to you to communicate with people and join that inner conversation.

THAT is how you sell art.

So, you ready?

Get set…


Now, Martin has talked himself into a corner.

Because if I say that you can get started without buying or learning more, how can I end with pointing you at my services?

Certainly not by saying that the universe will end or your business will flounder if you don’t work with me.

If either of those things happen, it’s definitely not because you didn’t get me on your team.

That’s the whole point: buying something has to be, always, something that you want, with your own decision, for your own reasons.

Not because someone who gets marketing manipulates you into thinking that you need something when that thing is in fact optional.

That wouldn’t be ethical.

So that link, pointing at where you can hire me?

That’s optional, just in case you want to.

Conversations: have more of them.

Email marketing works a charm, and if you have drive, know how to write, and are willing to be consistent with it, then you can do it on your own,

Oh I don’t know…


Otherwise, if you do want me to train you, then you can go here, and, IF you want, get my mentorship –>



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