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

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

Gulp – I’ve Been Fired!

Isn’t it just marvelous, being your own boss?

You get to plan your own day, make your own rules, live life on your own terms…

Except, when that own boss is Martin.

In that case it’s no fun at all.

In fact, I’ve been a terrible, terrible boss to myself.

If I would treat an employee the way I treat myself, I’d probably get sued.

Piling one task after another onto my plate.

Setting massive goals, and several at a time.

Forcing myself to multi task, when I know full well that multitasking is a recipe for frustration and failure.

Talking myself down when I don’t meet the utterly unreasonable expectations I create.

Honestly, boss-me has been a total tyrant to worker-me.

So this week, I fired boss-me.

Worker-me is now completely free, and I tell you:

It’s a total gamechanger.

There’s a lesson in this for you, but first let me tell you what happened.

You might remember that last December, I made a very specific planning for this year, with actions, milestones, big goals and pretty ambitious projects.

But because of circumstances beyond my control, my plan fell to pieces right before the new year started.

And since then, I’ve been trying rather frantically to get back on track.

But because I had so many goals to work towards, all I achieved was creating more backlog as I went along.

Now, if you know me, you know that I’m a fan of resilience, grit, and getting stuff done no matter what.

So that’s what I applied, but in the last few weeks, it began to wear on me.

Slowly I started to enjoy my work less, then I started to lose focus, next I lost productivity, and finally I ended up not liking where I’m at.

Until last Monday, a few friends heard my plight, and said:

“What you need is time off, Martin. Take a step back, drop any work that’s not must-do, and figure out what’s the ONE thing that you really have to do in order to make progress”.

It struck me like a ton of bricks.

Such good advice.

So that very instance, I fired myself from everything but the very essential.

I cancelled all goals.

Publishing books, publishing interviews, launching an interview site, all the other things boss-me had put on my plate:

Everything moved to ‘unslated and for later consideration’.

All goals cancelled.

I even abolished all my powerful good habits, except for daily meditation and a daily email.

But even that daily email is currently not the first thing in my day.

Broken the rules, the flow (which wasn’t flowing anyway) and the habits.

Wow. So simple, and so powerful.

And, guys…

The effect has been nothing short of magical and miraculous.

The very next day I was no longer tired, no longer unfocused.

I reveled in the freedom of not having any ‘gotta do this thing and that thing’.

Pottered about the house, talked to friends, made some things in my workshop, went for walks to think and to listen to podcasts, caught up on reading.

It’s now day three of no boss (and good riddance to him, stupid bossy bugger), and this morning I was back to my normal, happy, energetic and motivated self.

In fact, I was positively buzzing with adrenaline.

And in those last three days, I’ve become very clear on what really matters.

Hint: it’s people. You guys.

People and serving people is what matters most.

But because I was making life a misery for myself, I sabotaged my ability to serve truly and properly.

I’m still in the freedom phase, but it’ll end in a few days.

Come Monday, I’ll probably be back to normal work routines.

I’ve already figured out what’s the one thing I need to do.

All that’s left is deciding on exactly how to do it.

And once I do, I’ll work on that one thing and one thing only.

Only once I’ve got that thing on the tracks and moving forward will I start on the next goal.

No more multi-goal multi-tasking for Martin.

So is that the lesson for today?

To fire yourself?

To take time off?

No, because I don’t know your situation and I don’t want to give you advice that’s not right for you in your circumstance.

The lesson is very simple, and it’s this:

Be nice to yourself.

Maybe you already are, but there’s a good chance your driving that camel too hard and it’ll die before you reach the oasis.

If you’re your own boss, be a good, compassionate, magnanimous boss.

You’ll get a LOT more results from the worker-you, I assure you.

Scared, nervous, not sure if it’s ok to loosen the reigns a bit?

Not sure how to break out of the self-flogging so many of us do?

Talking to a coach might help.

Let me know if you want some of that.



Isn’t it Time to Stop Being a Girl’s Blouse?

That turn of phrase – being a girl’s blouse – is something I got from the late and great actor Rik Mayall.

I just love quirky British expressions.

It means being a wussy, a softie, and in business it won’t do you much good.

Proof of this was shown the other day by a client of mine, who had sold a work of art worth quite a few thousands of buckaroos (10K, I think), but hadn’t been paid yet.

Time came to ask the buyer to start paying off in monthly increments, and she thought “Maybe I’ll ask him for 500 a month”.

She bit the bullet, and sent the email (months after the ‘yes I’ll buy it’) and waited for his reply.

When it came, it read: “Yes thank you, good idea. Is 2000 a month ok with you?”

Obviously she was rather pleased, and a little bit embarrassed with herself as well.

After all, she’d put off sending the email for months, and when she sent it she was hoping for a relatively small payment instead of bigger chunks.

When actually, the buyer was perfectly happy to pay off the debt fast – if only she had asked.

If only she had decided sooner to stop acting like a girl’s blouse.

What was that quote – Luck favours the bold? Don’t know.

But I’ll tell you this: you’ll get best results if you’re simply straightforward about things.

You might feel insecure, asking a 50% deposit when someone commissions a piece from you.

But if you do ask for it, your buyer will take you more seriously as a professional than if you don’t.

When you show confidence, the other person will perceive and experience it.

And confidence is attractive, and confidence sells.

So: if you’ve been behaving like a girl’s blouse when dealing with buyers, here’s your invitation and permission to stop it, and to be more bold and show your confidence.

It will do you good, and your clients will appreciate it.

And with that and no call to action today, I bid you a good night.



Why You Should KISS Your Art Marketing

Hey now, Martin getting romantic?

Sorry, no: I don’t do romance.

Or actually, there may or many not be people who choose to differ, but whatever, that’s not the point today.

When I say KISS, I mean something else.

The first time I heard about the KISS principle, it was in the context of designing airplanes.

And when it comes to that, KISS stands for:

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Owing to the fact that human beings have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be.

In most cases, the simpler any given system or tool or method, the better it tends to work, the more durable it is, and the more versatile.

Over the years (centuries, in fact) the principle has had various iterations, long before planes were invented.

There’s Occam’s razor, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, and

Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

Not good enough?

Fine. Einstein is quoted as saying: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”


When it comes to marketing and selling your art, the same thing applies.

The simpler your strategy, the easier to iterate and optimise it.

And, the less time and money it’ll take to get it to work.

So what then is the KISS principle applied to marketing?

Find people who are likely to want to buy from you.

Get them to sign up to your list.

Send them emails that inspire, enlighten, entertain or motivate.

End the emails with a simple, friendly invitation to buy your work.


Simple, isn’t it?

Nice, too:

You get to serve your people, by giving them something valuable.

That earns you permission to pitch, and it makes your marketing valuable in and of itself.

It’s what I do, and it works.

And people thank me for the lessons too.

You as a maker of things might not be teachery, but you can still bring value to people’s inbox.

And, if you don’t know how to write in such a way that people want to read you and buy from you…

Well then hey, I’ll solve that for yer good artistic self.

Lookie here:



This Artist Gaffed With Her Email Marketing, and I’m REALLY Upset

Her name is Renate van Nijen, and she’s a painter, sculptor, and author of several books.

And yes, she gave me permission to tell this story.

And, no, I’m not upset with her personally.

But she omitted one simple action in her business last week, and because of that I lost out and her entire list as well.

So yeah, I’m upset.

Here’s what happened.

Renate lives in La Herradura, a town 20 minutes down the coast where I lived for a year.

It’s a place full with artists, musicians, writers, and it’s attracted people for decades.

In fact, the grandfather of classical guitar, Andres Segovia, lived there for many years.

Yesterday was the launch of Renate’s latest book:

“Reflections from La Herradura – a storytelling journey through an enchanting village” – a 300-pager with stories about artists past and present who live in the town.

And if I’d known about it, I would definitely have attended the event.

After all I like her, and the town, and the friends I made when I lived there – it would have been the perfect Sunday afternoon.

But I didn’t know about it.

Not until it was too late and the launch party was already underway, did I see an email from a mutual friend, reminding us.

But here’s the thing:

I’m on Renate’s list.

I subscribed to receive updates, in other words:

I’m one of those people who WANT to receive her updates.

I want to know what she’s up to, what she thinks, what she writes.

It’s not just that I gave her permission to email me – I expect her to do so, because I’m interested.

But, she never sent an email to her list about the launch.

Sure, she Facebooked, and talked to people in town, and spread the word.

So far so good.

But on Facebook, there’s no guarantee all your followers will see your posts.

And besides, not everybody pays attention to Facebook.

I sure don’t, for example.

So take home this lesson today:

Talk to your list!

Honestly, you won’t believe the difference it makes once you start doing it.

There’s absolutely no comparison between a Facebook follower and a list subscriber.

The former may or may not see your updates, may or may not care.

But the latter, the person who signed up because they are interested, they either lose interest and unsubscribe, or they stay and will love what you do.

And, show up to your event.

Trust me on this one:

You want to talk to your list, and your list wants to hear from you.

I assure you.

So… when are you going to start your own email marketing…?

Oh wait, you don’t know how and what to write… well why didn’t you say so?

I’ll teach you.

I’ll take you on a 3-month writing training that will make email marketing effortless, fun, and profitable.

Each week I analyze one of your emails, and give you line-by-line feedback on how to improve your email marketing.

Before the three months are over, you’ll be cranking out daily or weekly emails in less than an hour… the kind people love to read, and, yes, buy from.

Sounds good, yeah?

Cool. Here’s where you get started –>



Do You Even Own Your Business?

No but seriously: who actually owns your business?

I know that it’s all very convenient, what with social media and websites that sell your work for you.

But if that’s what your business is built on, you actually don’t really own it.

If you build on rented land, the owner of the land can simply change the rules, and then you’re left with the problem.

For example: last year, Facebook made some changes to their algorithm, and it caused massive losses for all kinds of companies.

Used to be that anyone following you sees anything you post, but no more.

These days, Facebook filters the content, and decides what gets shown to whom.

So all the people who used to rely on visibility through Facebook had to scramble and figure out new ways to get seen.

In many cases, that meant paying for Facebook ads.

You don’t own your Facebook audience: Facebook does.

Same thing if all your selling is through galleries:

They own the list and most likely won’t share it with you.

Which means they own your core business asset: the list of buyers and potential buyers.

All your sales through Artfinder or FineArtAmerica?

Careful, because whatever change they make will have consequences for you.

No, it’s much better to own the land you build on.

Meaning, create your own platform, your own community, your own fans, and your own buyers.

By way of your own list.

Sure you can use other avenues and platforms as well, and it’s probably a good idea.

But the one thing nobody can take away, no matter what rules change outside of your control, is your list.

In other words: your list is your business.

I say, go build one.

In case you’re hip to the importance of a list, but your website traffic isn’t signing up very much, I’ll create a custom report for you.

You click the link below, complete checkout, and within 7 days you’ll have a 2-page site review.

It details exactly what you ought to add, change or remove, for every single page on your site.

You (or your webguy/gal) implements the changes, and yes:

You’ll start to see your list grow.

Start here –>



In Which I Get Told Off

Last week, I decided to visit a Toastmasters meeting.

After all, if I’m going to have a public speaking career, it’s pretty useful to be good at, you know, public speaking.

And much like the National Speaker’s Association, Toastmasters makes you get better.

Plus, it’s a nice way to meet interesting and ambitious people.

It was a nice event, I quite enjoyed it.

Except at the end, when the meeting was done and everyone was standing around in little clusters, chatting.

Moments like that, I just don’t know what to do with myself.

Yes, insecurities and shyness are part of Martin’s psyche too, just like with most people.

I looked around the room, and the only choice I saw was to make a quiet escape.

Grabbed my coat, my helmet, my rucksack, and sidled out of the room.

At that point, I started to enjoy the evening even less, because the event organiser collared me.

Telling me that it’s not done to sneak off like a thief in the night.

That, despite my protestations to the contrary, most all of those people didn’t know each other either, prior to the meeting.

So there’s nothing unique about me, I’m just like one of the others: new here.

And then (gotta hand it to ballsy Spanish women) she practically grabbed me by the ear and pulled me up:

“And the thing to do, Martin, when you’re in a situation like that, is you go up to a group of people and you say hello.


I’m trying to think of the last time a stranger told me off… can’t remember when that was.

Not that I mind: she was, of course, completely right.

Does that mean I’ll have it easier, next time around?

Maybe, maybe not.

But I’ll definitely go back and put myself in similar situations, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that difficult things get easier if you keep running into them.

And I’d much rather run headlong into something difficult, instead of running away from it.

Same with you and your business, now that I think of it:

Maybe you want to run away from the marketing side, the business activities, the communication of it all…

But you know as well as I do that doing so will only make it more difficult.

We’re not ostriches, even if half the time we try to act like we are.

So here’s my challenge for you today:

What’s the thing you’re afraid of, the one thing you pretend doesn’t exist?

What would life be like if it were no longer a problem or obstacle?

What if… you’d just go do it?

I dare you…

If you are up for it, if you do take the challenge, write back and let me know how it went…



This is SO Not Done – Maybe You Ought to Give It a Try

As we speak, my client Anook Cleonne is on her way to a large art fair in Germany.

Getting her prepared for it, she asks me what she should do to figure out whether a visitor is an art-buyer, or an industry professional instead.

Good question, because the way you talk to a potential buyer is very different from the way you talk to a gallerist, critic, collector or agent.

And nobody wears a label that states what side of the market they are on.

So I tell her: “I don’t know, why not just ask?

“Are you an art-lover, or are you a professional in the art industry?

“Very likely, a gallerist or agent won’t straight away tell you who they are, but if someone is NOT an art professional, they very probably will say they’re an art lover.

“Which means that anyone who does not give you a straight answer is very likely a professional”.

We’re on a skype call, and she looks at me with a slightly baffled look:

“That’s so not done!”

Which, to me, means it’s a great thing to do.

Why would you want to comply with the rules – just because they exist?

Seems like a pretty bad reason to me.

Besides, when something is considered not done, it’s usually the establishment that says so.

And isn’t the art establishment up for some serious overhaul and refurbishment?

Methinks yes.

So give it a try: when you’re at an official function, and someone comes to talk to you, just ask whence they come.

The results might amaze you: it’s a great conversation starter, to ask and show an interest in others.

It will also tell you exactly who you’re dealing with, meaning you won’t have to guess and there’s less of a chance you’ll say the wrong thing.

And, it’s a cheeky way to start a conversation.

And being cheeky = confidence = attractive = increasing your chances of selling something.

It’s these breakthrough moments that make my job so awesome.

To listen to people, and serve up solutions and suggestions that they’ve never considered before, and to help them see ways forward and upwards.

Yes, I love my work.

And if you want some of that for yourself, and work with me one on one, all you need to do is holler.



And Sometimes, You Just Need to Chuck It

In general, I’m passionate about persistence.

I’m always going on about action, and putting in the hours, and forging your way through rough patches.

But sometimes, you might be better off taking a break.

Some days, especially those when you’ve been banging your head against some or other difficult task, without much progress, you might be better off putting down your tools and going for a walk.

Take a bath, read a book, call a friend, or just do nothing for a while.

If anything, you probably deserve it.

And besides: if you’ve worn yourself out trying to fix or finish something and halfway through the day you’re exhausted and still on square one, how likely are you to make the problem go away with sheer doggedness?

Very likely, not very likely at all.

So why not step out and get some oxygen into your system?

The problem will still be there for you to deal with when you get back, don’t worry.

And nobody is going to fire you or scream at you if you don’t empty your inbox today.

Sometimes, you just need a break.

When you get back, you’ll be refreshed and ready to take on the task, instead of trying to force yourself to slog on, despite knowing that today, well, just
ain’t the day.

But, only use this advice as an exception to the rule and not as your standard approach.

Because, yes, grit and persistence and relentless action – those are, in the end, what build your success.

You just need to know when to put in the effort, and when to step back and gather your strength.

I’m not talking about giving up – that’s never an option.

I’m talking about taking a break.

Because sometimes, you need and deserve it.



Pricing to Your Market vs the Right Market For Your Price

“I did lower my prices somewhat. Not much, but still.

“People in Spain just don’t pay as much for art as the people in Denmark do”.

Fair play, I think as I look at her paintings.

But fair or not, her paintings aren’t selling as much as possible, at this exhibition.

Which makes sense: It’s a whole different economy here in the South of Spain.

And yet…

There’s extremely affluent people in this area, and not just the odd one out.

Spanish or foreign, the coast is riddled with pockets of well-to-do folk, many of whom would be eager art buyers.

Except at this venue, they don’t seem to show up.

Which begs the question:

Should you adjust your prices to the market…

Or should you adjust your market to your prices?

See, you’ll never be able to influence, much less control, how much someone will pay for your work.

Even if you lower your prices, that’s no guarantee that you’ll sell.

Which you may have experienced for yourself.

What you can control however, is who you show your work to.

In other words: don’t adjust your prices, but adjust your market instead.

If you paint something and know it’s worth, say, $2000, the worst thing you could possibly do is start slashing your prices until you reach such a low point it’ll sell.

Terrible idea.

For one thing, it’s murderous for your self-esteem.

Not only that, it’s terrible for your economy, which is likely to cause stress and frustration.

Worst of all, it reduces your market (in your head) down to a small puddle of bargain-hunters.

When in fact, there’s a huge pool of very keen, well-paying art buyers out there, and you too can get yourself in front of them.

And you know what?

That kind of person, those who don’t notice the difference between a $1000 purchase or a $1500 purchase, they’ll be more keen when they see a higher price.

For people who can afford luxurious things, something that’s cheap is unattractive, not more attractive.

Simple psychology, really.

But, it does take guts to price your work high.

Then again, if you didn’t have courage you would have a dayjob instead of building your own business.

Believe me: the right kind of buyer, for your art and your prices, is out there.

Your task is to identify them and find ways to show up, confidently.


Not really, no.

Fantastically exciting adventure of discovery and relationship building?

Yep, definitely.

Once you find your own path, all this marketing stuff can become extremely enjoyable.

How to find that path?


You can study and implement and experiment, and given enough grit you’ll get there.

Or you can talk to me and I’ll help you figure out what methods a) will work for you and b) will be fun enough to keep doing until your business is a success.

Either way, your perfect buyer is out there.

Are you on the hunt to find them yet, or are you still looking for ways to please the wrong kind of person…?



Where DO You Get Your Guidance?

Interesting how sometimes, inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.

Today during a coaching session, for example.

An artist telling me she doesn’t like marketing and selling.

Or doing the business work involved in being a professional artist.

Something in me gets triggered, and I start to preach ye holy business truth:

You are the architect, the composer and the director of the grand opus called ‘your life’.

You design the way you want to live, whether you’re aware of it or not.

You choose the styles you work in, the materials and inspiration.

You’re the one who decides who are your peers and your friends, and they in turn influence you.

You choose where you want to live, and how much you want to charge for your work.

And, you are the one who either ignores the inspiration that comes to you, or instead ignores it.

And in all those big and small choices, you’re creating a masterful work of art.

It’s called ‘your life’ and it’s fully you.

Your life is yours, it fits you like your skin.

And, you’ve got full permission to shape that masterpiece just the way you want it.

You’re not beholden to any directives, you don’t need gatekeepers or permission-givers.

All you need is a plan, the grit to follow it, and of course, accepting that you’re a free agent.

Nobody will build your life-art for you, it would be impossible for anyone but you.

Which doesn’t mean you need to go it alone.

And, I don’t think you ought to try to.

Nobody is a rock, nobody lives in isolation.

At some time or other, we all need some help.

Maybe in order to learn something new, maybe to change the way we look at things, or maybe someone to keep us motivated.

This is important.

You might admire the success or status of someone else, and easily overlook the fact that they didn’t get there on their own.

Nobody does.

Every one of us gets help.

Can be for real, like with a coach or teacher or mentor, or it can be virtual.

Meaning: use the works, books, teachings of people, and treat it as if that person is coaching you virtually, even if the person doesn’t know you or is no
longer alive.

What would Steve Jobs have done?

What would Picasso?

How would Andy Warhol have reacted?

It’s not quite the same as getting one on one guidance, but you’ll be surprised what can happen if you treat someone you admire as a guide, and let
them ‘speak’ to your subconscious.

And of course if that’s not enough for you, and you want someone on board with you, on your team, you know where to find me.



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