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

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

Crabs in a Bucket, Drinking Kool-Aid

When a fisherman catches crabs and puts them in a bucket, they obviously want to get out.

They scramble and scuttle, each trying to get on top of the others, reaching for the edge.

Sometimes, one gets lucky and hooks a leg or a claw, and starts to pull himself up.

He never makes it though: The moment he’s on his way out, the others grab his legs and pull him back in.

“No no no, you’re not going anywhere. You’re staying here with us”.

Sound like humans to you?

All those sweet and dear people who want to ‘help’ you, and who give you their highly valuable ‘can’t do’ feedback.

“There’s no more money!”

“People no longer buy art!”

“You’ll never get anywhere without a gallery”.

“The economy is in the tank, forget it”.

That’s the crab syndrome at work, right there. They see you move forward, and they’re instantly ready to turn you off, to dissuade you and to depress you.

Not because they want to – rationally they might want you to succeed.

But they can’t help themselves.

In a sense, you choose it for yourself.

If you allow others to slow your momentum or quench your enthusiasm, you gave them permission.

Cool fact: You can revoke that permission, and sometimes you have to make that decision.

Some people, you shouldn’t see, because they bring you down. You drink their Kool-Aid and you’re off worse for it.

If you allow people in your life who hurt you in those ways, you’re the crab that pulls itself down.

Then there’s the part about perception:

I saw it happen last week, when Jimmy and I talked to the art-buyer gentleman.

His wasn’t an uplifting story, and I could see it was affecting Jimmy negatively.

Thing is, when the man left, Jimmy had found it disheartening, while I had found it a terrific meeting and incredibly instructive.

And that’s the thing, you see: Like I explained in LEAP issue 1, you choose your perception, and that determines your reality.

That might sound out there, but it’s really just simple psychology – it’s about mindset and attitude, and how you program yourself. Simple stuff, really.

So that’s what LEAP #3 is going to be about: I’ll show you a marketer’s view on the gallery system, and then I’ll outline exactly how what you thought is a put-down, actually gives you endless opportunities, if you’re willing to shift your perception.

Some of the juicy bits:

•    Why art isn’t a luxury, and how making that mindshift can help you sell more of it

•    How to be businesslike when making and selling art

•    How you can use your own personality to replace the ‘tactile’ experience of seeing art (they say you can’t sell art online, without seeing it – that’s bunk, even a gallery holder told me so)

•    The enormous show that famous artists stage to increase sales – and why you can drop all that and sell more because of it

•    How when you sign with with a gallery you’re in a way like a colonial coolie, only there to sweat and to make your master’s lives better

•    How online marketing – especially with email – is the fastest way to sift through all the unlikely suspects, so you can focus all your marketing efforts only on the people who are passionate about what you do

•    Why building your own name and marketing asset gets you a fanbase that’ll last you for life, instead of some quick cash

•    How that starkly contrasts with galleries maybe selling your work, but in doing so raising their own profile first (look at all the great artists we have!) and yours second

•    How there is endless generosity that people are ready to share with you, and how to ask the questions that make people open up and tell you everything they know about selling and promotion

•    The uncanny power of ‘you-as-part-of-the-art’ when it comes to earning more for your work (Even the art-buyer we talked to confirmed this is how it works)

•    Why stories and storytelling matter, and how to use it

•    How people are more bored the richer they are, and how that can get you to earn any price you want for your work if you play your cards right

And so much more… really.

I’ll also go through my notes from the talk with Mr. X, and show you how each of the negative common conceptions people have can be turned into a positive and give you a new tool in your sales toolbox.

In other words, if you make any sort of art, you want this issue.

Just a few hours left to get in… best not miss it if you want to take the business side of your art and your income more seriously –>



So This Soul Legend Walks Into My House

P.P. Arnold, genuine soul legend and one of Tina Turner’s original Ikettes, popped round to see me just now.

(How I love saying that – you’ll forgive me for gloating a bit, but she’s the only soul legend I know so I have to brag every now and then, mkay?)

Anyway, we talk about her new tour coming up, and her autobiography coming out soon, and at some point she says: “I know how the industry works”.

And I sit there, thinking: It’s exactly as if I’m talking to a painter.

The industry? Forget em. Galleries – do you really need them?

You don’t.

Here’s the traditional model, in the music business:

A label makes you sign a contract (I believe that’s the part usually called ‘selling your soul over to the devil’, but I might have got my mythology wrong.)

The contract says that you sing, they record it, and they’ll put your work out there in front of people.

Those people buy, the record label takes a cut, and you get what’s left.

When they decide to drop you, you’re on your own until another record label starts doing your marketing for you.

When do they drop you?

Depends, but as soon as they’ve reached their target profit, you’re only as good as the cash your work keeps bringing in.

New starlet comes along? You might well be gone.

Apparently similar things happen with galleries: Where they used to have stables full or artists to promote, they’re now cutting their artist base by as much as 90%.

So uh… who then is going to sell the artist’s work, if the galleries no longer promote you?

The answer is: You are.

Just like P.P. needs to take the helm in her own hands if she wants to get well paying gigs and her book sold, you need to also take control.

The old model no longer works, even galleries are saying so.

Well they don’t say it, I suppose, but keeping only 10% of artists and letting the other ones fend for themselves says a lot.

Luckily, we live in the day and age of Internet and entrepreneurship, meaning anyone with a few ounces of grit, half a brain and an internet connection can completely bypass the music industry, or the gallery system, and create their own exposure and sales.

All you need is to let go of old and dysfunctional views about marketing, and persistently put yourself out there in front of other people, and you’ll see something interesting happen.

You’ll find that if you communicate directly with the people who want to buy from you, not with a gallery as an intermediary, they’ll really enjoy the fact that you’re marketing to them.

And, you’ll enjoy it yourself, too. Yes, marketing can, and should be, fun. Lots of fun.

Haven’t you noticed? I have a blast each day, writing these emails. Most of my readers enjoy reading them. QED.

But most importantly: you’ll start getting sales. From your paintings, your photography, your music.

Just learn how to do it, and then just do it.

The learning, I can help you with that.

The doing, well that’s up to you.

But if you sign up for LEAP, you get to ask me questions and it just so happens that when replying, I very persuasively give you key messages and little psychological nudges that help you keep your momentum.

Meaning, LEAP gets you ongoing mini-mini consulting, and you bet that helps.

Oh, and also: I’ve decided to include the cheat sheet ‘The Spyhole Salesman’s Business Secret’ for new subscribers.

It’s a 4-page bonus that shows you how you can quickly create a simple, useful, affordable product that you can sell over and over again, just by driving traffic at it.

Nice way to raise your cashflow – yours free with your subscription.

Get it here –>



How to Fossilise Your Hamster – and Sell More Art

A shelf of second-hand books in Ireland.

I never expect to find much, but I like to look anyway, just in case there’s a gem waiting for me.

Between countless novels and 50 shades of badly written woman-degrading pseudo-erotica (does anyone even remember Anais Nin? Now THAT’S literary erotica), I see it:

“How to fossilise your hamster”.

Apparently, there’s a market for that.

Like I’m fond of saying: everybody needs a hobby.

It was by far the weirdest title there.

And I reflected: For you to find a book like that, if you happen to be into fossilisation, you have to go through hundreds of titles, just to get to that one book.

Quite like marketing: before you sell 1 item, one painting, one hour of coaching, you need to show up and appear in front of who knows how many people.

Just to find that one ideal client, the one who says: “Where have you BEEN all my life? Quick, tell me where I pay”.

And that takes time, and effort, and persistence.

Problem is, if you don’t know where to show up, you could well be spending your social media time and your marketing budget on the wrong people.

And don’t underestimate that: It’s easy to think that Flakebooking your days away is marketing, but it ain’t, peachycheeks.

Not unless you have a plan and a strategy.

Without those, you’re basically standing on a street corner handing out flyers to all and sundry, hoping for the off-chance that one person will actually read it.

Hard work, money spent without much return, and many – MANY – hours completely wasted.

What to do instead, if you want to sell your art?

Oh I dunno – learn something that’s been tested, adapt it to your own business model, and run with that sucker for a few months, maybe?

That’s one form of using a strategy.

What to learn? You could learn how to Listen, Explain, Ask & Profit, as per my LEAP system.

But, you can also go the free road, and learn from the thousands of free systems.

I’ve done that. Took me nearly ten years to get my head around it. Cost me an inheritance too, but that’s a different story.

So if you don’t want to spend all that time, and you want to learn a system that’s built specifically for people whose building a business is an art in itself, then that LEAP Newsletter isn’t a bad choice, if I say so myself.

But there’s a price to pay – at $79 it’s hardly free, and not even cheap.

But that’s for a good reason, because after spending those ten years, I’ve built a system that’s reliable, effective, adaptable, testable, and which gets your head around marketing your art quick smart, without having to search and test and discard all the other systems that are not quite right for you.

There’s a LOT in my head (just ask Jimmy), and I pour it all into the newsletter.

So, you in a hurry? Want to sell that art?

‘Course you do.

So then LEAP –>

She goes to the printer in a few days, and there’s only two days left to sign up for issue #3: “How to flip the bird to galleries and sell your own art”.

That’s a working title, but it says what’s in the tin.

Get it here –>



I Honestly Hadn't Expected This

My final morning as a guest of Jimmy, artiste-savant.

In an hour from now I’ll be on my way back home – tired, but quite satisfied.

I went here with the intention of wrenching the feller out of his comfort zone – and it worked, with rather a large margin of success.

My plan was to turn his world upside down, to show him the world of art sales through the eye of a marketer.

To show him how simply dropping the ancient thought patterns and habitual programmes of perception we all carry with us since childhood and thereafter, isn’t scary or threatening, but liberating instead.

He got it.

He’s seen the light. From here on in, he’ll be unstoppable.

In other words: I love it when a plan comes together.

What I hadn’t expected though, was how it would affect me.

The way in which being around him, and around the art that he and others make, and having endless conversations about how art brings meaning to life, forced me to see the world through the eye of an artist.

And like I wrote the other day: the experience was intense, beautiful, liberating and enriching.

He thanks me, saying it’s been a good week.

I smile, and wonder if he’s fully aware of the extent of it.

And I wonder if he can remotely imagine how good of a week it’s been for me, to finally, finally, discover

the beauty of art. Talk about waking up.

I’m even considering focusing my work only on artists, in the future, though it’s too early to decide. It’s tempting though.

Anyway, I promise that I’ll be done with this softie-talk after today.

Starting tomorrow, it’ll be back to hard lashings, proven persuasion strategies, sales psycholog, getting more of your stuff sold and growing your business.

Because that is, ultimately, what I write and you read for.

And so I write – and you read if you’re smart – the LEAP newsletter.

Issue #3: Sell more art by completely ignoring the galleries.

I might step on a few toes with that one.

Join here, three days left –>



Oh No, Not Again… I've Fallen in Love

This time however, not with a woman.

This time round, I’ve fallen in love, head over heels, madly and passionately – with art.

You don’t know this about me, but I’ve never been especially able to appreciate art very much. I just didn’t get it.

I didn’t understand art.

Also: because as a child, my every vacation included long, dreary, sweaty and boring days of trudging through musea, my enchanted mother dragging me along, kicking and screaming.

“Can we go to the beach now? Can I have icecream? It’s so warm in here. Why are all these people just staring at those paintings?”

Yes, I clearly had a troubled childhood.

Well that’s an exaggeration, but it’s true that I loathed and resented the experience.

Not another museum… please.

Until yesterday, when I grabbed Jimmy by the nape of the neck and shoved him into a gallery.

“Here, go talk about your art with these people. See what you pick up when you listen”.

And while he stood there, listening intently (yeah he’s a good little soldier – listening is magic), I stood amidst some of the most magnificent pieces you can imagine.

All around me, everywhere I looked, beauty and brilliance shone at me.

And then another gallery. And another one.

And by the time I saw Louis le Brocquy’s utterly minimalistic head&hand portrait of Samuel Beckett, I finally succumbed, and let art into my life.


A dead man’s eyes piercing right into my being.

A palpable, real, tangible… something. Whatever it was, it was insanely intense.

It was falling in love.

I needed 41 years to get to this point.

I had to ignore art, and artists, and all the starving-artist hokum so romantically (and erroneously) touted, to arrive at this place.

Jimmy painting my portrait helped.

So did talking to him all week long.

And meeting all the people he introduced me to.

I needed to be steeped in this whole art thing to finally realise that I need this stuff in my life.

Did you hear that?

I NEED art

In a flash, after decades of preparation (or fighting, depending on your politics) art suddenly showed up in my life and said:

“Here I am. I’m beautiful and I want you. Take me”.

So I did.

And I’ll never be the same.

What can we learn from this?

For one thing, that everything happens in its own time.

You can’t force or rush things.

You can only prepare, and wait until the time is right.

I’ve finally arrived at this stage. I’ve opened up and let this light in.

Obviously, I’m blissfully grateful.

Looking at the above, I’m also a bit lyrical today.

But then, that’s what happens when someone falls in love

For you, I just hope it’s not going to take 41 years before you’re ready to finally make it part of your art, to take a somewhat more professional approach about it all

And get that stuff sold.

Also: Don’t wait 41 years to get the LEAP Newsletter, because like I said yesterday, the August issue will be special.

It’s called ‘Forget about galleries, and it’ll show you in very certain terms that the gallery/museum model is in many ways like a dinosaur, and old feudal system –

And, how that gives you, the ‘artist-entrepreneur’, a richly filled toolbox and a huge edge over your competition.

Want it? Then here’s access –>

To art, to your health, to sales.

I say cheers.


In Case You Don't Want to Take it From Me: Solve Problems

Yesterday’s email, my saying that art is definitely not a luxury?

Yeah funny, that.

One of my loyal readers writes in and makes that point better than I ever could.

She’s a copywriter – a young woman, a single mother, and one fine example of how persistence and a warrior-like attitude in life gets your problems solved, bit by bit.

And problems, she’s had a-plenty. The dad making a dick move and running off being only one in many.

Here’s what she writes:

As for art — for me it isn’t so much a problem to be solved as a need to be met — I guess that’s two ways of saying the same thing. When I have been at my lowest, I’ve consistently scraped together my pennies to buy an original piece from my favourite artist. (I’ve now got 3.) As it is, I’m saving up for a You Are Awesome print for myself, because I could use the reminder. I’ve already got the mini-print set hanging in my son’s room. Seemed like a good idea to raise him from day one with that message in bold color on the walls, given his father’s choice not to stick around.”

I mean, how awesome is that?

Here’s a chick for whom business isn’t yet a joy, for whom life is a puzzle still in many separate pieces, and you’d think the very last thing she’d buy would be art.

But what does she do? She buys art. Because she needs it.

If ever there was justification for marketing, even for something as – supposedly – frivolous as art, it’s this.

She buys art with money she barely has, because she needs, badly, to have it in her house.

She doesn’t want to live without the art, because she needs it. Has to have it.

So if you’re an artist, and you’re still hesitant, this is your day of glory, this is where you get to take the plunge.

People need you.

And if you don’t put yourself out there, you’re doing others a disservice.

If you’re still on the fence about getting your marketing on and selling your art, then today I implore you to get over yourself and start getting good at marketing. You have my permission, my encouragement, my support and my blessing, all for what it’s worth.

There are people waiting for you and today it’s not just me saying so.

Do it. Get out there.

Sell art.

It’s your duty.


Here –>



Or, as Jimmy says: “Art changes you, whether you want it or not”.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The next LEAP is going to be a full dissection of the conversation Jimmy and I had with Mr. X, the art expert we met the other day.

And inasmuch as Jimmy thought it was all very depressing to hear how without galleries you’ll basically never make a decent living, I’m going to show you different.

After the meeting I directly sat down to list the whole conversation.

And from those notes I’m going to tell you how, exactly because others think there’s no way without outside help, you as a savvily marketing artist, you have a massive, huge edge over all the people whose only recourse is to let 50%-commission-takers run the show.

You don’t want to miss this baby. Trust me.

Get it before she flies –>

This is NOT a Luxury

I told you I was going to throw my client Jimmy to the lions, and well, I’m working on it.

Like today: I called up a rather influential gentleman in the local art scene, and invited him to come visit Jimmy’s studio.

What with me being of *ahem* the persuasive kind and all that, he very kindly agreed and showed up.

While sweat trickled down Jimmy’s brow, the gent proceeded to get masterfully instructive and explicatory on how this industry actually worked.

It wasn’t pretty.

Apparently, amongst the more traditional-minded, galleries still hold sway. Not that Mr. X agrees with that, but the stark reality is that most of the art world still works that way.

You, I, and Jimmy though: we know better.

We know that if we take action, and put ourselves out there, and persistently keep that stuff up, we will in the end build our own audience, fanbase and sales.

So far, so good.

But then he said something that illustrated exactly how dysfunctional the old mindset really is.

“In the end, what you’re selling is a luxury.”

No, not quite.

In that line of thought, obviously a gallery has its place and its function and you need to be in one.

But as I always say: You don’t sell a luxury – you sell a solution.

Your art solves – can you guess? – a problem.

The irony of the whole thing was that Mr. X himself said as much later in the conversation: “Rich people sit in their fancy hotels, bored out of their brains, with another 20 to 40 years of wealth – and boredom – to last them.”

Hey hey, now what does that tell us?

It tells us that artists solve that problem: they give a buyer something beautiful to look at.

Artists provide people with a way to enrich their lives. You folk add value. Tangible and demonstrable value.

“Yeah, it’s an amazing piece, isn’t it? I got it off this ‘totally wacky/highly spiritual/transgender/ex convict/insanely intelligent/utterly boorish/fill in your bio’ artist way out in the boondocks. The guy/gal really knows his art.”

“Really… how lovely”, says the visitor – secretly envious that all he got was a canvas from a – essentially – a shop.

You don’t easily get that experience when buying a work in a gallery – you can only get it when you buy from the artist directly.

And believe me: you and your story, your presence and your attitude – it’s all part of the experience of the work of art.

Art isn’t a luxury. For some people, it’s a necessity. For others, it’s enrichment. But never should you think that your art is just a luxury.

Because unless you’re a truly masterful marketer, that luxury attitude is guaranteed to keep you locked in the starving-artist fallacy.

So, go on: sell solutions. Sell art. Make rooms more beautiful, make lives happier, and yes: make people less bored. Give them something that makes their life better and fuller and richer.


You LEAP –>



Give Mummy the Egg, AKA 'Everything's a Sale'

The little girl comes into the house happy: the hen laid an egg!

She holds it carefully in her hands and sits down at the breakfast table.

Naturally, her parents are worried she’ll drop it or crush it.

“Give the egg to mummy Sarah, there’s a good girl”.


Obviously. Tell a child she can’t have something, and she’ll want it all the more.

(That’s a sales principle right there, but that’s not the point today).

The parents reason with her, plead with her. No go: “I want to eat it”.

I lean over to her: “But if you want to eat it, mummy will have to boil the egg first”.

Without though or pause she hands over the egg.

Like I always say: Everything is essentially a sale.

And, you can sell anything to anyone, if you know how.

You can even cause a kid to part with an object, so long as you know how to (ethically) play into their desires. It really ain’t that hard.

Want to learn what to say, in which situations, so selling your product or service gets easier?

Then the LEAP newsletter is a pretty good option.

Get it here, if you dare to leap –>

Cheers. I’ll have my eggs sunny side up, please.


Don't Try to Stand Out From the Crowd…

…Avoid crowds altogether.

Heard it before?

I hope so – I’ve said it before. And before me, Hugh MacLeod said it.

Never was the point made more poignantly than yesterday, after Jimmy picked me up from the airport, and we stopped at Dublin’s Merrion Square.

Said to be a fantastic opportunity for artists to sell their work, I got a different impression.
In fact, I found it terribly disheartening.

Maybe I’d have felt differently if there had been droves of passersby, looking and buying art.

But there was hardly anyone on the street.

So there they were: one artist next to another, each with their pitch and their paintings.

Waiting. Waiting for someone to come by, to stop and look, to hopefully buy a painting.

But no takers.

Not that I’m against the idea of being on display – I’m always saying you need to show up and be seen.

That much, they were doing right.

But there are two things massively wrong with this kind of fair.

First, that ‘stand out’ aspect – the only thing making you stand out between 100 artists is your art.

And everybody there is doing exactly the same thing: trying to be just different enough to sell a painting.

It’s a race to the bottom.

How do you stand out, if you mix in with the rest? You’ll just be one of many.

So those people, instead of standing out from the crowd, are doing the opposite: they’re blending in with the crowd.

Hard work, I say. And not very joyful. Or promising.

Secondly, an event like that will only work for you if there’s people showing up, and that only happens if the organisers are capable of drumming up the audience.

For whatever reason, that didn’t work yesterday, so they all just stood there. Waiting.

Said Jimmy: “Each of these people would probably get more results if they’d spend their time writing good content.”

And he’s right.

Now you might say: “But there are thousands of bloggers, writing about their art.”

And you’d be right.

Which is why once again I’m making the case for building a list, and mailing them daily.

Because once someone gives you permission to show up in their inbox, you’re no longer part of any crowd – you’ve become part of an inner circle – the tiny, personal, private inner circle that your reader gave you access to.

In that personal space, that inbox, you have very little competition. A handful, perhaps. If at all, because very few people have the grit and tenacity to show up persistently, day after day.

Your competitors – whether you’re into arts or writing or design – very probably don’t write every day.

Which makes you stand out like a nail on a dance floor.

And that is how you get noticed, how you engage people, avoid crowds, and yes, sell art. Or anything, for that matter.

Something to think about, I say.

Next, think about learning how to write emails that distinguish you and that get you sales.

And when you’re done thinking, know yourself courteously invited to sign up here –>



Into the Heart of Dublin

One of these days, I must tell you about my client Karen, creator of the award-winning educational game Time Tribe.

It’s a great game, and with the email chops she’s developed while working with me over the last few months, I’m pretty sure she’ll go fast, once summer is over and she’s back into the swing of things.

But that’s a story for another day.

The reason I mention her is that Karen is an archeologist, a true explorer.

She’s the kinda girl who wears a pith helmet and spends 3 months holed up in a desert, scraping away at things millenia old with a toothpick and tweezers.

An adventurer, an explorer.

And right now, that’s exactly how I feel.

As in, I’m about to step into the wilderness, and I’ve no idea what I’ll find.

I’m armed with a pocket knife, a survival guide, a compass and a length of string.

I’ve a map of the terrain and I read up on the local flora and fauna, and I know where to avoid the cannibals.

But for the rest, I have no idea what I’m going to encounter. There’s just no telling.

This Sunday, I will land in my jungle, and just like Edmund Hillary and the alike, I need to overcome my fear, stiffen my upperlip, and sally forth despite the risks.

My jungle is called Dublin, and my sherpa is Jimmy Kelly, painter and writer.

Our mission will be to convert the heathen natives of Dublin to a funky new religion called ‘Jimmy’s Art’,

And while we have a plan, and he’s got his network, and he knows his way around the art scene, I can’t help but feeling as if I’m at the edge of the jungle.

As if I’m in a clearing, and a little airplane just dropped me off.

I’m looking at a dense wall of bamboo, ferns, vines. There’s rustling, and I hear animals screech and caw, muffled by the vegetation.

The sun drums on my hat and sweat trickles down my temples.

Anything can happen.

According to quantum scientists, anything will happen.

I just hope we’ll be stepping into the right timeline, not the one where a saber-toothed art critic decides to devour us.

It should be an interesting experience, and even though it’s a type of project I’ve never done before, I’m confident it’ll go well.

But it does make me nervous.

The moral of the story?

Fear is a tool. It’s there to challenge you.

It asks if you really want this.

It forces you into mental sharpness and it helps you make decisions.

Fear stands before you, saying: “Really? Then show me, if you dare”.

At that point, you decide who wins: your fear or your drive.

At the risk of sounding like Yoda, the fear itself isn’t the problem – it’s being afraid of the fear that stops us.

And there’s only one way to overcome that: you grit your teeth, you cover yourself in insect-repellent, you take a deep breath, and you go.

Life’s too short for excuses, and no man who let fear stop him ever manifested anything extraordinary.

Mint cakes, flare gun, bottled water and first aid kit – check, check, check.

Wish me luck, I’m going in.

If I’m not back within a week, send in the rescue team.

Meanwhile, if you want to develop the same email marketing skills that Jimmy and Karen have, may I suggest you click here and sign up for mentorship?



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