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

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

Tell Me If This Hurts

Sometimes, people tell me “I don’t have time to do any marketing”.

Whenever I hear that, I wonder: If that’s the case, then do you actually want to sell your work?

I know, this is harsh.

But if you want to build a living for yourself, as a self-employed and independent individual, you need to make tough choices.

In fact, the very decision to go it alone is a very tough choice – if not in the sense of deciding it, then certainly in terms of sticking with it.

So if that’s you, then you have my respect.

But beyond that, there’s also the very real fact that you can only build your enterprise into a success if you’re willing to face your demons.

You know, the little voices inside your head…

The ones that tell you the pie isn’t big enough…

… that you’re not worthy…

… that others have it better and are more lucky than you…

… that you’ll never manage to compete with other artists and become successful…

… that – worst of all – you can’t…

Because here’s a truth:

Whether you think you can or think you can’t: you’re right.

And this isn’t some airy-fairy new age thinking.

It’s solid fact, and it comes to you courtesy of the world of positive psychology.

Because that lump of grey matter you carry around, that’s a massively powerful tool.

But, only if you use it right, and most people don’t.

Myself included, but at the very least I’m trying and (hopefully getting better at it).

What I’ve learned so far might help you:

You need to pay attention to the way you think, because how you think determines your actions, and they in turn cause your results.

Your results confirm the way you were thinking in the first place, and hoopla:

The self-fulfilling prophesy is born.

But if you start to pay attention to that thinking, once you become aware of the nature of your constant internal dialogue, you can start to change it.

When you do that, you’ll start to choose differently, act differently, and you will start to see different consequences in your life.

And then?

Then those new observations and opportunities and happenings will confirm that – holy crap! – once you change your thinking, your external reality confirms that you’re right, that it’s a good thing to think differently.

And thus, you start to fulfill a different prophesy.

Again, this is simple human psychology.

And, it works if only you give it a serious, committed try.

This is why, when coaching people, I like to challenge them on their beliefs.

It’s so very useful to experience a different viewpoint and test it.

And it can be so easy – provided you dare to let go of what you’ve always thought of as true.

So I dare you, I challenge you:

Are you willing to change, really change – from the inside out and on into your world?



Art Marketing Expert Interview 4: Feed Your Art, With Mark McGuinness


In today’s interview, I’m talking with author, coach and poet Mark McGuinness.

Now there’s an artist who actually knows how to run the business side of things.

Mark has authored several books, the latest being Motivation for Creative People – How to stay creative while gaining money, fame and reputation – which is a terrifically inspiring read, and you can get it right here (highly recommended –  it’s a good one!).

But, there’s more to Mark, because he’s got a thoroughly wholesome view on the economics of being a professional artist.

So in this interview, you’ll hear me grill him about… yes, money.

Specifically, why artists deserve to earn money for their work, and:

•    Why there’s actually something self-involved behind not wanting to earn more

•    How you can experience a different reality if you let go of your beliefs

•    Suppose you had the belief that you could be happy and financially comfortable, and create even better art – what would that be like?

•    Mark says test it, and you’ll hear Mark’s simple trick for taking that test

•    Take it from an artist like Mark: we create for love, but we need to keep feeding the art  too

•    You’ll hear Mark’s tip for setting prices, which he calls ‘emotional pricing’

•    Why Mark agrees with me that as an artist, as someone who performs an important public service, you absolutely deserve to earn well

•    The thing about money: think of it as paint for the walls. It’s just stuff you need in order to do the job – think of it that way and you don’t have to do any emotional agonising about it

•    And when it comes to pricing, it’s not about the hours you put in, or the effort. After all, the value of materials in the MOMA is much lower than the prices. Listen to this interview
to discover what should really determine your prices

•    To put it differently: it’s not about you or the suffering you put in, but about the other person

•    People have all kinds of reasons to buy art – and you as the artist can’t even know what the criteria are that go into the decision

•    And as I always say: selling art is about the conversation

•    Here’s an interesting thought: You as an artist, don’t know the magic aura that you have for people

•    The story (your story) is in some ways as important as the actual art

•    When you have those conversations, you’re helping the potential buyer to understand what they’re looking at and to see things in it that they didn’t see before

•    Don’t put pressure on yourself to sell – instead, get into conversations – that by itself often naturally leads to a sale

•    You’ll hear Mark’s biggest piece of advice for artists

•    And the most important question: what does your art need?

This interview was a real eye-opener for me – I definitely recommend you listen to it carefully.



“Are You an Artist Too?” – “No, I Work”

That’s an actual conversation I had last week during the Competa Art Walk.

The husband – a very skilled painter – was sat, busily working on a very detailed piece, and his wife stood by the table.

And she just casually dismissed ‘being an artist’ as ‘not work’.

Now to be fair, it was a tongue-in-cheek remark, and I doubt it caused a domestic dispute that night, but still…

It’s an attitude that far too many people have.

Artists and non-artists alike, in fact.

The idea that it’s not work, to create art and build a living around making things.

When in reality, being an entrepreneur of any kind is harder work than having a job.

Especially if your entrepreneurship revolves around actual creation.

It’s comparatively easy to, say, design websites or to write articles for a living.

I used to do it: clients would brief me on copy for their website, I’d do the research, and hammer-hammer-hammer went my fingers on the keyboard.

Also work, but incomparable to the process and business of making ART.

To me, you artist guys are brilliant, all of you.

You have all my respect, and you deserve it too.

And, in case you find it difficult: you deserve a whole bunch of self-respect too.

Like Mark McGuinness told me in the interview I’ll publish today or tomorrow:

As an artist you render an important public service.

And, you deserve to be paid well for it.

So think about that.

Whether making your art is work or play to you, being a professional at it is every bit as respectable as having a ‘regular job’.

And don’t let anyone tell you different.

Hey, and if you’re not yet getting paid as well as you want or deserve?

Then maybe your website needs some help.

Specifically, in terms of tweaking it in order to convert visitors into subscribers and buyers.

Too often I see beautiful artist websites, where it’s all form, but no function.

But form and function should support each other, not compete.

Neither of the two should be put second place.

So if you want me to give you a full 2-page report custom written to help you keep the form and design, but improve function?

Then go here and get a custom site optimisation report –>



You Did WHAT to Your Prices?

The art walk has been walked, the artists have returned home, and in some cases, good money has been made.

In other cases, not such good money, and in some cases none.

But what a spectacular event.

So fantastic to see artists pitch together, support and uplift each other, joined in a communal effort.

And, yes, kudos to Lieuwke Loth who put it all together.

Brilliant example too of the abundance mindset:

Where some people see others as competition, the people at this event – consciously or not – acted from the notion that ‘the rising tide lifts all ships’.

Anyway, got something to contemplate for you today:

I asked one of the artists if she’s happy with her prices.

“Well… I’m not sure. I think I should go at 50% of the gallery prices.

“Makes it more attractive for the buyers, and since I don’t have to split the sale with any galleries…”

Ah yes… but does it really work that way?

First of all, if a gallery buyer finds that he could have gotten your work at 50% off, I wouldn’t blame him for being upset.

Secondly, think for a moment about what a gallery does – the very thing they take their 30 or 50% for…

They take that cut because they work for it (no, I’m not against galleries per se – I just don’t like the fact most of them own your list).

The work a gallery does is renting premises, hosting events, doing marketing, and… talking to potential buyers.

Like them or not, a gallery that sells your work does work for it.

But if you’re at a show, guess who’s doing the talking?

That’s right, you are.

And spending one or more days at a show is tiring, I saw it with my own eyes.

Then there’s your travel expenses, and your time in preparation and travel, not to mention time at a show – all time that you can’t produce your work.

So basically, if you slash your prices just because you’re selling without a middleman, it might make sense.

No middleman you need to pay.



Guess who’s also not getting paid?


I’m not saying what you should do (for a change).

But I do want you to think about your prices long and hard, next time you’re spending your hard earned cash and valuable time to be at a show.

Oh, and hey: here’s another thing to think about…

Teaming up with other artists, in order to share networks and build something bigger than the sum of the parts.

Remember, the pie is big enough for everyone – scarcity can only exist in your mind.

The many success stories you hear about prove it.

Another tip?

Alright, since you asked:


Don’t be dependent on only galleries, but create your own permission based email list.

And if you already have a list of a few hundred or even a few thousand people, and you want them to buy your work?

Well, then you hire me to teach you email marketing, of course.

Details right there –>



She Took ONE of My Tips and Sold SIX Paintings in a Day…!

***Note: If you’ve sent me an email or bought from me in the last few days: my computer crashed which means I can’t access all my email accounts. Please bear with me until then, and I’ll get back to you ASAP, thanks.***

Had a thoroughly interesting and satisfying run-in with an artist yesterday.

She attended my art marketing masterclass last month, and told me this:

“It was brilliant, and what’s more…

“I implemented just one thing of all the advice you gave:

“To talk about my process.

“Guess what happened?

“I sold SIX paintings on the first day of the Competa Art Walk!

“Just because I started telling people about my process.

“Thank you!”

Obviously, I was well pleased:

I just LOVE implementation and the results it brings.

Not that I was surprised, mind you: this kind of advice is universal for anyone who runs any sort of creative business.

When they say “People buy the artist as well as the art”, that’s no joke.

Buyers want to know you, connect with you, share in your experience and taste your inspiration.

And the fact that it’s harder every day to get into galleries, that only makes your life easier.

Because without a gallery, there’s no middle-man running the conversation on your behalf.

Without a gallery, it’s you the artist, facing them the buyer.

Which gives you a beautiful opportunity to let people into your world, to share and to inspire them.

Whether offline at a show, or online with your mailing list, you have the privilege and opportunity to start direct, one on one conversations with people.

And if you want to sell your art, you could do worse than to grab that opportunity and have those conversations.

When you do, your buyers will thank you for it.

And, they’ll be far more likely to buy your work.

So if you want to do what this artist did, and also increase your sales, the link below is where you can get instant access to the full 2,5 hour masterclass.

I’m not going to twist your arm – it’s all up to your whether you want to learn the strategies that work for others.

But I’m rather convinced that if you watch the videos and you actually put the learnings into practice, you’ll see a massive change in your thinking, your communications, and very likely in your sales as well.

Ready to have your mind filled with tested and effective art marketing advice?

Go here, open the tap, and let the knowledge pour into your brain –>



How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Unsubscribes

Last night there was a live performance in Lieuwke’s gallery.

A British singer/songwriter, who picks his guitar as if he’s making love – and the way he sings hits you right in the feelz.

Really impressive.

Chatting with him afterwards, he tells me that he’s got a mailing list of 10.000 people!

I pick my jaw up from the floor, and ask him if he actually sends his list any updates.

Tells me that yes he does, but every time he mails about a new concert or other news, people unsubscribe, and that it really hurts him to see that.

“You’ve got to be careful and not email too often, that’s the problem”.

So I tell him: “But what if I told you I email my list every single day, sometimes even two or three times a day…

“… and instead of unsubscribing, my readers actually love me for it?

“… that people thank me for writing each day, and that sometimes people tell me things like ‘you’re a blessing in my life’…?”

His turn to drop his jaw, hehe.

But it’s true.

You (and he) can totally get away with emailing your list frequently.

Not only that, the more often you send missives, the stronger the connection with your list will become.

And even more than that, the more often you write the more of your work you’ll sell.

Sure, people advise you to only email every once in a while.

But most of the time, the people dishing out that advice only send emails when they’re selling something.

And yeah, if the sole reason for emailing is to get buyers (or bums in seats at a show) then of course people will unsubscribe in droves.

But if you look at the emails that I send (or other people who really get how to do email marketing right), you’ll see that it’s not about selling.

Of course I’ll have something available for purchase, just like anyone who operates a business.

But the first and most important reason and purpose for these emails is to deliver something valuable to my readers.

Teaching, inspiration, motivation, a new way to look at something, or sometimes simply a bit of entertainment or instructional self-mockery…

I write so that you may benefit.

Plain and simple.

And it’s only by virtue of that purpose, that I try to earn permission to write each day and, yes, offer something for sale.

So what I want you to take away from today’s message is that so long as your mission is to improve your reader’s life in some way or other, you can totally write frequently.

Once a week, once a day, whatever.

Write so they may benefit.

And of course, there will always be people who unsubscribe.

Especially at the start, you’ll see a spike in unsubscribes.

But that will only last a few days, and then it levels off and you’ll find that unsubscribe rates actually go down.

I’ve seen that happen with  every single student I’ve had.

And those people who do leave?

Not to worry.

If they’re not interested in you or your work, or if they are upset that – God forbid – you want to sell your work, why do you want them on your list anyway?

Write for your reader’s benefit, and you’ll earn the permission to pitch.

This stuff works, you know.

And believe you me: it’s intensely fulfilling to start each day with the mission to shine a light into your reader’s day.

And, yes, you can totally do that.

And, if you don’t know how?

Why, then you get me to train you on writing emails for fun, relationships, sales, and yes: profit.

It’s a 3-month intensive training, where you commit to drafting an email every day.

Once a week I review one of those emails, line by line, and send you back instructions on how to make it better.

12 weeks, 12 reviews – and 60 pieces on your hard drive that get better as each week goes by.

By the time you graduate from Starship Mentorprise writing academy, you’ll be unstoppable.

You’ll churn out highly engaging, art-selling emails with absolute ease, before you even finish your morning coffee.

You’ll see your list clean up and leave you with only the people who really want to hear from you, just like my previous students saw happen.

You’ll receive thank yous and kudos, and yes, provided you keep your list growing, you’ll receive money for your work too.

But, a writing mentorship is only for people who are serious about training their abilities to communicate.

If you want to sell more of your work…

And you’re a stick-with-the-program kinda gal or guy…

Then go here to enlist my help –>



DO This to Grow Your Art Business. Seriously

art-list-optinI’m spending a few days in a town called Competa, about an hour from where I live.

It’s FULL of artists, absolutely rife – and the reason I’m here is that there’s a four-day art walk event, with 18 artists showing their work, some of them ‘in the act’.

Tomorrow for example, I’m watching a sculptor demonstrate raku firing, in a kiln made of an oil barrel.

You know, fun stuff for an art lover like myself.

The art walk opened today, and last night I joined the participating artists on a tour around the 18 different venues.

Aside from now having the thighs of a professional athlete (apparently there’s no single horizontal street in Competa – it’s all built of slopes and staircases),

I noticed a few interesting things.

One of them being prices.

Nearly every artwork that I saw was priced far too low.

But confidence sells, people.

And showing that you value your work, and have the confidence to put a decent or even high price on your work – that really does help to make your work more desirable.

Like it or not, believe it or not – low prices simply won’t trigger the same ‘Oooh, wow!’ effect in people that high prices do.

Besides, selling art isn’t easy – and personally, I’d rather not sell an expensive piece that not sell a cheap peace.

Another thing I noticed – and this is probably even more important than the pricing issue:

Hardly anyone even thinks about building their list.

That picture up there?

That’s on the table of one artist who knows what she’s doing.

(She would, because I’m coaching her).

And list building really can be that simple – you don’t need fancy gimmicks.

All it takes to build a list of interested potential buyers is having a conversation, and inviting people to sign up.

On your website or at your booth, makes no difference.

It pains me to see an artist at a show, with 100’s of people walking by, and nothing in place to stay connected with them.

So take it from me: you must build a list.

It’s the one business asset that nobody can take from you – no gallery dropping your or online platform changing their rules will hurt you if your list is big enough.

And any time people find you, all you need to do is converse (online or offline) and invite people to sign up.

And believe me, they will if you do it right.

I walked in two hours after the event started this morning, and Karin already had 8 or 10 people signed up.

That’s how easy it can be.

Anyway, I’m diving back into the art walk.

Time to have some more conversations.

Want to have a conversation about how to really grow your art business?

Let me know…



To Discount or Not to Discount – Is That the Incentive?

When it comes to giving people an incentive to join your list, I quite often see people offer a discount.

“Get 10% off if you subscribe!”

I don’t like that.

Sure, it can make sense if you’re a large retail platform, like Walmart or Amazon.

But if you’re a small business owner, an artist, or any other kind of maker of things, I doubt you have the economy of scale to justify giving discounts.

Except maybe if you’re a musician and you sell songs, or if you’re an artist and you have a well-trafficked print sales page.

But even then, I don’t like the discount approach, for several reasons.

First, I don’t think it’s a good start of a relationship, to devalue your work right when people first consider staying in touch with you by way of subscribing.

It’s not the right message to give them: “Hey, my prices are normally x but actually that’s higher than need be, so screw it, let’s just give you a discount”.

Another problem is that right from the start, right when people are ready to take a first step of increasing proximity, you start talking about a sale.

Is that a nice way to treat people?

Not in my opinion.

It’s like when you’re in a bar, and you see a nice girl or guy, they offer you a drink, and right after you say thanks, they start talking about going home with them later on.

Bit crude, wouldn’t you say?

You need to put yourself in the shoes of the other person: the visitor who lands on your site, likes what they see, and are faced with your invitation to sign up.

What’s going on in that person’s mind at that point…

… that they want to buy something from you?

It’s possible, but in most cases that’s not where they’re at.

Most of the time, they simply want to learn more about you and your work.

In other words, they’re responsive to your invitation – the invitation to start a new relationship.

When you start by offering discounts at that point, you basically ignore where they’re at and force them to think in terms of buying.

But it’s way too early for that.

I prefer non-pushy marketing, the kind that’s helpful and delivers value by itself.

In other words, they ‘meet’ you, they want to see if there’s resonance, and maybe start a relationship.

That relationship leads to conversations, and over time, those conversations will lead to sales, see if they don’t.

Speaking of sales: anybody up for getting a higher conversion rate on your site?

Look here to see if you want my help:

Is Business a Numbers Game? No – People Come First

Let’s do some numbers.

No, I’m not going to throw maths at you.

I’m not into maths – I’m into people.

Just the same, there’s a numbers game at play when you are trying to build your business.

It goes like this:

Let’s say you get 100 visitors a day to your website.

Like a good little entrepreneur, you have your site set up to convert as many visitors as possible to email subscribers.

You have your optin freebie available and looking enticing, you have optin forms in the right place and you’ve given them spiffy design…

But for some reason, you only see one person a week sign up.

700 visitors, one signup… clearly, something is wrong.

Should be much higher, right?

Well, here’s one thing that reduces your optin rates:

Asking too much.

Very often, I see optin forms that ask not only the email address, but also a first name, a last name, sometimes even a website.

But the problem is, and this has been tested and proven over and over again, that the more fields someone needs to fill out, the lower your conversion rates will be.

And, in order for you to communicate with a new subscriber by email, the only thing you really need, is…

… and email address.

So I usually recommend you ask only for that, and nothing more.

There you go: instant increase in optin rates.

“But Martin”, you say, I want to personalise my emails, you know?

“Without a salutation, it seems so… dry”.

Fair enough.

Easy fix, too.

Here’s what you do:

First, you get people to sign up with just the email address.

You start sending them your missives, and a few days or weeks later, you offer another, new freebie.

You send people to a page where they can access it, and on that page you install a new optin form, in order for people to get access.

And on that optin form, you put a name field, as well as an email field.

But won’t that reduce optin rates again?

Not nearly as much as when they are first considering signing up.

They’re already on your list, they are already enjoying your updates.

In other words, they already know, like and trust you to some degree.

So for you to ask a first name at that point means they’ll be far more likely to do that.

When they give you their name, you have your Email Service Provider set up to move them from list A (no name) into list B (with name), and Bob’s your uncle:

Higher signups, and the ability to personalise your emails.

In other words: smart ways to deal with numbers, and higher engagement with people.

Because in the end, no matter whether your business is making and selling art, or helping people make changes, or writing books or songs:

It’s always about people first.

But only always.

Want me to help you connect with more people, and engage them, and build relationships?

Then 1-on-1 coaching just might do the trick.

Want to talk and see if that will work for you?

Let me know…



“Martin, Why Is Nobody Signing Up to My List?”

I get this question a lot.

And in about half the cases, I can correctly give the answer, blindfolded – without even looking at the website.

“Because you’re not asking people to sign up”.

See, if you want people to take action, you’ll have to ask them.

If you want to have them buy a painting, it really helps if you ask.

And if you want visitors to sign up, you’ll have to ask them too.

And in lots of cases, there’s hardly an optin form to be found.

Oh wait – you mean that inocuous little form all the way down, in the footer?

Yeah, that doesn’t really count.

If you expect people to scroll all the way to the bottom, to look for it, then you’re expecting too much.

In the same vein, if your call to action is simply “Sign up to my newsletter”, you’re not saying anything compelling or convincing.

(More on how to create optin copy tomorrow).

For now, here’s a few places where an optin form really works:

– In the header of your site, like I have.

– In the top right of your page (ALL your pages, except those pages where you want people to complete checkout)

– At the bottom of each individual blog post

– On your 404 page

– On a dedicated landing page, where there’s only one link (no sidebar, no navigation menu)

– All the way at the top of your site, in a subtle horizontal bar (Hellobar and Viperbar are good options)

– At the bottom of your About page or your Artist Statement page

The reason you want an optin form at the top right in your sidebar is that studies show that the eye will constantly return to that location – so it’s a perfect spot to put your most important call to action.

And yes, ‘buy this painting’ is more important than ‘sign up’, but without signups you have no list of contacts to show your purchase CTA.

So that one comes first.

On another note: make your optin forms pretty.

The default design that you get with Mailchimp won’t cut it – you need to make it stand out.

Plenty of options to choose from: Sumome, GravityForms, Leadboxes, what have you.

Then there’s also the option of using popups.

Yes, they can be terribly annoying.

But they work a charm, so it’s a matter of choice, whether or not you want to use one.

If you do put one on your site, I recommend setting it up so that it only shows after say 60 to 120 seconds, so as not to be too intrusive.

Also, it’s a good idea to configure it so that it only shows once a week or so, for each individual visitor, or once every three days.

What you do not want is to have it show up several times a day, because then it gets really annoying.

So there you have it.

My answer to ‘Why no signups?’ is a counterquestion:

“Are you asking people, often enough, in the right way?”

Of course if you don’t know the answer to that question, you can get me to write a detailed, page-by-page report for your site, rife with tips and tricks to improve your conversion rate.

Details for your perusal right over yon –>



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