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

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

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 –>



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 –>



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