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

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

Why Do People Pay High Prices for Quality…?

This ‘meeting inspiring people’ thing is turning out to be a lot of fun.

Two encounters this morning, two people doing something special.

Take Wim Kolb, for instance.

Builds bicycles, by hand – starting with hand-soldered frames (not welded – that would weaken the steel too much).

And my goodness, they are gorgeous!

I don’t need a bike, but after seeing these, I really really want one.

I might even join him for a week-long workshop, and build one myself.

But here’s the thing:

Just like so many artists, I believe Wim sells himself short.

Something so special, built by hand and fully customised, should earn him at least twice as much.

And that’s not greed – it’s common sense.

Bikes like that, they’re like the handmade suits I used to make.

They’re made to measure, fully adjusted to your own physique, and designed with all the bells and whistles on it that you want.

And that’s a high-end, high quality, luxury product.

Clearly not for people who shop for suits in bargain stores, or for people who buy cheap Asia-made throwaway bikes.

People who spend thousands on a suit, or a bike, or a kayak, or a work of art…

Those are affluent people.

They are the people who want the best there is, and price is not an issue.

That kind of buyer, they turn – no, they run – away when something isn’t priced high.

Because affluent buyers – the best kind there is – don’t look for a good deal.

Instead, they look for the best possible quality they can get – and they’re happy to pay for it.

Insist on high prices, in fact.

As the famous marketer-turned-artist Hugh MacLeod once told me over a beer in a London pub:

“Why do some people pay millions for a Ferrari? Because they can”.

So if you create high-end things, then you shouldn’t offer people a good deal.

Instead, you should offer them the best you can make, at a high price, with a (true, of course) story that belongs with the thing that you make.

Now obviously, you do need to find those people.

And don’t believe for a moment that ‘these days, people don’t pay high prices any longer’.

They do, affluent people are more abundant these days than ever before.

Your job as a business owner is to learn who they are, where you can find them, and do whatever you can to show up before them.

And when you do?

Then you too get to sell for prices that your work is worth.

Meaning: high prices.

Because if your quality is high and your heart is in it, it’s what you deserve.




On Being and Artist…

“What I really want, is to be a writer”.

My abbot didn’t look up from his book, and dismissively said:

“Then write. It’s what writers do”.

Frustrated, I left the room.

Silly, to feel that way: After all, the year before, I had written a play for children.

And the year before that, a children’s musical about bullying.

And a bunch of short stories, and poetry…

By all accounts, I had written enough to call myself a budding, or future, writer.

But for some reason, 20 years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.

So if a writer writes, and a painter paints and a cook cooks…

Then what is the point where you get to call yourself an artist?

When someone puts your work in a gallery?

When you sell you first or 50th work of art?

When someone gives you permission?

See, it’s not about the money of it.

Van Gogh was an artist and he never earned a buck for his work.

Me, I like to make photos and I do it a lot – if you’ve seen my Instagram account, you’ll see I’m documenting my trip.

And so yes, I’m an amateur photographer – photography is my hobby.

But I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a pro.

I know I’m not at that level, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

And it doesn’t matter, because it’s simply something I do for fun.

But I do identify as an amateur photographer.

And this, your identity, is something you get to choose.

And you’d better, because if you don’t get clear on how you identify yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to turn your work into a thriving business.

If you consider yourself as just someone who puts paint on canvas, your choices and actions aren’t going to compound into building a business.

If you think you’re someone who just dabbles in putting words in order, you’re not likely to become a professional writer.

So the question is:

What are you?

What’s your identity?

Are you a professional artist?

Remember, earning money for your work isn’t what makes you a pro.

Even if you don’t sell yet, or not enough, you can still be a professional, in terms of how you think, act, and choose.

And as for that permission thing?

You’ve got my permission, in case you need it.

But the real permission to call yourself a pro, or an artist or a writer or a cook…

…is the permission you give yourself.

Now would be a good time.

Btw, if you want to stay updated as I travel Northern Europe, follow me on Instagram:


Change of Plans, and ‘Coach on a Couch’

So this last week, I’ve been slowing down a bit.

As a good son does, my first stop was my mum’s house, and once here I discovered that I was in bad need of some downtime.

Funny, that sometimes you don’t realise it until the pressure is off.

But it makes sense, because the last few months have been busy busy busy.

Driving out to meet people, days with four, six or even eight hours of skype sessions… it’s been a lot.

Today, I was meant to go to Amsterdam, and gear up for meeting Fun&Inspiring people.

But, last night my friend in Zurich told me I can have his house for two weeks, and he’s leaving tomorrow, this coming Saturday.

Which means I need to get a move on, quick smart, so he can show me around the place and give me the key.

So, no Amsterdam for now, but Switzerland instead.

No big deal, because I doubt Amsterdam will go away any time soon.

And you can find inspiring people everywhere you look.

The house I’m in now, for example:

You don’t know this, but my mother is an amazing and inspiring woman – something I’ll be telling you more about when I’m back in a few weeks.

In Zurich, another friend is also doing something amazing:

Building woodn kayaks, by hand, along traditional Greenlandic designs.

And they are beautiful!

So if I get to have a say, we’ll be selling a few of those over the next few weeks.

Or maybe not – he’s possibly even more stubborn than I am, but we’ll see what happens.

So, I’ve reserved a bed on a sleeper train, and at 8AM tomorrow morning, I’ll be smelling sweet Swiss air.

Yes, there will be pics.

And for the next two or three weeks, I’ll be there, and I’ll be the ‘coach on a couch’.

So what’s the lesson today?

I don’t know.

Maybe something about developing the ability to be agile when things change.

Old me would have protested: Already made plans, got things to do, it’ll have to be later.

New me says: Sure, cool, and thank you. See you on Saturday.

Maybe you think this conflicts with my recent statement that without a plan, just following whichever way the wind blows, you can’t predict what will happen.

But that’s the entire purpose of this trip:

To have no plan (other than ‘meet inspiring people’), and allow myself to be guided.

It’s hardly a plan of course, but I think that in this phase of my life, a little of ye olde unpredictability is just what the doctor prescribes.

Meanwhile, if you live in or near Zurich, and you want to meet up, drop me a line.

Especially if you’re up to big and/or beautiful things…



A Lesson, An Exhibition, and a Little Favour (for Artists, not for Me…)

You might think that you don’t have a very large network, or that you’re not connected to the kind of people who can help you get some serious visibility.

But while that may true on a surface level, the belief itself will hold you back.

See, it’s not about who you know.

What matters far more, is who the people YOU know, know.

Maybe there’s ten folk in your circles who like you and your work, and would be happy to support you.

That’s not a huge amount – but each of those ten people will know others, and if visibility matters to you (which it should, if you want to sell your art and
live from it), then you would do well to ask those ten people if they’re willing to lend you a hand.

Like so, for instance:

Some of you might know that I’m a volunteer for the annual SaloArte Exhibition, in my quaint little coastal town.

And as with any event, it really matters that we get as many ‘bums in seats’ as possible.

Which is exactly why the organiser, Helen McCormack, has asked me to help out – what with my experience in marketing and so on.

It’s a great show, and actually it’s a pity that I can’t be there myself this year, but I have people to see, places to go.

Not that it matters – I can still (just the way you can) help get some traction, by using the internet, and the people in my circles.

Which would be, if you’re willing, you.

Would you help out, and spread the word?

The more views we get, the bigger the turnout is likely to be, and that’s good for the town and the artists exhibiting.

All it takes is a few clicks:

Simply click the link, and Like (or, if you really want to help: share) the page.

Helen, myself, and all the artists will be ever so grateful.

This link, a few clicks, and boom: you’ve just helped your fellow artists.

And you bet that feels good.




Behold the Massive Power of Mindset+Action

Some days, everything’s right with my world.

Days when, for example, a reader writes in to tell me they took my ideas, allowed change to happen, and proceeded to take massive and bold action.

And, are getting the results to match.

Jonathan Ziegler, for instance, of WeeGonza:



I wanted to drop you a line to tell you how we are doing with your words and advice: We’re doing great!

Just finished up one of our best shows ever with sales topping all our expectations.

It occurs to me, after talking to many of the artists at our last show, Phoenix Comicon, that many artists simply don’t realize they are running a business.

I know “business” can be a bad word to many artists, but, whether we want to admit it or not, we are running businesses.

A business is defined as, “…the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.”

That means you make your living by selling something.

If you sell art (whether directly to a collector or indirectly as licensing or royalties), you are in business.

As such, businesses need planning, money, advertising, some sort of product and a means to facilitate sales (ie: cash, credit card, etc.), among many other things.

My wife and I reluctantly agreed we were in business a few years ago.

Our real success came when we realized it and committed to it.

Now we gather up email addresses, following, liking, favoriting, and posting to our blog on a mostly-regular basis with barely a second-thought.

Rather than saying, “I don’t think we should tell people that,” we are saying, “let’s tell them as much as we possibly can.”

The more we chat, the more our loving customers buy from us.

My point in writing this now-lengthy email was this:

We are doing some promotions that serve multiple purposes.

Our latest is one that gathers up email addresses and gives the customer something almost immediately: a contest. It’s easy: we offer a simple giveaway.

Give us your email address, name, and zip/postal code, and be entered into a contest for a $25 gift certificate to our online Etsy store.

No purchase required, don’t have to be present to win, and nearly everyone likes a chance at getting something for nothing.

We really benefit: we get at least 50 signups every time now (last was over 100).

Our physical costs are much lower, though and the winner gets some great art.

Best of all: every time we add to our mailing list, we make more and more sales.

MailChimp really makes it easy, too, and you don’t have to pay until you have over 2000 subscribers and if you have that many subscribers, you should be making at least enough to pay for the small monthly cost.

Lesson Learned: People will gladly subscribe to your list if you give them a small incentive.

You definitely don’t have to give it all away to make money as an artist, but be SMART.

Check with your location to be sure contests and those types of promos are allowed (sometimes, they are not allowed).

There may also be some legal things to keep in mind, but that’s going a bit beyond the scope of this email.

I keep referring other artists to you, by the way.

Many are suffering just like I used to. I tell them you are in the business of eradicating the idea of the “starving artist.” I give them your web address. I hope they are signing up.

Either way: keep fighting the good fight and keep doing what you are doing. Your work is paying off and I hope it makes you happy and wealthy.




Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to print this off, frame it, and hang it in my office.

Not because I’m so proud of having had an influence in all this, but because practically every line in there speaks a very important truth.

And, because it’s a beautiful example of doing everything right, from allowing a new mindset to take hold, all the way to taking action and building a list.

And, yes, selling more art.

And, do note that everything started with the mindset aspect of it all.

Reluctantly at first, Jonathan and his wife accepted that if your plan is to sell art, you’re in business.

A lesson, therefore, we can all take something away from.

So what about you, and your art, and selling it:

Are YOU in business?

Are you taking the action, and walking the talk, that goes with it?



Alright FINE. I’ll Become an Artist, If That’s What it Takes

Speaking with my coach the other day, something became clear.

Said he: “People come to my not just because I’m a coach.

“It’s also because I’m a poet.

“It shows them that they, the creatives of the world, and I have something in common”.

Made me think.

Because while I do consider myself an artist of sorts, I don’t actually make art.

Sure, I like to make photos and post them, but it’s a hobby.

I’m hardly serious about it, it’s just a bit of fun.

And this writing schtick, well that’s creative stuff, but it’s not art, because it’s functional creativity.

And yes, I’ve written poetry, and stories, and a musical and I sing – but none of it is something I actually put any consistent effort into.

So I’ve decided to get serious about art.

And no, I’m not your next mid-life crisis painter.

I know my place.

But I do have one thing I’ve always wanted to get really really good at:

Longhand writing.

There’s something so very beautiful about well-crafted letters.

Absolutely no comparison between a printed letter and a handwritten one.

And my handwriting, well that’s just not very refined.


Because I’m going to learn calligraphy. Osmiroid_Calligraphy__MartinStellarPhoto

Good and proper, like.

Once I’m back in Spain in a few weeks or months, I’ll look up a Japanese calligraphy teacher.

But I’m going to wait for that, which is why yesterday I went and bought some paper, ink, and a calligraphy fountain pen.

It’s probably the only form of visual art I’ll ever develop, because I don’t really have a drawing hand.

But something about the structure, neatness and methodical process of calligraphy really appeals to me.

Gave it a shot in my teens, and I remember liking it.

Might take months before I’ll show stuff to anyone, or years.

But that doesn’t matter because it’s the process that interests me most, not the result.

Pretty exciting actually.

So, artist, if ever you wondered:


I’m one of you.



In Which I Get Into a Fight With John Cleese (Beware the Hot Potato)

To be fair, we didn’t get into an actual fight, but…

Geez Martin, at 43 years old, have you not learned anything?

Isn’t your policy in business ‘no politics, no religion’?

I saw Basil/Cleese/MrSillyWalks tweet something about the Brexit – the referendum that will determine whether or not Britain will stay in the European Union.

And for some reason I felt called (read: dumb enough) to pipe up with a comment.

The venerable comedian replied, and within hours, my inbox was flooded with comments from all kinds of people, chiming in on the discussion.

People in favour, people against, people being petty and people being jerks.

Luckily, I had a few wits laying around, and I quickly withdrew from the discussion, before things escalated.

Could have been worse.

Last year for examle, there was a big do about feminism and gender inequality in science, and boy did that turn into a predicament, once I took a stance and joined the conversation with what I considered a level-headed and peace-making point of view.

Problem is, people who are extremely upset tend to have a very different definition of peace and level-headedness.

So yeah, I could have done without that one, though everything settled in the end.

Cost me a bunch of time and energy though.

Here’s why this matters to you:

There are things that matter to you, things that may or may not be relevant to your business.

That might mean you take a public stance and speak out for things you consider important.

If you do, my respect to you.

Because some stuff needs to be brought into public view.

Some things won’t do and need to change.

But, that doesn’t mean every topic you feel strongly about is a topic you ought to or need to get involved in.

Especially if you run a business, and especially online, where you can find all kinds of crazies and nasties, who somehow feel that relative anonymity is a voucher to say horribly hurtful (or racist, or mysogenic, or violent) things.

If your business, your art and your public persona are about righting wrongs, then by all means go out and speak up.

But, be aware there will be fallout and backlash, that’s just the nature of the internet.

And you’ll end up having to pay the bill.

If however the things that matter to you are of a more personal nature, then it might be better to keep your opinion to yourself and to your personal offline networks.

After all, it takes years to build a reputation and a business.

And it can take minutes – or one single tweet – to bring it all down into a pile of rubble.

Point in case: some high-falluting executive had to fly to Africa on some job thingy, last year.

Just before boarding, she tweeted something to the effect of ‘I hope I don’t get aids’. (A bad joke if ever there was one, and not even remotely funny).

One flight and nine hours later, the whole internet was outraged, and said executive was fired and publicly humiliated.

And to be fair, she could have known better.

In an online world where news travels at the speed of light and any loony with an internet connection can wreak havoc, it behoves you to have some discretion as to what you do and don’t opine about publicly.

For me, it will always be religion and politics: Far too many hot potatoes, better not touch.

For you, it’ll be other things.

But be deliberate, and don’t tweet or Facebook the equivalent of drink driving.

The carnage could end up horrible, and your business really doesn’t need that.

(And no, I hadn’t had a drink when I tweeted at Cleese).

There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and taking a stance.

But unless it’s your job – your business – to be on the barricades, ask yourself if it’s going to serve your other, higher purpose behind being in business to climb on top of one.

I know what I stand for, and what my barricades are.

I’m your effing Joan of Arc, always ready to break a lance for your right and prerogative to earn a good living at an artist.

For the rest, I’d better keep my opinions to myself when it comes to online.

Which does beg the question:

What is your higher purpose?

Why do you do what you do?

What, in other words…

… Are you for?

Answer that for yourself, and your work and sales will suddenly become a whole lot easier.



“So Where are You From?” “All Over Man, All Over”

300 KMs an hour and the looks to match
300KMs an hour and the looks to match

When I was a kid, we used to have an annual visit from a tramp named Denny.

He’d show up unannounced, and ask if he could spend a few nights.

My mum and her boyfriend always put him up being the people they were.

He sounded English, but we never found out whence he hailed.

When asked ‘Where are you from’, his eyes would glaze over, and seeing something in the distance only he could see, he’d answer:

“All over man, all over”.

And that’s all he would ever say.

Once, when my mum’s boyfriend came back from driving him out to the highway to hitchhike his way across the world again, he said:

“You know how Denny gets restless and depressed every time he spends more than a few days with us?

“It’s beautiful to see how, when we get near the motorway, his eyes light up and he comes alive”.

That’s always stayed with me, but it’s only now, decades later, that I fully get it.

The road, man… the road.

Being on the road is quite unlike anything else.

And right now, having just boarded a high speed AVE train to Madrid, I know how he feels.

There’s something so exciting about travelling, and while I’ve always known that, I never travelled much.

Yes Denny: I don’t know where you are now, but you’re traveling with me in spirit.

Anyhow, once this train reaches full velocity, I’ll be zipping across the arid and parched plains up to Madrid, at no less than 300 kms an hour.

I don’t know if Denny would approve, but I’m enjoying this.

Trains are great – such an elegant and peaceful way to travel.

And, it’s nowhere near as tiring as flying, what with all the engine noise and announcements and the continuos barrage of adverts for perfumes, foods and watches.

Yes, trains are most definitely my thing.

But, and this is where perhaps I’m not fully evolved yet, this trip is business as well as pleasure.

Sure I’m going to enjoy myself more than a puppy on a lawn full of sprinklers.

And yes I’ll be on a mission to meet fun and inspiring people.

But just going on a trip, just for the fun, just because I want to – that’s not yet part of my life.

Vacation as just vacation… I don’t know.

Maybe I’m too restless for it.

Or maybe I don’t allow myself the pleasure, who knows.

Either way, I think it’s alright.

There’s nothing wrong in combining the fun with the useful.

And that right there is the point of this email, the takeaway for you today:

If you give it some thought, you can always find ways to bring fun into businessy stuff.

And you can always look for ways to add businessy stuff to your fun.

Out on a visit, traipsing around a new city?

Make sure you carry some photos and flyers of your work with you.

You never know if you’ll come across a gallery or end up in conversation with an interesting person who might become a valuable connection.

Sure it’s good to unplug completely.

But I don’t think that should mean you ought to close yourself off to business opportunities, should the opportunity arise.

Because whether you call it fate, or luck, or simply being open to opportunity, abundance can lurk around any corner.

And it’s up to you to either seek it, or at the very least be perceptive and open to it.

Me, I’m seeking – even if the actual plan I have is only rudimentary.

And something tells me there’s no way I can’t not find… something.

The point in all this is that if you sit at home and expect the world to knock on your door, you’ll end up disappointed.

In that sense, we haven’t evolved at all.

If you wanted to eat, you had to get out of your cave and hunt or pick berries.

And these days, it’s still the same.

So what do you say, Urghh…

Time to get out of your cave?



Well My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go…

But there’s no taxing waiting and it ain’t blowing its horn.

And there’s no-one asleep that I don’t want to wake up to say goodbye…

Ah yes… John Denver – Leaving On A Jetplane.

A sappy song as ever there was one, but one of the best leaving home songs out there.

Been on my mind for days as I was preparing to leave, and now it’s your ear worm for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.


I’m about to go on an adventure.

The biggest adventure of my life so far.

Well, going into a monastery wasn’t small either, but at least I knew where I went.

This time round, I have no idea.

All I know is that I’m attending my mother’s party in Holland on Sunday, and I’ll be in Zurich to see clients later in the month.

For the rest?

No idea.

I might go to Belgium, and I’d like to go to Paris again.

England is on the cards, and so is Scotland.

I’ve a few connections in Denmark too, so I might visit.

Could be I also move east, to see Austria, Czech republic, and perhaps Croatia.


Mayhaps, on the way back to Spain.

But plans?

I haven’t got any.

Other than:

Meet inspiring and ambitious people, folk who want to change the world in whatever maker-way is theirs.

Because let me tell you this:

The more I focus on finding and connecting with folk who inspire me, the more beautiful my life becomes.

And if you and I have ever spoken, you know I’m probably talking about you.

And it’s addictive.

I want more inspiring people in my life, more ambition surrounding me, and I want to be inspired by the drive and zest and success of others.

And so I’ve given myself three months travel time, to go wherever the opportunity for mirth and merriment arises.

Like yesterday, when my friend Jessica told me about her friend in Croatia, and he sounds like a guy I definitely want to meet.

1500 kms to get there?

No problem. I’ve got an all-in flat rate train pass for Europe, which gets me a seat on any train I want to board.

And trains are fun, and I’m all about fun.

Last time I was on one, I shared a cabin with the first officer of a Greenpeace ship.

Talk about meeting people with an ambition.

And as for the adventure aspect of it all?

Well I’ve travelled before, but never without any sort of plan to go by.

There was always a hotel, an Airbnb, or someone’s guest room.

An itinerary.

This time around?

Nothing. Just my insatiable curiosity into what people do and why, and the willingness to go and meet them.

I rather feel like an explorer, setting off into a jungle.

One littered with traintracks and wifi instead of vines and monkeys, but still.

You could call me Dr. Livingstone, if you were to be so inclined.

But you may wonder why I’m doing this.

Especially given how thoroughly fond I am of my quaint little town, and my cozy and roomy apartment.

Well, maybe that’s an important reason.

My home is my comfort zone, and you know what we’re meant to do with those: leave them behind.

I remember when I was little, and we’d just returned home from vacation.

My mum told me: “You love going on vacation, but you love it even more to come home”.

And it’s true.

My books, my music, my toys… there’s nothing like home.

Or, as the late and great Dutch author Godfried Bomans said:

“Travelling is coming home”.

So that’s one reason: to break out of the familiar and comfortable.

But also: I really want to meet people who change the world and who do it deliberately and in big ways.

I know they’re out there, and so I’m on a hunt, an exploration to find them.

Of course I’ll document the adventure here.

Pics, lessons, maybe interviews… we’ll see what happens.

But meanwhile, a little question for you:

Who do you know who inspires you, is successful (in whatever definition), is ambitious, and is building something important and meaningful?

Someone who lives in Northern or Eastern Europe?

Let me know… I just might want to look them up…

Watch this space, because things might turn pretty interesting.

And as per my missive yesterday:

I don’t have a plan. So anything might happen.

I’m excited.

Oh and hey: I’ll announce in advance what my next stops will be, so if I’m coming to your town and you want to meet, let me know.

First stop: Holland, I’ll be there all week.

Catch up there?


Without a Plan, Anything Could Happen. WITH a Plan, Anything Can Happen Too

The difference is that if you plan stuff out, at least you have some degree of control over what’s going to happen.

Compare that to a no-planning, weathervane-blowing-with-the-wind type of attitude, and you’ll see that it’s well worth your time to have at least some sort of plan.

Sure, ‘any way the wind blows’ might be good enough for you.

And in terms of openness in life, it’s commendable to be receptive, adaptive, and to have a degree of life-agility.

But, if there’s no plan whatsoever, there’s absolutely no telling what may or may not happen.

And if you live without a plan, and you expect great and grand things to happen, then actually you’re living life from a place of entitlement.

As if the universe owes you success.

But it doesn’t.

You’re not entitled to success – you deserve it, provided you’re willing to earn it.

And you earn it by doing, by taking smart action, by building and creating success.

The universe doesn’t owe you success – but it does offer it.

But only if you create it.

And that means it’s up to you to create it.

Does this mean you should plan everything in fine detail, map everything out week by week and hour by hour?

I can’t tell you – if that’s your way then go for it.

For me that’s never worked.

My way is creating a clearly defined goal, identifying the milestones I need to pass to get there, and then figuring out the best methods to go from milestone to milestone.

Whatever works for you, works for you.

But I’d be very concerned if ‘no plan at all’ would be your chosen method.

With a plan, anything may happen.

With a plan you still can’t control what does and doesn’t happen.

But at the very least you have direction, and the ability to exert influence.

And that makes all the difference.

For me, right now, I have a plan.

A big one.

In a few days, I’m starting a project that effectively turns me into an explorer, and I’ll be off into (for me) uncharted territory.

It’s a little scary, and a lot of exciting.

More news this week, so watch this space.


Do you have a plan…?



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