how do you be an artist without selling outI’ve received some flack for being a salesman. They don’t mean it in a good way either.  If you read anything I write, you would know that the typical “salesman” with his focus on the transaction and just “getting the sale” is the farthest thing from what I advocate.

That said, I think sales can be a wonderful thing, if you focus on being good.

It’s like the Wizard of OZ. Glenda was a good witch, but to most people witches are inherently bad. If I walked up to you told you that I’m a witch, you’d probably give me the same look as if I walked up to you and told you that I’m a salesman. But witches, like people, are judged by their actions.

What are the right actions?

If you treat your artistic enterprise as a way to build, cultivate, and sustain relationships then you are acting like a good salesperson. If you treat customers as transactions and numbers, just trying to get their money, you are a bad salesperson (and rigthly deserve to have a house dropped on you).

I know a lot of people struggle with the idea of sales. I know this for two reasons 1) I used to struggle on a daily basis and 2) there are about 400 million sales and business books in existence trying to coax you into making yourself okay with with thinking about people as numbers.

So why do we worry about sales?

Because, if we create something amazing then we want to share it with the world. We could do that for free but our world doesn’t really work like that. We want to make a living as artists, creating value and beauty, but how do you find the people that want to pay for that beauty?

This is the problem.

Here’s how you can still be an artist (however you do your art) and run a successful enterprise at the same time:

1) Figure Out What Makes You Unique

What is it about your style, method, angle, your eye, your soul that creates something new. What about your art do people connect with?

This is your artistic vision and you know it, even if you haven’t defined it.

Example (My artistic vision): My writing is slightly humorous, with some quirk, taking different ideas and smashing them together. Everything I write shows a raging desire to see personal transformation in everyone. My passion is to see people change their lives for the better and begin living out incredible stories that they would be proud to share.

2) Find What People Like to Buy

You have to go where the people are. What are they buying? What’s the trend?

People don’t understand what quality is, not always. But sometimes they get sucked in.

Case in point: I wrote and published a series of bedtime stories. These are not run-a-way best sellers for many reasons, but my kid likes them and I honestly think that parents would benefit from reading them to their kids. This steps in line with my artistic vision.

I also have a desire to pay the bills. So I went to Amazon to see what was popular. My thought was that I could write a book about an up and coming topic that might sell better in the short run. I identified a couple of areas (ones in which I had some expertise as well) but held off writing until I found #3.

3) Apply your Uniqueness to the Trend

You must try this. At the very least you can see if it inspires you to do something great.

In my case, I found a couple of topics but I wasn’t exactly thrilled. One topic was social media marketing, the other was business productivity/self-help. My artistic vision will not allow me to do work without it, so I immediately applied my unique passion to these topics. Things began to blossom from that decision.

Self-help is a much maligned topic, and for good reason. It’s part and parcel with helping people realize their best stories, but it always seems so vanilla and blase. I almost dismissed it until I realized that there is one thing I know about that would really help people; getting past the panic to get things done. Suddenly, I found a new topic to write and it fits beautifully with my artistic vision. In fact, the whole book has transformed into a very personal and auto-biographical exploration. If I didn’t take other, commercially successful topics seriously then I wouldn’t have created this wonderful work.

Don’t Be A Sellout

You might look at someone who finds topics to write about or finds mediums for their art that are popular (like driftwood bottle cap openers) as sell outs. But as long as they bring their unique vision to the new endeavor, they are true artists. You can live in both worlds comfortably as long as you don’t forget who you are, you don’t leave behind your artistic vision.