Some little thoughts before we go away to Tom’s wedding (Ben’s best mate) in the US tomorrow!
Something on our minds lately has been the expansion of the little art business. We figured out that if I can sell an average of nine paintings a month (or eight paintings and four pieces of jewellery…) then we could easily afford to both cut down to working 3-day weeks, which would be the ideal lifestyle with some time and energy to get back into voluntary work and some of the other things that we feel very passionate about. However, until this month I’d sold on average just one painting every five or six months. Then, over the past two months or so I’ve put a considerable amount of time and effort into the marketing side (web development, social media promotions, special discounts, business cards etc) and suddenly this month we sold SEVEN paintings in a month. Fluke, yes – but still exciting.
Since this little business began to grow and I began putting time into marketing the paintings, I have been seeing all sorts of adverts for business coaching and mentoring. So I have over the past month read about fifty blog posts with business advice, and participated in seven or eight ‘webinars’ (online seminars) claiming to give me the keys to a successful business. All of those webinars went the same way, and none of them were anywhere near as useful as the blog posts which took a fraction of the time to get through.
The webinars would take this format, almost without fail (though the specifics and details would vary):
– I PROMISE YOU that this Webinar will answer your business questions and give you the keys, the tools, the specific steps and everything else you will need to make your business thrive like mine has done. All other business advice, webinars and blogs have told you the wrong things – I will tell you the RIGHT THINGS and you will succeed and be very wealthy very quickly, with very little effort.
– WITH THESE TOOLS think of what you will be able to do! You could buy a huge house! You could pay all your kids and then grandkids through university! You could get a sports car!
– LOOK AT MY LIFE. Five years ago I was in a small flat and in a 9-5 job, not enjoying myself. Now, I’m in a mansion! Look at the size of my house! Here are some holiday pictures from my fifth extravagant holiday this year! Look at how wealthy and happy and free I am!
– YOU CAN BE LIKE ME. It’s possible for you. You just need to learn from me and follow the advice I’m about to give you. You need this lifestyle!! You were not born to work a 9-5 job! You were born to be rich without having to exert any effort! You’re worth it!
– [Some vague piece of advice, after a lot of waffle – such as ‘Value your customers’, or ‘Believe in your product’, or ‘Live the wealthy lifestyle, and then the business will grow and you will become wealthy’, or ‘Get better advertising’, or ‘Cut out the people and influences that bring you down or don’t benefit your business.’ Some of this advice was common sense, and some of it a load of rubbish. Either way it wasn’t worth the hour and a half that I’d lost by this point, having naively believed that their ‘one huge tip’ would change everything, as promised….]
– WHAT YOU REALLY NEED is to invest in your business. To value, and love, and believe in your business. You need to invest in my business coaching – for the tiny (and heavily reduced!) sum of £2000 I can talk you through the exact process, the exact steps I undertook to make my fortune, so that you don’t make the mistakes I made. You need this.
– IF YOU DON’T TAKE MY OFFER then it shows you don’t believe in your business. You don’t actually care whether it takes off. You secretly quite like being stuck in your 9-5 job every day. You aren’t brave enough to invest and watch that business grow. This needs to change. Growth only comes after a risk; a step of faith; an investment. Without my coaching you will go nowhere – but with it I can make you a millionaire within six months. Think what you will do with that money! Think how your life will be different! And think what you would have missed out on if you pass up this amazing opportunity.
Seriously. Every webinar I saw. Without fail. The first thing that comes to my mind (maybe yours too!) on hearing that punchline is that the speaker has already broken the first extravagant promise they made – that the webinar will be not only helpful but will change my life and give me the tools to dramatically and quickly expand the business (it did neither) – so after investing an hour and a half of my life to be let down by this person, why would I invest my little hard-earned savings, my finances, to be let down even more?
It made me think that business coaches are a bit like drug dealers – especially those who coach people in ‘coaching businesses’ (which at least half of the webinars I watched were for). The process is this – they get people to believe that what they’re doing and the way they’re living is amazing and wonderful and worth pursuing. So, eventually, people believe it and get involved. They pay money in order to be like the coach, to live like the mentor and participate in the same things in the same way. But there’s one problem – they can’t afford it; they can’t make it pay. So, eventually, they start their own coaching business to earn money in order to pay their coach or mentor. They then become the coach, talking overly-positively about their lifestyle in order to get people signing up and paying for their advice. And so it goes on. Not really something I’d particularly like to be involved in, to be honest.
I have received some helpful advice through online blogs though – mostly just common sense, still, but it has helped even so. One example is that a successful business must have a USP (unique selling point), to make the brand recognizable and to put on the advertising in order to get ahead of the generic competition. I began wondering about my art USP. I definitely have a distinctive style – or so several people tell me – but what to name that? How to advertise that? How to make that consistent enough to make the USP generate sales? I don’t yet know.
Another tip that I see everywhere is that a businessperson’s duty is to give people what they want – then they’ll buy into it. People WANT artwork – sometimes – but often don’t have the wall space for it or already have lots of nice artwork so need no more. Hmm…
Along similar lines, I’ve been thinking about advertising. At the moment I just advertise with the product itself – I’ll post pictures of the painting on social media, perhaps with a nice story to make it more personal, and a catchy title – but no advertising slogan. This technique works fine for existing customers, and those who know me already as a friend or family member – but not so well with the general public. What slogan would I say? “Art is what you need in life! Buy some of mine!” … “Plain walls at home? Let’s change that!” … “Colourful paintings here! I think you’ll like them!” …It doesn’t quite work in the same way as advertising something that people are looking for, such as a hairdresser or a builder or whatever it may be. It is HARD to get ahead or successful in the world of art.
That whole process got me thinking about my approach. It’s only recently that I’ve considered it a business at all. I still (until next week, anyway!) work full-time as well, so I don’t consider myself a businesswoman by any stretch of the imagination. And I certainly don’t have the motivation or resources to pay for advertising; I’ve done it all for free so far and don’t plan to change that. But at one point last week I wondered if that was where I was going wrong – if I should start paying for advertising and become a ‘real business’. I came to the conclusion that, at least for now, I’d rather remain a person, a friend, a human being, than a businesswoman. Think about it – how many adverts do you pass on the street or scroll past on the phone or computer – and how many do you end up engaging with and supporting or using their services? BUT if a friend or family member were to start up a small business, you might be more interested in hearing about it or even buying something, one day. That’s the way I’ve worked so far – most of my paintings have been sold to people who know me, and just recently I’ve sold some to friends of friends; people who have seen me recommended by people who know me. So, for me, this is the way forward at this stage. No hardcore paid advertising with catchy slogans to get people involved. Just the slow process of painting and advertising and seeing who out of my contacts might like to buy a painting next, or recommend me to someone. So we’re unlikely to be cutting down to three-day working weeks any time soon, though that would be the dream – but we’ll see where it goes.
Thanks for walking with us! Watch this space! (Or buy a painting – haha!)
P.S. No – we haven’t given up on the missionary idea!! We’ll see when that will happen 🙂