How To Fail Miserably At Selling Art (or anything else)


Do you know what is a really effective way to completely screw yourself over when launching 31 new pieces of art and hoping to raise $18,000 to study in Europe?

To be far too terrified to properly tell anyone about it.

I’ll be honest – self promotion makes me want to throw up. I would rather get teeth pulled than promote my art. I’m happy to promote my blog posts, or hang out on Twitter with the 2,400 other people who apparently find me interesting, but ask me to promote something that I sell?

It’s like my brain seizes up. Everything freezes. I just cannot do it. I try, but it’s only a half assed attempt, essentially shooting myself in the foot.

I am terrified that I will tell people and then nothing will sell, but then I only kinda tell people and then nothing sells, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Folks, they are not kidding when they say that confidence is key to sales. Because if the idea of even telling people that you have something to sell causes you to become a non-functioning human, you’re going to have a bit of a problem. Trust me on this one. I’ve got 3 whole years of experience with it.

This is why running your own business is such an exercise in self-awareness

It’s really hard to pretend you don’t have neuroses and fears galore when you have hard and fast data telling you that yes, yes you do.

So let’s say you’re like me, and self-promotion makes you want to regurgitate your lunch. And then you half-assedly promote your product, whatever it is, and nobody bites. And then this is where your brain goes next:

“Nooo! They all hate me, and I must suck, and everything I do is crap and no one is ever going to buy anything ever again and I’m just a failure and nobody loves me and I’m going to die alone, starving, in a cardboard box somewhere with only the raccoons to keep me company!”

Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating a little bit there. (Hahaha, who am I kidding? That was the honest truth.)

When you’re done feeling sorry for yourself though (this usually takes me about a day), realize this:

It’s got nothing to do with you and everything to do with you.

Wait, what?

No one didn’t buy your product because they thought, “Wow, I really hate Jane. She sucks so much. I’m not buying her product because then it’d be like supporting the devil. And her stuff is crap anyways.” It’s got nothing to do with you, personally.

(Caveat: I am assuming that you’re an intelligent, caring individual and not a con artist when I say this. Because if you’re a con artist, then yes, someone may not be buying because of this reason.)

But at the same time, because you are so stuck in your own stuff (which dude, that is totally okay, because you’re human) it makes it really hard to promote yourself properly and with confidence.

You know when you’re having a conversation with someone really shy, and they just keep mumbling? And eventually you walk away, because you just cannot understand a word they’re saying? It’s not because you don’t like that person, or because they’re worthless, or crap.

You just have no idea what’s going on, so you leave. Because you’re confused.

When you’re feeling nervous about promoting yourself, it’s like your marketing is mumbling. No one can hear you clearly. You’re not speaking with strength. And so your people do nothing. Because they didn’t even know there was a thing going on.

But you also don’t have to be a used car salesman.

It’s possible to learn to promote your art, or whatever your thing is, with confidence and strength without being icky. You have to remember that you’re serving people – your people want your whatever-it-is-that-you-share-with-the-world. They want your awesomeness. By telling them about it, you’re doing them a favour. You don’t have to be shout-y or use lots of yellow highlighter. (I do not think we can be friends if you’re like this. I’m sorry.)

You can be direct and honest and passionate about your work, and people will respond to that. You don’t have to coerce people into buying. You can just trust in the awesomeness of your product, and share that.

But what about the nervousness? And the wanting to projectile vomit everywhere?

Oh, sweetpea. I wish I had answers for you. Really, I do. But I feel this way every single time. I haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate between the strong part of me and the part that is terrified. It usually takes me a few days of trial and error, and lots of breathing and talking myself down.

But it helps me to know that when nothing happens, it’s not because people hate me. It’s just because they didn’t hear me. My marketing was mumbling, and my people are just confused. So next time you’re feeling like “woe is me, I just suck!” check in with yourself – was your marketing mumbling a little bit? Maybe your people just didn’t understand what was going on. And that’s okay too, because we learn a little bit about ourselves every time.

Ink Sketch: Brackley Beach #2 © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2010. Ink on paper, 9"x12"

Ink Sketch: Brackley Beach #2 © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2010. Ink on paper, 9"x12"

So this is me, trying not mumble.

I’ve just added 31 new pieces of art to my site. A lot of it is under $250, which is perfect for Christmas. Art really does make a fantastic gift for people because I can guarantee that they definitely don’t “have this one already”.

And every piece you buy will be going towards my studying art in France next year. So if you buy a painting, you’ll be helping me get more inspiration to make more art that you get to enjoy. It’s a never-ending circle of awesomeness.

Interested? Please click right here to go and have a browse.


Do you struggle with sales? Or confidence? How do you deal with feeling nervous about promoting yourself?

Also, I’m not looking for advice on dealing with my own insecurities – just know that I’m dealing with it, and that it’s something that I’m working on, just like everyone else. Life is a work in progress, and all that.

As always, we don’t say mean things, or use the word “should”. People are wherever they are. We’re all trying our hardest and some days we do great, and other days we don’t. It’s that crazy “human” thing. Play nice!