Why Writers and Artists Have Such a Hard Time Selling Things

Writers and artists are notorious for being horrible salesmen, and many of them take a certain sort of secret pride in this fact. Even though it’s uncomfortable, being a “starving artist” can feel noble to creative types, and it also seems to prevent against the evil of “selling out,” something else which many writers and artists fear.

On the other hand, I’ve worked with hundreds of clients who come to me and say, “I’m so passionate about my creative work. Why can’t I make any money from it? What am I doing wrong?”

The problem is the emotional baggage that most writers and artists have around the selling process. We do tend to see the act of selling as something negative. However, the selling process itself is neutral. It’s the energy we bring to the selling process that determines whether it becomes positive or negative.

Let’s start by looking at the three steps of the selling process:

You create something and offer it for sale
You tell others you are offering something for sale
You let them buy it from you

Each one of the steps is an action we take that can have positive or negative consequences for the people involved, depending on the energy powering each step. However, there is no step in the process that is inherently positive or negative, for anyone. To put it another way, it’s how we choose to do the steps that makes them good or bad.

Because much of the time we see the selling process used in a manipulative way in consumer culture, most of us are familiar with how the three steps look when used negatively. This is what the selling process looks like when used with dishonesty:

You create something that is low-quality or harmful to people
You persuade people they need it, even if it’s not in their best interest
You take their money, not caring if you’re tricking them out of it or not

Because we see the selling process used in this way so often in our society, most of us assume that this IS the selling process, instead of understanding that this is just one way to do the selling process. Writers and artists are particularly susceptible to this skewed perception because we tend to be very sensitive to noticing when people are out of alignment with integrity.

So, much of the time, we will look around and see people selling things, and making a good living from it, and we will judge them.

However, the selling process can also be used in such a way that it is completely in alignment with personal integrity, and that’s when it not only becomes much more efficient, but a lot more fun too. This is what the selling process looks like when you use each step with positive energy:

You create something that is high-quality and helpful to people
You look for the people who actually need it and help to educate them on why
You invite them to buy it from you, trusting that they are making the right decision for themselves

This is not that hard to do, but in order to do it with any sort of effectiveness, we first have to drop our inaccurate perceptions about the selling process always being “bad” or “corrupt,” and we also will have to drop our assumptions about the people we see around us who are good at selling. Just because someone uses proven sales techniques to sell their work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are out of integrity with themselves or the people who are buying from them.

Selling is a practice that can be just as soul-evolving as creating art, as hard as that may be for some people to believe. To engage with the selling process in a truly empowered way, you will be pushed to move out of your comfort zone, face up to your self-worth issues, and trust that what you are offering has value. These are not only how-you-feel-about-selling issues, these are how-you-feel-about-your-place-in-life issues.

When we look at this stuff head on and we do the hard work of dealing with it, then we can take the selling process from positive to truly empowering. This is what the steps look like in the empowered selling process:

You BELIEVE you are offering value
You STEP UP to act as the authority on educating people about that value
You are WILLING TO TRUST in yourself and sell it to them

The truth is, selling is not a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s an opportunity for you to get real about what’s going on with your self-esteem, your trust issues with yourself and others, and how you feel about your role on the planet. Putting yourself out there and selling your work is going to trigger you on a lot of levels, but if you’re serious about being a writer or artist, this work needs to happen.

Selling is not just the thing you do after the creative work, hoping you get some money for it. It’s part of the creative work itself.

Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer and The INFJ Revolution. You can get a free copy of her book on creative marketing for writers by signing up for her newsletter HERE.

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