That is the message that greeted me in an email I received earlier this week. It was 6am and I had just made myself a cup of green tea and was starting my day in an exuberant mood as I reviewed emails. The cause of this this terse little response was an email we sent out promoting the smARTist Telesummit. This is an event which we really believe in and in 2011 we are invited Keynote speakers.
I’m normally fairly thick skinned on the odd occasion someone unsubscribes from one of our email lists – but this time I felt different. This was a person who had received some really great free information from us that would really help them to promote their art career if they actually used it. I wouldn’t have minded if they had simply clicked the “unsubscribe” button displayed visibly in the email – but to go the extra step of adding a rude little snipe like that really surprised me.
This got me wondering – do some artists really think that they should get everything free? Is it really too offensive to them that amongst all the free articles and information we and many other great art marketing and art career websites publish that we occasionally promote something we believe in that has a price tag? Surely not! But apparently so!
So, just for the record, here are a few thoughts from me on this topic. In a perfect world I would probably spend a good part of my weeks writing art marketing articles and books and teaching art marketing seminars. I have a genuine interest in helping artists bridge the gap that often exists between art and business and helping them to bring more beauty and creativity into the world. This is a world that really needs it!
That said, I and all the other art marketing writers out there run businesses – not charities. We have to run our businesses successfully because we need to eat and support our loved ones and communities. Money may not buy happiness but you can’t do a whole lot in this world without it. And I for one am several decades past being able to sleep on the sofa at my Mum and Dad’s place!
So, amongst all the volumes of free information we and many others provide, occasionally we promote products and services we believe in that are not free – and we make no apologies. If you as an artist are offended by a commercial offer then by all means feel free to unsubscribe. But before you do, think about what this might be telling you about your own relationship with art career success – because if you are uncomfortable with receiving an occasional promotion from us, how are you going to feel comfortable about asking for the sale with a new art collector? And you most certainly will have to do that!
Money is not a god to be worshiped but it is a big part of the world we live in. If you are uncomfortable with it, then it it will almost certainly feel uncomfortable with you. Think about that!
I am truly sorry you had to wake up to that!! I've attended the smARTist Telesummit two years in a row and absolutely love it and recommend it!
I also have a passion for helping artists bridge the gap between creating and the business side of art, and it is an unfortunate reality that some artists (and some people in general) do have a sense of entitlement and expect everything to be free or done for them.
I have no idea why someone would go to the trouble of adding a snide little remark instead of just hitting the unsubscribe button. Perhaps it had nothing at all to do with you or the smARTist Telesummit. Maybe this person is just angry at the world in general.
In any case, I enjoy all the great information you share and appreciate everything you do for artists!
I'm sorry for the nasty email you received but am not surprised – I've gotten a few of them myself and yes, they are a jolt to the system! I suppose it means we are still alive and feeling beings that they can upset us for a bit – it's learning to move on quickly that is the trick. (Some days I know the trick, other days I don't.)
I think the up and downside of the internet is that there is so much free information that sometimes people do expect it all to be so. I also think some people are just unhappy and an ill-timed email can trigger them lashing back at the wrong person.
You, as I, have people opt-in to your newsletters so you aren't sending spam willy-nilly around cyberspace. There is always an unsubscribe link – I wish people would click it more than they say "spam" to their server which then causes havoc on our personal email accounts. I've set most of my lists to not even let me know when people unsubscribe – it decreases the jolts and wondering why… sometimes they just need less in their inbox and bookmark your blog.
Regardless, I'll stop rambling and say you are right. If artists respond so negatively to information about something for sale, how do they expect to get different responses from their customers? You are being shown an option – take it or leave it, but there is no need to get nasty.
That's my 2¢! "See" you at the smARTist Telesummit – I'm also very proud to be a part of it for 2011!
Jan and Tara,
Thanks for the great comments. I guess I should at least be happy that the comment included a "please"!
I think you're right Jan – it's just some people who think they should get everything for nothing – it just so happens that our readers are artists and so occasionally we find an artist who is like that. But it is not that artists are especially bad people! Quite the contrary I expect.
Tara – we are constantly perplexed about why people hit the spam button instead of just unsubscribing. They did after all opt-in to receive emails as you mentioned. Maybe they've never seen real spam – then there would be some contrast! Like those wonderful letters written in UPPER CASE from wives of various fictional dignitories (sp?) in Nigeria and Tanzania offering to share their multi-million-dollar fortunes if I would just help them move the money by sending my bank account information!
Human nature is a very interesting thing 🙂
On the other hand, if that's all that was said you could, with equal validity, assume that the artist in question is at the moment in dire financial straits and resents being asked to pay for something he can't afford. This also implies that said artist is not at that place where he can simply say to himself, "Well, I can't afford it now but maybe later when I'm doing better."
Your arguments that you are in business and have to support your family is not going to find sympathy with this person because he can't himself support his family and thus, because he is becoming desperate, resents that you can.
Now, all of that said (I have insomnia and it's about 4:45 in the morning so please take the rest with that in mind) as an artist who also is not able to support herself (much less anyone else) on her earnings as an artist, I greet these ads with mild interest but because I am confident that I am working positively to improve my business skills (when I can, as a family caregiver caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer's my time is very much not my own) and when I can, if I believe the SMARTist things will benefit me, then I will pay them more attention.
Anger and desperation often overwhelm people into saying or acting in ways that are cutting and unkind. Thus you should not feel badly that this person does not understand your perspective. He probably simply isn't able to. It's like getting panned on opening night. You have to ignore those incapable of understanding.
As one of my favorite money coaches Chellie Campbell says, there are three kinds of people:
Sharks who eat everything(one) else and feed off of others. Like parasites or psychic vampires.
Then there are tunas who complain "Woe is me. My life is so difficult! It is the (government's, my parent's, the economy's, my dog's, that IRRITATING purple flower's) fault that this is all happening to me. The tuna get eaten by the sharks.
Then there are dolphins. They protect other fish in the sea, sparkle and jump gracefully out of the water and swim in pods of their wonderful friends who they work interdependently with.
(Chellie did not pay me to say this.)
Another thing Chellie says is that you want to repel EVERYONE who is NOT your dolphin immediately because you do not want sharks or tunas swimming with you! This person is obviously not ever going to be a valuable member of your dolphin pod. How fabulous that you have repelled them immediately! Yippee!
I send you all (including your rogue e-mailer)some large ladles of love…
Darling Dolphin Christine Marsh who occasionally regresses to tuna-hood
Some people get enjoyment from being nasty and putting others down. It gives them a sense of power and makes them feel important. The sad thing about it is that it works the other way and usually means that they have a miserable life because of these snarky remarks which, over time, have probably driven away many of their friends. I had an email like this once but the language was much worse so I know how upsetting it is to receive one. However, it says more about them than it does about you.
You would be surprised how many artists want "something for free!" Although, as working artists we too provide much free information, the occassional audio/CD, DVD or workshop is NOT free :-).
We create our art for a living and that is wehat pays OUR bills, not any of the advice we "sell." We discovered years ago that many artists do indeed want to do what we do but apparently do not wamt to put the time, energy and effort into building an art business. They want some fantasy "easy way."
Like yours, our own site has been incredibly beneficial to the artist who is hungry for information and willing to work with the information. For those artists such as the one you encountered who want months and years of free advice, newsletters, emails, etc. and yet will not invest 5-$20.00 for more in depth information from you, all I can add is that they will be one of the many who go through life wishing, and in the end, too late, they will wish that they had made a committed effort to follow their dreams.
Just keep it in perspective for the artists you ARE reaching so keep up the good work! I have met too many artists who spend hours daily on the Internet looking for the secrets of becoming a successful artist. SO silly-It's not about the talent. It's about the commitment, dedication and perseverance!
The Difference Between an Expense & an Investment
I think your post speaks to the heart of a challenge of psychological paradigms faced by many in business. It is not simply the artist community that balks from time to time at the request for funds, it’s a community that has been conditioned to the Walmart-mentality of “I bet I can get it for less somewhere else.” This mindset is hurting American businesses across the board. I run a market research and keynote speaking firm and I see the same challenge on a regular basis. Folks want to meet for lunch and pick my brain on their latest problem, but they don’t want to put money on the table to engage a real project.
Mixed in with this ‘something for nothing’ mindset is the reality of other folks who are selling their talents and skills and services for pennies on the dollar of their worth. I have lost several contracts for communication training in the past year to competitors that price their services at insulting hourly rates, some as low as $10-15/hour. With a Master’s degree and over a decade of experience, I simply won’t insult myself and the value I bring to companies by trying to compete there.
You see it in retail too. The strongest thriving businesses I know of in my hometown are thrift and ‘antique’ shops, places that believe that ‘one man’s junk is another’s treasure’. To that end, the Goodwill in our area (a fantastic organization, btw) has just opened a handful of new retail locations across our region, just to handle the foot traffic and sales of used items. The second busiest storefront in our area? An antique shop that sells a bit of everything, but because he gets his items at estate sales and auctions he can sell them for much less than you can find them elsewhere.
In the meantime, local businesses with new merchandise, like the country store down the street from me, are going out of business and dealing with customers coming in and rudely trying to negotiate/barter pricing on prices already slashed to the point there is almost no profit margin. I have a friend that works at that store and my favorite there was the lady who came in and proudly stated that “I don’t usually shop at places like this, but since you are going out of business, I thought I’d check it out.” She followed that with an effort to claim that an item priced at $30 after a 70% discount was “way over-priced” and offered to ‘give’ the store $10 for it. Respect for the company trying to make it has dwindled away in many respects, people assume the markup on things is so high that they can chew away at their own cost without hurting the businessperson. Nothing could be further from the truth. More evidence of this? That same country store opened its doors earlier this year and failed to break $1000/day in sales through the first five months of operations. The day they put a “going out of business” sign by the road, sales shot through the roof and they made over $2000/day for the next two weeks. The owner was in a conundrum now, did he order more stock, would this last? So, he reopened the store and focused his product set on what was flying out the door in that uptick of sales. But as soon as things were no longer ‘bargain basement priced’ people stopped coming again. Today a ‘going out of business’ sign is back at the road and this time he can’t see any way to keep the business open into 2011. All but one of the staff will be laid off later this coming week, all because people can’t see to pay fair prices for quality goods.
This brings me to the crux of what your email brought to mind. It has to do with how people are framing their money these days. All of my examples, and your example too, have to deal with people seeing the cost of something as an expense. Expenses are negative draws on our bank accounts with no returned value or interest. Expenses are things to avoid, to work around. Even the government works to foster this mindset with tax credits for insulated window upgrades and energy efficiency that lower our expenses.
Yet, what you and I are offering to folks are not services that should be looked at as expenses. What we are offering are opportunities for folks to invest in a better tomorrow. Going to your workshops and events brings them increased knowledge/perspective/connections/understanding…they come out on the backside a more well-rounded artist and marketer. That’s an investment, they get more than their cost in return, and the kind of thing you sell (like what I sell) keeps on giving. Once you gain knowledge and insights, you can then put those new tools into action and increase the ROI. It’s getting them to that mindset in the first place…investment over expense…that makes the difference.
Sure there will be folks who can’t afford to invest in your events right now. My boyfriend is one of those folks who’d adore attending, but simply can’t spare the investment funds this year to commit. Yet, if he had the funds, I’m sure he’d be of the same mindset he was when he went for his Scuba Instructor certification last year: the money I’m putting forth into these courses and training and travel are an investment in my future in this area of my life…this will take me farther.
Anyway, you obviously touched a raw point for me in how folks treat and view service-related industries that train, consult, and provide services and not tangible goods. It’s easy to devalue the worth of knowledge in a world where you can Google just about anything or crowdsource thoughts and insights…but the true value of professional level training and insights has never been and should never be viewed as an expense…but an investment. Now to get the rest of the world to realize that too. 🙂 Cheers!
I would be tempted to email back and ask precisely why this person added the adjective "stupid."
Some great points have been made. I am both appreciative and sympathetic to the hard work that goes into all of the free advice e-books, e-courses and webinars. I do want to point out 2 things that occasionally discourage me these days: One is the uneven risk management and consequences for the advisor vs. artist. The investment is both money and unpaid time with no measurable deliverables until even more work is implemented by the buyer can present a unbalanced consequences. If artist fails to find enough time or resources to make the recommended changes,she has only herself to blame and the paid advisor moves on to the next underachieving client confident in having dispensed good advice to follow.(One is selling a service,the other is interpreting/implementing the work plus trying to continue to do the jobs that pays for the service.
Second, I have noticed that a growing number of initially successful artisans are suddenly turning to a kind of sponsored/speaker/writer collaborative revenue stream while their handmade business is outsourced or downsized. This is starting to create a "middleman" level of artisan business in a community that prided itself on being small,personalized and passionate about making tangible things.
I truly think there is a place for all. There is no excuse for rude unprofessional responses to an offer. But I have found it upsetting to receive offers from handmade marketing people valuing their coaching at hundreds per hour and thousands per month for a retainer program of advice. I have purchased ebooks and online courses in full support of the deserving author's service. I must admit though that on a low day,that same offer sometimes feels like others thriving on an endless supply of insecure or striving new business people. Does that make sense? Thanks for the chance to raise the dialogue on this timely issue.
Great comments everyone – thanks for putting so much into this discussion. One interesting data point is that when the RSS email went out with this post we had several unsubscribes and one SPAM complaint!
I guess that even the art of conversation is offensive to some 🙂
The rudeness was uncalled for, but I can understand being overwhelmed with so much information constantly, which causes many people to feel stressed. I think that society as a whole is overwhelmed with the info overkill. Also now when so many people are having it rough financially, it seems that every third email you get is someone wanting money. I have no problem with paying a FAIR price for good information, but I have been let down before by paying for something that turned out to be simply common sense advice or advice not applicable to my situation – or people asking a ridiculously high price to help me 'get organized' or 'find my calling', etc.
Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and get rid of email subscriptions that seem redundant.
Just my viewpoint on why someone might over react this way.
I would be tempted to email back and ask precisely why this person added the adjective "stupid."
I am in a similar line of business, and I give a lot of free advice with the intention of helping artists to find success.
I also do consulting, and I find that the artists that are willing to pay my hourly rate (which is reasonable), are the artists that are taking control of their lives and their careers. They are willing to invest in themselves, and their progress shows it.
The ones that balk at my price, and try to get my consulting for free, are those of the "poor" mindset – people unwilling to value their own career. The proof is the unwillingness to invest in themselves. And those people cannot be helped, for free or otherwise.
I can honestly say, all the artists that I've had a paid consultation with over the years, 100% of them were motivated, smart and going somewhere. I think there's a connection there….
Hey Maria – great to hear from you. Yes – nothing like a little skin in the game to attract success! Happy holiday weekend to you. ~ Daniel.
Just wondering if you art marketing folks have any idea of how much the artist is expected to give for free. Of how many "calls for artists" involve a no refund fee to answer said call, of how many not for profit community galleries want the work for free to hang on the walls and at the same time require the artist to deliver some sort of community involvement ie talks, demos etc again for free, of how many really really good causes ask for and get free work to be auctioned for cash (none to the artist of course). Yeah, there is always a great cause that needs our help. Once the work is auctioned well…actually, that is one customer who will not be buying your work and probably got it at a discounted price since the object of the auction is cash and devaluing your work is not their concern. All of the above is promoted to the artist as an "opportunity". Wow!!! Thanks very freaking much.
Visual arts are perhaps the last free put-your-hand-out-and-touch-it entertainment. The commercial galleries get the work for free and only pay the artist well after it has been sold…in the meantime get to hang their gallery with "product" for free and then use the artist's money for a couple of months for their operating expenses instead of a bank line of credit.
The internet is crowded with people who are attempting to create a business around art. They do not make the art, may know nothing about art, may not even like art but try to make money off the artists. Good luck with that. We are rather a low income business for you to latch on to.
So somebody called your spam "stupid" and it ruined your day. Rude? Yep. Someone came into my studio and asked me if I could earn a living with my art "business". I asked him if he asked everyone that or just artists. Rude?? Yep. Fact is, IF I were in :"business", it wouldn't be art. In other words folks we artists gotta love what we do. So maybe you folks should count your blessings that I am still producing art. Maybe we can help each other. I don't want to rain on your parade but do not expect me to thank you or cough up every time somebody wants either a free piece of art or to sell me some untested bit of "advice". Fact is, as a business, not unlike art, you are going to have to convince me just what are your ART creds before you try to sell me anything.
And do not spam me. Pretty please.