Interview: Success for Artists & Creative Professionals with Dan Blank

unnamedI’ve known Dan Blank (pictured here) over a number of years and he has become my go to resource for clients who are aspiring authors. Dan brings and incredibly down to earth, brass tacks and honest approach to business building.

Recently, he hold me that he’d now branched into the broader field of helping people find and market their creative work (i.e. they’re worried that their career isn’t going anywhere; that they need to build a following; that they want to learn how to market their art) so I asked if I could interview him about it all and his new program Fearless Work for my blog. He graciously accepted. I think you’ll be glad of it.

What’s this new project you’ve got on the go?

It’s a program called Fearless Work, which is a course to help creative professionals find more time and energy to work on their art or craft. It focuses on helping people prioritize what matters most, work smarter, make creative habits stick, and manage their fear around big risks and a packed schedule.

Who would you say are the top three groups of people it’s for?

Anyone who is trying to find more time to do creative work amidst life’s many professional and personal demands.These could be artists, writers, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, illustrators, musicians, and many others.

Working creative professionals. People who are entrepreneurial around their art and craft, and have turned it into a business.

They are finding success, but also finding barriers, and looking to break through to the next level.

Those who have dabbled with turning their art & work into a career, but want to now take it seriously.

Why did you create it? What need did you see? What’s the story?

After spending my entire life surrounded by those doing meaningful creative work, I always hear about their challenges — the things that prevent them from practicing the work they care the most about. In the past five years, I have run my own company helping these people, really being in the trenches with them as they strive for their goals.

Fearless Work is my way of creating a resource to re-shift aspects of one’s life to allow for more creative work.

What are the top three aspects of life that seem to get in the way?

  1. Yourself. What is most astounding is how many of the barriers that stand between someone and their creative work is often their own internal boundaries. They refuse to give themselves permission, or they are driven by narratives that kill their work before they can create it.
  2. Reacting to the demands of others and things external to you. This could be your day job, but it can also be the everyday demands of laundry and dishes.
  3. Being a parent. While most people I meet who are any age, whether they have kids or not, are very busy, I find that becoming a parent offers unique challenges. When you have kids, many of the process you have honed for yourself go off the rails because you are now fully responsible for other human beings. It’s impossible to overstate how much work this is: you literally have to wipe their asses. And, while this is a responsibility done with the deepest levels of love, that is also why it can be taxing in ways we never quite imagined before having children.

Fearless Work is also about ways to establish habits that allow for more creative work to be done each day. It is the culmination of everything I have learned in working with hundreds of creative professionals, as well as my own company.

I hear from people every single week, about how profound their struggles are. They feel they work more hours, give more of themselves, only to feel as though they are treading water, their dreams unfulfilled. The course delves into the practical actions that one can take (both internally and externally) to not only feel more fulfilled, but focus on what matters most in their creative endeavours.

Everyone feels overwhelmed, and 99% of the time, the only thing holding you back is yourself.

Everyone has challenges, and some of them are breath taking in their complexity: the person who is coping with a debilitating illness; someone who has suffered through a traumatic event; the single parent of 5 kids; the sole caregiver for ailing parents. Yet, I always speak to people who, despite these very real responsibilities, can manage to also find room for their own identity, and their own work. That all of these things are a part of who they are, and that even serious responsibilities don’t have to sidetrack who you want to be.

There are others who do a similar type of thing, what did you see was missing in it all that had you want to create this?

I love the various resources that are out there, and how inspiring each can be in their own way.

For my own experience working with creative professionals though…

I find that the business side of creative work is overwhelming for many people. While I always put the art first, I have deep experience in turning one’s creative vision into a viable business. It’s an obsession, really.

When I look back on both my professional and personal experience, it is across a wide range of arts. When I was a kid, I went to art school, and growing up, I did illustration, photography, poetry, sculpture, pop-up books, music, writing, a newspaper cartoon, trained to be a radio DJ, published a zine, did design work, and eventually I became an entrepreneur working with writers and creative professionals.

I hear these challenges everyday because of how many people/orgs I work with. I have to address them because these are the relationships that fill my life. None of this is theory, I am in the trenches with these people every single day.

I suppose, I see the “productivity” and “inspiration” side of this focused on a lot by others, but things such as mental health are often not being address. For example, I am the last person who will ever tell you to do more creative work by giving up some sleep. The idea of robbing someone of sleep in order to gain “productivity” is offensive. It cuts away at the foundations of their physical and mental health — that is NOT progress to me!

My company is five years old and I have established processes that I think others can find value in.

Why is this such a struggle for artists to take on the business side of things?

The answers vary, but one phrase that comes up often is “permission.”

Meaning, that after the artist goes through the struggle of creating work that matters deeply to them, they are confronted with the fear of permission, “Who am I to now ask people to pay for this?” Which is why many creatives wait to be “discovered.” For others to validate their work by sheer magic — without the artist having to proactively put their work out there. I suppose core to this is a fear of judgement, but also anxiety that many artists feel around their identity. Impostor syndrome is pervasive across professions, but I see it crop up often in creative fields. All of this is part of the stew that makes the business side of the arts extraordinarily complex for creative people.

I’d be curious to hear what other terrible advice you see out there for artists and creative types.

Most of the advice I see that turns my stomach are versions of get rich quick schemes. For the arts, it may not focus on money alone as the goal, but on the validation that many creative people seek. So yes it could be, “Make a million dollars with your art!” but it can also be “The world is just waiting for your message!” As many creative professionals will tell you, when they released their work publicly, it was received to dead silence. The distinction between the amateur and the professional in this context is that they took efforts to ensure it found an audience, and that this was truly work that takes time and pushed them passed boundaries.

What are the three top blunders that you see people make in addressing these issues?

Goodness, only three? How about six:

  1. Looking for a tool that will magically fix everything. The real value comes in establishing good habits and new processes. Are tools a part of this? Sure, but they serve the habits and processes, not the other way around.
  2. Thinking it is all in or not at all. Consider how many people start and fail at diets. They are either “on” the diet or “off” the diet, and change of this caliber needs has more layers to the gradient than this. This is about tiny changes a little at a time.
  3. Seeking productivity tips that adds more stuff to their already packed life. You can’t get clarity by adding and adding to your life — you have to SUBTRACT what doesn’t matter in order to find more resources to do the work that truly matters.
  4. Focusing on only time, not energy. Energy is a renewable resource that affects all areas of your life.
  5. Seeking “balance.” To be honest, I don’t believe in balance when it comes to how people traditionally talk about “work/life balance.” Balance is a lovely concept, but if you listed out all of your personal and professional obligations, I think the idea of “balance” gets in the way. Instead, I believe in clarity and priorities. The term I tend to use is this: OBSESSIONS. Making hard choices about what matters most.
  6. Managing their work life separate from their personal needs and goals. You have a single life, and a 24 hours in a day, you have to manage it as a whole.

What are the main good habits you feel like creative folks need most? Could you share a story or example of of a habit you’ve developed that’s paid off?

The habits that most creative people need to establish is taking small actions in a consistent basis. I mean, that is what a habit is, right? Break down a larger creative vision into tiny component parts that you can control. An example would be how I wrote the first draft of the book I am working on. I reserved the first hour of the day to write, with the goal of at least 1,000 words per day.

Now, a distinction I made is that this was about quantity, not quality. I wasn’t judging if my writing was good or not, I just focused on getting words on the page. Within less than 40 days, I had hit my goal of a 65,000 word first draft. Before I put the restraints on the habit (1 hour, 1,000+ words each day), the idea of writing a book was nearly incomprehensible. All I saw where challenges.

Also, I find boundaries to be extraordinarily useful in the creative process, and that they are useful in how we work as well. For instance: I don’t fly. I won’t be shy here: it scares me. So when I created my business, I put a simple rule in place, “No flying for work.” Now, this meant I put a severe limitation on potential revenue streams. I have done a lot of speaking, and this limitation meant that I could never truly seek out a highly paid speaking career, seeking out keynotes and the like. Revenue stream #1 in the toilet. I also do come consulting for organizations, and this limitation meant that I couldn’t seek out large clients outside of those in area around New York City. Any large organization client would likely want a series of in-person meetings, and since I don’t fly, that meant I couldn’t say yes to that. Revenue stream #2 in the toilet.

And yet, 5 years in, my business is doing fine. These limitations allowed me to OBSESS over other areas I am passionate about, such as developing online courses that could reach people anywhere in the world, and be created from my home. For the Fearless

Work course, my team and I have worked on it for months, through an incredible amount of OBSESSIVE research. For much of that time, we had to ignore other potential opportunities to grow my audience or my business. We are all in on this course, and it feels extraordinary to so fully devote yourself to something.

What are the top three things people could do on their own to address these issues effectively?

When approaching the idea of Fearless Work — to do more of the creative work that matters most to you, I find these three things can help you find greater success in working through the process:

  1. Make it social. Surround yourself with like minds. Don’t struggle by yourself.
  2. Focus on clarity, especially around your goals. It is astounding to me how vague people’s goals often are when you scratch the surface. Oftentimes, you find that there is nothing there, just a vague idea. Why? Because they were too afraid of the obligation that comes with truly tackling their dreams.
  3. I would rather see you focus all of your energy on establish a single TINY positive new habit than create some complex system that fools you into thinking you have solved it all. Start small.

For more info on Dan’s program Fearless Work click on the image below.


marketing for artists

Most artists are broke.

And if you’re a broke and struggling artist  (or know one) I’ve found something wonderful for you.

But, before I get to that, let me back up . . .

Over the years, I have come to fall deeper and deeper in love with art. And beauty. When I first began in marketing I dismissed aesthetics and beauty as being irrelevant. What you needed was a good offer. But I’ve warmed to beauty.

I love the idea that we can not only offer something to the world but that we can make it beautifully and wrap it beautifully. That the care we take in our craftsmanship and presentation is a part of our offers not just something we do to make more people buy. It’s a part of the way we feed the soul of the world. Commerce doesn’t just want to be transactional but also transformational.  Marketing doesn’t have to be flashing neon lights, it can be candlelight. It doesn’t have to be demanding, it can be gracious.

I’ve learned this again and again from many people in my life. First and foremost from my colleague and dear one Carrie Klassen of Pink Elephant Academy (author of ‘How to Write a Lovable Homepage‘).

So bringing more art into our marketing is wonderful. It helps us more truly expresses ourselves and see if what we’re offering is truly resonant and a fit with people. Our artistic and expressive aesthetic – our style – is just another way of saying our point of view. And a single image or a few well crafted words can do so much to express that.

It’s a considerable tragedy, given how much art can enhance the clarity of our marketing that artists classically struggle financially. Most artists are terrible marketers. Performers in show business are classical great at the show but terrible at the business.

So, imagine my delight when I came across Aletta de Wal – a marketing coach focusing on the niche of artists.

So, I decided I’d do an interview with her for you (and perhaps your friends).

And to make it extra special, I decided that I’d add some art from one of my favourite artists in the world. Jordanna Rachinky (pictured left). All of the paintings you see below are hers. You can check out more and buy things from her at

The interview with Aletta (pictured below right) is below . . .


What is the name of your project?

Artist Career Training: How visual artists can make a better living from making art, and still have a life

What’s the response been so far?

Artist Career Training has served over 4000 artists in groups and 400 individually. I do my best to inspire my clients to do the work they need to do to be successful, provide the detail to take specific action and support them through the ups and downs of life and art. They seem to like it.

What’s the story of how this came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?

A Santa Fe gallery dealer who saw that artists needed help with the business side of art founded Artist Career Training (A.C.T.) in 1996. Since then, A.C.T. has grown from a local coaching practice into a virtual university delivering training to part-time and full-time artists at all career stages (emerging, mid-career and established). A.C.T. programs, services and learning products continue to attract a core community of American artists, qualified virtual faculty across North America and a loyal readership all over the world.

Can you share a few examples of how your project works?

Artists in the A.C.T. community learn to be focused, organized and confident in art business matters. Art world insider information is given in lively group telephone classes, on-site workshops and seminars. Personal consultations allow in-depth work on specific projects. Independent study is available through recordings and workbooks at The Art Business Library
An example of a client story: I met Connie Bransilver & Nicholas Petrucci through a presentation I did with a former client at The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). We began work together by telephone to map out clear goals and actions to achieve them. Over the next 24 months, we continued to work by telephone and e-mail to create a new web site and promotional materials.
When we met again at another NANPA conference, we worked in person on a legacy project “Guardians of the Everglades” that is now gaining national attention. My web wizard Robin Sagara provides hands-on technical support for their web sites and communications.
Interviews with more info here:

Who do you find it’s working best for?

Professional development works best for artists who are willing to look at everything they are doing and honestly assess what is working and what needs work. While they don’t have to love the business side, artists who want to make a living from their art have to become artist-entrepreneurs and do the work that entails.

What are the top three blunders you see artists making in their marketing?

#1. Ready-Fire-Aim: A random approach wastes a lot of your time, energy and money. Just because it is the latest craze, close to home or cheap doesn’t mean it’s right for you. The fix: Use an overall vision of what you want from your career as the unifying factor for your marketing and promotional activities. Select venues, social networks or online galleries that will take you closer to that vision.

#2. “I postcard, therefore I market”: Postcards are a good promotional activity but they will produce limited results if that’s all you do. I define marketing as a series of conversations designed to build a bridge between the artist, the art and the audience. A post card is one part of one conversation. The fix: Be clear about who you are and what your art is about. Then choose the best combination of print and online communications. Link a variety of promotional materials and events to an umbrella theme.

#3. “Been there, done that already, didn’t work”: The first time you send out a message or have a conversation is like putting the key in the ignition. To move, you have to turn the key, get into gear, put your foot on the gas pedal and steer to your destination. The fix: Have 7 – 20 conversations in various media at different times and places. See which messages have results and adapt your messages and frequency. Check the oil often.

What are the top three core marketing strategies you’re most excited about for artists these days?

I get excited about the results that artists can achieve through small, ordinary acts of genuine interest in others.

#1. Be genuine and personal about your brand as an artist. What you create, why you are an artist and who you are in person should come through equally in events, on your web site, in print and social media. There’s a lot of deceit and disappointment in the world of commerce. Your authenticity, honesty and art can be a restorative antidote. 

#2. Have high quality conversations with the right people. Take the time to get to know people who truly resonate with your art. With all the hype about SEO, there seems to be confusion that having a lot of people is the goal. Artists with the most followers don’t always win their hearts and minds. Artists who treat every member of their audience with respect, warmth and integrity win the right to play another day.

#3. Give to get. We’ve all been on the receiving end of generosity so pay it forward. The paradox and delight of giving of yourself to others is that you often get back more than you expected. Get involved in a community project that will help someone who is in need of your head, heart and/ or hands. You never know who will notice and goodwill is one of the most viral ways of getting known.

How does an artist go about building a relationship of trust with their clientele?

Start by trusting yourself, setting your own standards and meeting your commitments to yourself. When you can do so consistently, your confidence increases as well as your competence and results. That makes you trustworthy.

In all of your interactions with others, trust that their intentions are good, meet or exceed their standards and keep your commitments to them.

You probably noticed that trusting yourself and trusting others are mirror images of each other. That’s because mutual trust is the foundation of good relationships.

Build trust with viewers and they may become buyers or tell others about you. Build trust with galleries and they will tell their clientele about you. Build trust with other artists and they will share supplies, information and opportunities with you.

One of my mentors, Dan Sullivan, taught me that the way to be referable is to do what you say, finish what you start, be on time and say please and thank you.

How does an artist get exposure? What good exposure and what’s worthless?

All fine artists perform for the public when it comes to marketing. And that goes double for all of you performance artists. Everything you do to market your art is the performance. You do not need a personality transplant as soon as you leave your studio. You do need to draw on different parts of your personality to get the word out.

Good publicity ignites the interests of everyone from browsers, buyers and collectors, to arts professionals and the media. If you are to spark further interest in your work, your art must be good, and the artistry of your promotion must be better. Sweeten your marketing efforts by thinking of them as opportunities for organized creative activity.

Marketing starts by “meeting and greeting” and goes on from there. To make a good living making art, all artists need to master the art of relationship building, which is the bedrock of sales.

If you want enough exposure for your art for a long and happy life, triple-pronged self-promotion is now the minimum standard. You need a consistent presence in person, on the Internet and in print to build your reputation, your audience and your bank account. When I ask artists what steps they have taken so far, most respond that they have had open studios, entered local shows, and put up a web site. 

What these artists have in common is that they have not given much thought to the people they are trying to attract so they can end up looking for love in all the wrong places. Selecting venues where you are most comfortable, and where you can easily transport yourself and your work is a good place to start.  But it is only the beginning.

It’s not always easy to know right away whether exposure is good or bad. An event you do today may not pay off until you do a lot of follow up. A person you meet at that event may not buy for a year or more. A better way to look at the value of exposure is to start from what you know about your audience and create a path from there to your goals. After each step along the path, take stock of what you have achieved; be grateful for what works and thank those who contributed; take a hard look at what did not work and decide how to tweak it so it works better. Rinse and repeat…
How did you promote this in the beginning? What were the top three most successful approaches at the start of it?
In the beginning A.C.T. services were offered by word-of-mouth and postings on Internet discussion boards. A web site was launched and the newsletter ArtMatters! was first published in June of 2000 to offer free advice and link to live workshops and TeleClasses.

What are the top three most effective ways you’ve found to market this?

Word-of-mouth still works well as artist clients tell others about us. Word-of-keyboard through social media has increased traffic to our web site and has led to invitations to do live events, which then draw artists to our online and telephone programs.

What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

1. The quantum change has been the impact of technology. It’s a double-edged sword. On the plus side, you can reach more people without leaving your studio. On the other hand, there is more competition and more complexity. Artists need to be able to navigate cyberspace as easily as the bricks and mortar world.
2. The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The human element is still the core of making, appreciating and marketing fine art. Even art mediated by technology starts with an idea in the artist’s mind.
  • Artists still need a solid body of signature work as the core of their business;
  • Artists are still in charge of their brand and the audience is still in charge of sales;
  • Exposure is still fundamental to success so the work is seen by the right audience;
  • Consistent marketing is still the key to a sustainable art business;
  • Relationships and trust are still the bedrock of sales.
3. Even though the fundamental principles of marketing art have not changed, the way we communicate about it has to be packaged for the new communications channels and a much shorter attention span.


At its heart, what is this project/business really about for you? (beyond money, status and such).

I built a career in banking that culminated in being in charge of training for 30,00 employees worldwide. Then, just before I turned 40, I had two strokes. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, my daily job was learning to walk and talk again. Art became part of my healing. As my creative talents returned, I resolved to make art the core of my life, instead of a sideline.
During the day, I coached executives to be more creative. Nights and weekends, I made art, taught art workshops and sold my own art and the work of other artists. I have no doubt that I am now doing what I was meant to do -helping artists turn their talents into a business that is sustainable and earns them a long term, healthy income.

What’s the next level for your project? What are you most excited about that’s coming up?

I am in the final ( I hope) stages of editing a book that is the “prequel” to art marketing, based on the work I have done for the past ten years with emerging artists or mid-career artists who took a break and are now back in a new context for getting the word out about their art.
I have also completed an 18-month certification program to provide visual coaching to visual artists in a new coaching program “The Dynamic Balance of Art, Marketing and Life” to be launched this year.


If people want to find out more about your project, support it or get involved – what should they do?

Request a f*r*e*e* 15 minute conversation about how Artist Career Training can help artist who want to have a better year making a living from making art.
Subscribe to the e-zine and weekly art marketing tips and receive a free art marketing guide: “Eleven Tips for Success for Fine Artists” Digital Recording and 15-page PDF Presentation by Artist Advisor Aletta de Wal

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a mistake for artists to think that the economy is the reason for any downturn in their sales. Yes, it is a fact that there is less disposable income to go around in the global economy, but that simply means that people are more selective about where they spend their money and how far they are willing to travel to see art. I recommend that artist build a personal economy in which their relationships with people who like their art and like and trust the artist become the driving force for sales.
Remember: All of the paintings you saw above are Jordanna Rachinsky’s. You can check out more and buy things from her at


Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program

Love Letter Marketing Lessons

A few months back I met a lady named Chris Kay Fraser. She was working on a project that I thought was pretty amazing and I blogged about it (click here to read it). Once it was done, I asked her some questions about the contest from the business and marketing side.

What she did is a brilliant example of word of mouth marketing (she created something remarkable and ‘talkable’. And it’s a great example of the beginnings of ‘becoming a hub‘. Seriously – watch out for this project in the future. Big things coming. And it’s just a great example of an inspiring business.

Here’s what she had to say.

Thanks for inviting me back to your blog to answer some more questions about the “Love Letters Aren’t Just For Lovers” campaign. It’s nice to be back!

For those who didn’t read my original post, there’s background on my website here, but in a nutshell, I recently got really inspired by the idea of love letters.

I decided to launch a Love Letters Aren’t Just For Lovers campaign, as an extension of my business Firefly Creative Writing. I ran a series of free love letter writing workshops, hosted a large love letter contest,  and created a love letter reading event for some of the participants, and then, last week, I launched the final stage – a love letter e-class. It’s been a beautiful whirlwind of love!

Here’s a little about what I learned…

1) What was the response to the contest?

Oh my goodness Tad, it was unbelievable!

I received a constant stream of letters through the fall, from all over Canada, as well as India, New Zealand and the UK. I received letters to babies and grandparents, sisters and mentors, tennis partners, old friends. One woman write to her childhood horse. One wrote to the colony of raccoons that had lived outside her window when she was a girl, who made her feel less alone. One wrote to her breasts, the morning that she was going in for breast-reduction surgery.

The volume, and the depth, of the words of love that rolled into my mailbox was astounding.

Mainly, word traveled through word-of-mouth and facebook posts. I also bought some facebook ad’s and some google ad’s to carry the message further.

2) I noticed you added a jury prize vs. just the top three – why was that?

Well, this was interesting… On the night that the jury met, we had no idea how we’d judge the letters. To be honest, we all felt it was incredibly counter-intuitive to choose favorites. The jury members are all veterans of my writing workshops, were writing is never judged, but rather deeply appreciated, so these jurors had all built their abilities to deeply hear and love writing, rather than approaching it with a sense of competition or critique. Suddenly we had to pick favorites, and we were all a little thrown.

I could feel the nervousness rising in my living room as they settled in. After a little warming up and some red wine, I had them each write down their favourite three letters, and then they took turns telling (and often passionately defending) what was on their list.

Two things became immediately clear. First, they all had different tastes. Many letters were discussed. Second, there were three letters which rose quickly to the top as unanimous favorites.

The top three – Letter To Baby, Dear J and To My First Love – were on almost every list. Statistically, there was no question – these were the jury’s choices.

However, no one would have walked home satisfied with only three letters to honor. So, I had each of the juror’s choose their own special favorite.

In the end, it was a beautiful and very natural process. We hated to leave anyone out, but I was mostly pleased with the decisions that were made.

Also, I was able to honor more of the letters in the public reading I hosted on February 13th here in Toronto, and more still in the letters I bought the rights to use as examples in the Love Letters Aren’t Just For Lovers e-class.

3) how, if at all, do you think this contest will help you make more money and grow your business?

It’s funny, Tad, I feel a real resistance to answering this question! Hunh! I think it’s because the project was born out of a moment of innocence and inspiration; I kinda hate to cast it in the light of gain and capital. But, capital is the currency we live within, and this is a marketing website, so let me see…

1. Fundamentally, the campaign carved out safe space for me to connect to people’s tenderness. This is what my work is based on – connecting to tenderness. Of course, people tend to feel a lot of resistance to that! I hear from people all the time that the reason they didn’t sign up sooner for a workshop or correspondence class with me was fear. And yet, they almost always wish they’d conquered that fear earlier.

Through the one-off workshops and the contest, and even the reading, I allowed people to step past their fear, into that tender space, in small, not-too-threatening ways. Although I didn’t plan it, I’d imagine that the “foot in the door” phenomenon was happening – I made tiny, positive connections with people who might later take the next step, and sign up for a workshop or correspondence class, or one-on-one coaching.

2. It also gave me a hip, grippy way of explaining what I do. Take you, for example. I met you in October at one of your networking events. You asked what I do, and I, typically shy to talk about myself, mumbled, “I teach creative writing” Hello: boring! You glanced over my shoulder to where appetizers were being passes out. I almost lost you. Somehow, though, the conversation wound around to the love letters, and your eyes lit up. “I am running a love letter contest”… That’s worth listening to. You were back.

3. Finally, I did turn this into a product. I distilled all of what I learned through the fall into my first purely on-line class, a seven week self-guided journey in writing love letters, available through my website. In the e-class I’m aiming to translate some of the warmth and safety I created in the love letter workshops to an on-line environment. The contest,  workshops and reading were all free-of-cost, but the e-class is $40. I’m proud and excited to share it.

4) favourite part of the process for you?

To answer this question I need to get personal.

I’m a dweller of the deeps. I feel things in passionate and sometimes-devastating ways. I have a hard time, often, living in a world of small talk. I’m always trying to get under the surface.

This contest gave me the opportunity to feel deeply,  every day,  and to connect to others from that place. From the empathy and sadness I felt when I first read “Letter to Baby”, which tells the story of the author’s journey into first-tine conception and miscarriage, to the joyful nostalgia of first love that bubbled up in “Dear J” and “To The One Who Got Away” (all of these are available to read here) – I was swimming in a deep sea of joy, angst and truth-telling. I love it down there.

5) biggest lessons?

Ah, just this:

Do what you love.

Do what you love.

Do what you love.

This project was an incredible amount of work, mental, financial, emotional. I spent hours replying to letters, answering questions, figuring out new html code, acquiring contest prizes, organizing the jury… Oh, the list is endless. And yet here I am, on the other side of it, and I wouldn’t trade one minute.

It may not have been practical in a purely financial field (yet… The e-class is available to anyone in the English-speaking world with an internet connection…) but it let me be myself, no compromises, doing what I do best. This, to me, is the epitome of self-employment.

Thanks again, Tad! Your interest and enthusiasm was one of the strong winds that helped move this project forward, into the right hands and hearts. You are an amazing weaver of community and I’m grateful for it.

Ever warmly,



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jewelry marketing genius

A few months back, when I was in Toronto, I met a woman named Jane Dallin (pictured right) who sold jewelry.

The more we spoke the more impressed I was with her marketing street smarts and hustle. Somehow, it came out, she’d managed to get the hosts of MTV’s shows to be wearing her stuff. Say what?

She also clearly had a very solid intuitive understanding of niche marketing based of the separate lines of jewelry that she sold.

I asked her some questions and she gave me some answers. And here it is.

company name?

SOOS Rocks


what do you sell?

We sell hand-made designer fashion jewelry for men & women.  Using stainless steel, vintage brasses, found objects, and semi-precious stones we create necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and more.

SOOS Rocks has 3 main collections:  House of Rock which is our unisex line that is geared towards men & women that are looking for slightly edgier pieces that are inspired by rock music, urban culture, and individuality.

Our Duchess collection is more girly and frivolous and is inspired by childhood keepsakes, and antiquities, and lastly our Believe line is based in world religions, spirituality, and what inspires people.

how did you market your jewelry when you first started?

When Bryn (Bryn Nihill) and I (Jane Dallin) first started out we marketed our jewelry quite literally at the base level.  Making local appointments with small independent stores, showing them our wares, and growing the brand slowly.  We made sure to be accommodating to buyer’s budgets, and didn’t have any minimum orders so that it would be easier on a retail store, allowing us to establish some initial roots.

how did you land the MTV gig? and what has resulted from that?

We heard through our friend that worked in the accounting department at MTV that the stylist for all the hosts of the shows were looking for a new accessories provider.

We packed up our samples and immediately headed over.

We armed ourselves with everything we thought would be perfect for the genre and managed to land a short meeting with the stylist.  After showing our line, and chatting about how we thought that SOOS Rocks was a great fit for them, they agreed to use our jewelry!

We are also extremely flexible and made them aware of that.  We then set up a time to go in and showcase our complete line to everyone there and have them select the looks that each host wanted.  It was a great pairing, and we built a solid relationship with a lot of people at MTV as a whole.

This has allowed us access to a number of special events, and intern, we have met many celebrities and musicians that we have were able to get our jewelry on!  This was especially great for our American customers who seem to be a bit more interested in celebrity culture, where “who’s wearing” your goods holds a lot more weight.

how do you get famous people, iinfluencers and hubs to wear your stuff? and what’s the impact of that?

I think the best way to get celebrities, and influencers to wear your product is to create as many relationships as you can.

When you have an opportunity to socialize and meet new people in design, media, film etc. you need to make sure that you take it, and don’t shy away.  Be it going to certain galas held by art institutions, film events, launch parties, CD releases etc., and if you see someone that you consider to be an influencer, then you need to walk right up to them and introduce yourself and go from there!  Also, I think it’s great to be involved with charities and special events.

Organizers and PR companies are always looking for ways to impress their clients, and if you become their “go to” resource for “gifting” the rewards can be colossal!  We’ve met a lot of editors, actors, and people who are interested in new and exciting things by donating, participating, and contributing as individuals, and as designers.

Offer your product as a prize, an auction item, and always look the part too!  If you are decked out in your goods people usually notice and want to inquire about who you are and what you do!  It can result in magazine features, television appearances, and ultimately sales!

why do you think most jewelers struggle so much with marketing their stuff?

I think most jewelry designers struggle with marketing their work because they are used to operating behind the scenes for the most part.

When you have a passion that you would like to turn into a business you have to wear many “hats” and if you never fancied yourself an entrepreneur you may become overwhelmed by all the hoops you are finding yourself jumping through just to get things off the ground!  A lot of designers love to design and wish they could leave the business side of things to someone else.

This might mean partnering up with someone that is excited to market your product, where you can create a successful business for the both of you.  But, if it’s you, and you alone, just take things slow.  Don’t get overwhelmed, and think of the top 5 things you can do get your goods out into the world, and put goals in place to make that happen.  Slow and steady always wins the race.

what’s your take on Etsy?

I think Etsy is a great venue for people to sell their designs because it gets their work in front of a broader audience.

Etsy is especially great for one-of-a-kind pieces, or vintage findings, and is a relatively seamless way to show as much work as possible!  It is also a great space for designers who sell a niche product.  For example if your designs are more eccentric and you are unsure of where your product fits in a traditional retail environment, Etsy allows you an entrance into a huge marketplace, and the possibility to make some great money!

I think designers could definitely benefit from taking some time to comb through all the intricacies of the site, as there is a lot of information on there about how to become a top seller!

any other advice for other jewelry makers and crafters?

I think the best advice I could give to artisans and designers is to keep creating what you love, be as proud as a peacock for taking the road less traveled, and start getting the word out as best you can!  Create an on-line presence for yourself, keep getting your goods in front of as many people as possible, and continue making as many connections as you can.

It will pay off in the end, as everyone loves to brag about the amazing things they’ve found, and the cool people who are making them.


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Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program



There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving

One of the best books I’ve ever read on marketing is Monopolize Your Marketplace. I’ve read dozens of books on marketing and this is one of the few ‘must haves’ for a marketing collection. Truly. I might just reread it soon actually. It’s one of the best organized and well structured and through books on marketing (full of great stories and examples I still share in my marketing workshops to this date). The tone is way more aggressive and the lense is far more capitalist then I’m personally into – but the content is 100% gold. In this post – Rich gives some down to earth and brilliant advice to artists and art fairs everywhere.
There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving
By Rich Harshaw of Monopolize Your Marketplace

Here we go once again with “random pieces of marketing coolness that I just felt like you needed to know.” There’s no unifying theme, no particular order, and no detailed “how to” prescription. Just a quick 10 minute read that will definitely spark some money-making thoughts in your mind. Have fun!

There’s A Reason Those Artists Are Starving: My 14-year old daughter is a budding artist, and if I don’t say so myself, she’s really good. So when she asked me to take her to a local art festival, “Art In The Square,” on Saturday after lunch, I said, “Let’s go.” The weather was perfect and the place was jam-packed with hundreds of local lookers. As we meandered from booth to booth checking out everything from wicked cool windmills to unbelievable oil paintings, I overheard one of the artists tell someone that he “did 35 of these shows a year and covered 45,000 miles to do it.”

Holy crap. That’s not a weekend hobby. That’s a lifestyle.

And this wasn’t the “starving artist” convention, either. These were professional artists with really good stuff with price tags to prove it. But in the two hours we were there, I only saw one person carrying a purchased painting under their arm, and I didn’t see anyone else who appeared to be in “seriously ready to buy something” mode. It was, it seemed, a festival full of window shoppers, price gawkers, and lookie-loos.

Most of us—take me, for instance—didn’t even know the darn thing was going on until 57 minutes before we showed up. Even though I saw several artists’ work that I found interesting, I simply wasn’t ready to plunk down $450 on an impulse buy.

So did the art show organizers or the artists themselves make it easy for me to find them and sample their wares later?Of course not! That would make too much sense! Nobody had a card to fill in. Nobody offered a postcard-sized print of their work with a Web address on the back for future browsing. Nobody had a contest for a free print (so that names and email address could be collected). They all simply hoped and prayed that I’d whip out my checkbook on the spot and give them money—essentially on a whim. Talk about underleveraged.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. The festival organizers did no favors for the road-weary artists, either. There was no guide available telling me which artists were where and what they did. There was no list of names. There was no contact information. There was nothing. Even their website only had a listing by names—but no links to artist websites, no way to tell which artist was which. Nothing. Useless. Worthless. Highly disappointing. And extremely underleveraged. I couldn’t even figure out which artist had the wicked cool windmills to show you. Sorry, their bad. You’ll have to settle for my crummy phone picture.

Major marketing mistake #4 is failure to have an offer. And it is killing these guys. A very simple strategy of postcard-sized prints or even a mini-catalog of their art would allow these guys to build up an email list of (I’m guessing here) 200 to 500 people per show that cared enough about that particular artist’s stuff to fork over their contact information. Multiply that by 35 shows a year and you’re talking 7,000 to 17,500 people on an email list. They could be sent special offers. They could be sent paintings of the week. They could be reminded NEXT YEAR when the art show returned—thereby guaranteeing bigger on-site sales from email recipients who would then be actually anticipating their return… and showing up with that fat wallet, ready and eager to buy.

On the other hand, maybe they really are (truly) starving artists—and prefer to stay that way.


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A Tale of Two Paintings – A Cautionary Story of Word of Mouth Marketing

It was the best of marketing. It was the worst of marketing.

I just got a new painting today. A gift.

The painting (pictured on the right) is simple, bright and beautiful. I really like it. And I think my friends will too.

Some backstory:

Back in July, I posted a blog about a thought I’ve had for years for painters to market their stuff.

And then, a few days ago, I had a consult with a local artist and energy worker, Deb MacKlem. And she took this idea and ran with it. I’ll be writing more about her in another blog.

So that’s the first painting in our ‘Tale of Two Paintings’.

But I have another painting (pictured on the left). Everyone loves it too. Most of the people who come into my home see it and comment on it.

Here’s what both of these paintings have in common. People love them. And I’ve personally met both the artists and liked them as people – I want to support them.

But the artist of the red and fiery painting that sits above my fireplace is never, ever going to get any business from me.

Deb will. Lots I bet.

Here’s why (and the truth is a bit heart breaking).

The red painting was actually the first painting I’ve ever bought. I saw it at Remedy Cafe in Edmonton and was immediately struck by it. One of those visceral ‘i need to have that’ feelings. I got to talking with the artist (alright – so I was flirting with her but she did turn out to be the artist). I asked her to hold the painting while I ran to the ATM to get her some cash (only $120 for such an amazing painting!). We arranged that she’d deliver it to my place in a few days. The conversation went something like this . . .

“Do you have any business cards?” I asked. I intended to put them behind the frame on the little ledge. No one would see them but they’d be there so I could spread the word about her brilliance.

“No.” she said.

“A website?”

“Not yet,” she replied hopefully.

“Okay. No worries. When you drop it off, just make sure you leave your email so I can tell people how to reach you.”


And we shook on it.

A few days later she dropped off the painting. And left. Without giving me her info. Her info is nowhere on the painting. I have no way of reaching her. I have no idea who she even is anymore.

So, consider the word of mouth marketing dynamic here.

People are coming to my place. They trust me. We’re friends. They see a painting they love. We talk about it. Note that: word of mouth is happening. But she will never, ever, ever get any business from it. Word of mouth isn’t enough.

For word of mouth to work best, three things must be in place.

1) It must be remarkable. You want people to make remarks about your work? Make it worthy of remark. Make it cool. Make it interesting. Make it worth talking about. Her painting succeeds here. It’s striking. People love it.

2) It must be easy. This is where she fails. It’s not only ‘not easy’ for me to spread the word, it’s impossible. Don’t make it difficult for people.

3) You must make it worthwhile. On the most basic level, this means thanking people for spreading the word. This means tracking where people heard about you. This means being gracious. Again – she can’t do this because I can’t send her business.

Here’s the story of the second ‘Sun’ painting.

Deb Macklem booked a coaching session with me. During which we talked about how she could promote her paintings. I gave her a bunch of ideas, including the one from this blog I wrote.

After the call, I got an email from her, offering to give me one of her paintings for free.

And Deb’s no fool. Her giving me that free painting will likely make her hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the years. Why? Because, I host a lot of parties at my place. I have guests over often. And her painting is the first thing they see as they walk in. And many of them will ask about it. And then I’ll tell them. Plus, here I am writing about this painting on my blog and tell you about it and encouraging you to check out her facebook page.

Here’s what Deb’s painting does much better from a marketing perspective.

First of all, there’s a whole story behind it of how I got it. Which I’ve just told you.

Second of all, it’s tied to a cool project – there’s a nice story there. There’s the story of how her paints the sun because the sun gives freely, is abundant and the perfect symbol for her this kind of endless, life affirming generosity. And the project has an easy to remember name. The Abundance Project. Easy to search. Easy to find.

The Back of The Sun Photo

Thirdly, it’s got these stones in the back of it which each have a meaning. Each one represents something that everyone wants an abundance of: wealth, health, protection, unconditional love. The stones are there to help draw these things to you. It’s very cool, so, of course, I want to show it off and tell them all about it. It’s something unique and conversation worthy.

Fourthly, she’s given me some word of mouth materials. Her cards to pass on. So, if someone likes the painting and the story, I can reach behind and pass on her info. The word of mouth is supported by promo materials that are right there at the point of conversation. Smart.

Fifthly, she’s given me some stuff to read which can educate me even more. The more I know about her project and the painting – the better I can talk about it and sound smart to my friends. People like to sound smart.

Sixthly, she’s going to be inviting me to her party that’s coming up in a bit – so she’s building a relationship with me over time.

All of these add up to more word of mouth (and thus more business) for her.

Two paintings – one will act as a marketing piece that will make her more and more money over time. The other will make her no money.

Which painting do you want YOUR business to be?


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Live Performing Arts vs. The Internet

Here’s a marketing challenge: why should people pay for live theatre when they can just surf the internet for hours?

Arts administrator and live-theater fan Ben Cameron looks at the state of the live arts — asking: How can the magic of live theater, live music, live dance compete with the always-on Internet? At TEDxYYC, he offers a bold look forward.


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Word of Mouth in Action: Glowing Crystal Jewelry

Why do people wear jewelry?

Sure, to look beautiful.

But what are they secretly looking for?


They want comments about it.

Well my friend Dylan Toymaker of makes jewelry that gets comments.

Each piece is made out of brass wiring and recycled computer parts around a central crystal.  They’re really stunning and almost never fail to start conversations. That’s a wonderful feeling for the person wearing it – but it’s even better for Dylan who makes them. After all, those conversations are all about him. But he does one more thing that makes his jewelry even more visible and therefore more likely to attract attention and generate conversation. Each circular silver necklace has a battery and led light in it. The battery is tastefully inset into the jewelry so it blends is as part of it. The glow different colours. Glowing crystal jewelry.

The more visible your product can be the more conversation it will create.

But here’s his challenge – how do people find him? What’s the mechanism that people use to spread the word about his jewelry? In his case (and 99% of cases) his clients aren’t going to carry around his business card. And he has no storefront.

That basically leaves us with his website.Or at least what his website USED to be.

Take a look at it:

Would you ever remember that? If you did, you think you’d spell it right everytime? No and no.

The mechanism must be easy. He changed it to Much better.


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Word of Mouth in Action: For Artists & Painters

I’ve never tried this one but I bet it would work great.

Have you ever been at someone’s house and seen a painting or piece of art that really floored you?

My friend Jordanna Rachinsky‘s paintings blow me away. You probably have your own favourite local artist. Or a piece of art you saw that stunned you.

When you first saw it, you commented on it, didn’t you?

And that started a conversation which lasted maybe a minute.

Can you remember the name of the artist?

Did you even find out?

Did you then go and buy a piece of art from them?


But imagine this: you go to buy a painting and the artist or gallery owner says to you, “You know, most of our business comes from word of mouth. Our most frequent exposure happens in living rooms all around this city. Often times, people express interest in our paintings but we can’t be there to answer their questions or show them others. If you’d be willing to let us place this small, tasteful and totally invisible business card holder behind the painting – no one will ever see it – we’d love to take off $50 from the painting as our way of saying thanks. The cards have a special offer on it for those who express interest in it. They basically say, “Thank you so much for expressing interest in one of our paintings. As our way of thanking you for your interest, we’d like to offer you three free 2’x2’ full colour prints. Come to our Gallery/website and you can choose them yourself. There’s no pressure to buy anything – it’s just a chance to take them home and try putting them up in different places to see if what we have to offer is a fit for your home. If not, feel free to pass the prints onto your friends.” Would you be willing to do that?”

Most people won’t mind at all.

After all, they get to give their friends a gift.

The last card is a reminder to call and get more plus a bonus gift for having passed our all the cards as a thanks. It’s a surprise when they call. If it’s a website, the prints are shipped in poster tube @ no charge with a sheet of tips on lighting, placement and colour coordination (or a DVD) or online videos. There’s also something that tells a story about the artist to build a relationship.

I’ve asked a few people if they would pass out the cards to people who expressed interest and the answer has been an unequivocal ‘yes!’. Most tell me they wouldn’t even need or want the discount.


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