Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Nick Gray on Turning Your Hobby Into a Business, Standing Out in a Crowded Market, and Being a Leader – Cracking Creativity Episode 92

Nick Gray is the founder of Museum Hack, a twist on the traditional museum experience. The funny thing about Nick is, he used to hate museums. That is until he went on a date that forever changed his life.

During a snowy day in NYC, a girl brought him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and showed him artifacts, furniture, and other interesting things in the museum. This changed Nick’s perception of what a museum tour could be. That’s when he started frequenting the MET, and learned to love museums.

The first time Nick charged for a museum tour, he even tried to give money back to the people who took it. He had so much fun with the tour that he thought he shouldn’t charge people for it.

“The first tour that I actually charged money for, it was a Sunday morning tour at 11 in the morning, and I was like ‘Alright I’ll just see if I can charge money. I’ll charge them $20. See if they come.’ And everyone gave me their cash, and I gave them the tour. And I had so much fun Kevin, I had so much fun, that at the end of the tour, I think I freaked everybody out because I gave them all of their money back. And they were like ‘Why are you giving us… is this Candid Camera or something?’ and I was like “No, I had so much fun. It feels dirty for me to take your money, to do something that I love, something that I’m having so much fun with.’ So for me that was the first time I experimented, but it didn’t really go so well.”

Before Nick started Musuem Hack he was a salesman of flat screen monitors. But the success of his initial tours, and the experience he gained as a salesman, allowed him to turn his passion project into a business.

“What I think is special about what I’ve done with Museum Hack that your listeners might find fascinating, is that I took something that was a passion project, something that I just did for a hobby, for fun, and I was able to convert it and make it into a business. And my time selling these screens really taught me the importance of marketing and sales and dollar value of creating premium experiences. So for me that was really helpful.”

The thing that makes Museum Hack different from other museum tours is what Nick likes to dub the 3 G’s. While most other tours are zigging, Museum Hack is zagging.

“The three Gs. These are the three things that makes Museum Hack completely different from most museum tours. Three Gs. Number one, guides. Number two, games. and number three gossip. So it’s the tour guides that are so engaging, that are actors and educators, and science teachers, and musicians who write their own tours who are so special. That’s the guides. The games means that the tours are so fast paced. They’re ultra fast paced. They’re two to three times as fast as most museum tours. And we also do selfie challenges. We takes shots of espresso or drink some wine. And then the gossip, that’s the juicy back story. The cool stuff about the art that we like to talk about.”

Instead of trying to find people who are knowledgeable in history and museums, Nick hires guides who are good with people. Anyone can learn about art, but not everyone is good at connecting with people.

“The number one thing we look for is someone’s ability to be a good host. How is their body language? How comfortable to they make people? Do they make us laugh? That’s the most important thing. It’s not about their knowledge. It’s not about how much they know about the art history. It’s about how do they make the guests feel. Because that’s what we’re trying to do, right? We’re trying to make people comfortable and we’re trying to get them to warm up inside the space. So that’s really what we hire for first and foremost. And then we can teach them about the art. We can teach them about the museum… We hire folks that are really good with people.”

He also gives his guides the freedom to create their own tours. When you are building something yourself, you become passionate about it. So, Nick gives them the freedom to come up with their own tours and write their own scripts.

“We think that having our tour guides write their own tours is so powerful because the guests and the visitors can hear that excitement and that passion, and you can hear me talk right now, right? I’m excited. I’m pumped up. I’m jazzed to talk about my business with you, and that’s because I’m not going off a script. No one is telling me what to do. Our tour guides have to be the same way, so we let them explore the whole museum, come up with their own tours, stuff that they’re excited about and they write their own scripts.”

One would think that competing with instant gratification culture would be a detriment to Museum Hack, but it isn’t. Nick tells his guides to embrace people’s attention spans and work it into their tours.

“We’re dealing with an increasingly ADD generation. These are people that are like me that are on their phones every two or three minutes. I mean, it’s not just millenials. It’s people of all ages that have a short attention span, and we try to teach our museum friends ways to engage with that type of audience. Make it personal. Keep it fast. Don’t be afraid of smart phones. Encourage people to take selfies and pictures. Things like that.”

In a world where museums can seem stale and uninteresting, Nick has captured people’s imaginations. That sort of innovation requires curiosity, risks, and failures, and that’s exactly what he has done with Museum Hack.

“Figuring out like you did, people who have that curiosity, and people who are willing to troubleshoot and make failures, and I’m guessing the podcast hasn’t been perfect since day one, would that be a correct assumption?… That willingness to make mistakes and resourcefulness to figure things out. Those are two key things we look for.”

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Erik Young on Creativity vs. Natural Inspiration, Stealing in Art, Taking Chances, and Learning from Your Mistakes – Cracking Creativity Episode 91

Erik Young is one of my friends from high school. In this episode we broke from the normal format of the show and talked about our thoughts on creativity, inspiration, the education system, and learning from your mistakes. We also talked about some of the projects he’s worked on including his children’s book and work as owner of 7Mangos.

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Chalky White on Asking What If, Being Persistent, and Never Giving Up – Cracking Creativity Podcast Episode 90

Chalky White  grew up in an abusive household, so much so that he gave up trying in school as an act of rebellion. When he 17 he joined the police cadets where he worked with alcoholics and drug addicts. It was at this point that Chalky realized he wanted to be in service of others.

One day his friend asked Chalky if he wanted to go skiing. By saying yes to his friend’s request, Chalky unknowingly changed his life. Even though he wasn’t very good at skiing on that first trip, he was hooked.

A year after that first ski trip Chalky went to Andorra and decided to become a ski instructor. When he ran out of money, he went back to Britain to become an encyclopedia salesman just so he could go back to Andorra.

After a series of tests in Andorra, and failed attempts to become a licensed instructor, Chalky went to New Zealand to get certified. Chalky was constantly told he was never going to be good enough to be an instructor, but through persistence and his system of What If? questions, Chalky was finally able to gain his certification.

Chalky not only became a certified instructor. He also wrote his own book on skiing and became a motivational speaker through it all.

In this episode, Chalky talks about asking yourself what if, being persistent, and why continuing to try leads to success.

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Victor Yocco on Tailoring Your Message, Finding Support, and Having an Effective Website – Cracking Creativity Episode 89

Victor Yocco went to school and studied psychology and communication. After school he became a researcher for zoos and science centers, but after a while he decided he needed a change. So he asked a friend who worked at Intuitive, a design and research company, if they had any open jobs.

Even though he didn’t have any experience in design or user research, Victor found that he was a good fit for the job. His background in psychology and research allowed him to make the transition from researching zoos to researching user experience design.

The biggest obstacle Victor faced didn’t have anything to do with his new job. While everything in his professional life was going well, his battle with alcohol was not. Victor’s problem with drinking was interfering with his relationship and productivity. So he sought counseling and made a vow of sobriety. Since his pledge of sobriety, Victor has accomplished many things from articles to writing a book.

In this episode, Victor talks about why your message should change based on your platform, the importance of a support system, and the power of creating an effective website, among many other things.

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Shawn Coss on Being a Popular Artist, Defining Your Success, and Business Being Hard Work – Cracking Creativity Podcast Episode 88

Shawn Coss grew up loving cartoons, but never dreamed it could become his full-time job. He grew up in a time and place where art wasn’t considered a viable career.

His dad told him he should get a “real job” instead of pursuing his dreams. The thought was, you could only be a professional artist if you went to an art institute, or learned at Disney. Like most people who grow up in difficult financial situations, Shawn’s dad didn’t want Shawn to grow up with the same hardships he had to go through.

Shawn hit his first break when he met Kris Wilson of Cyanhide and Happiness through MySpace. Kris liked Shawn’s work so much, that he invited him to work on the C&H team.

Cyanide and Happiness provided Shawn enough financial stability to start his own clothing company, Any Means Necessary. One of the clothing company’s campaigns, Inktober, brought an influx of fans and attention.

This brings Shawn to a an exciting but difficult crossroads. Should he go all-in on his company or keep it as a side hustle.

In this episode, Shawn talks about why there’s no formula for becoming a popular artist, defining success on your own terms, and why running an art business is such hard work, among many other things.

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Derek Miller on Creative Action, Having Positive Mindsets, and Not Getting Down on Yourself – Cracking Creativity Podcast Episode 87

Derek Miller has always had a creative side to his life. As a kid he wanted to be a cartoonist, and little did he know, he would become deeply entrenched in that world as an adult through the web comic Cyanide and Happiness.

While he was in college, and a few years afterward, Derek was part of a small metal band and also ran a small music blog. He was also a part of a non-profit to help artists turn their passion into full-time jobs.

All that experience in the art world helped Derek run three successful Kickstarter campaigns at Cyanide and Happiness. Instead of treating Kickstarter like another crowdfunding tool, he treated each campaign like its own event.

After three successful Kicstarter campaigns and constantly being approached by creatives about crowdfunding, Derek decided to write a book on the topic. This led to the creation of his book Six Figure Crowdfunding.

In this episode, Derek talks about why you need to keep your creative momentum, the power of a positive mindset, and not getting down on yourself, among many other things.

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Katie Hornor on Sharing Your Gifts, Respecting People, and Defining Success – Cracking Creativity Episode 86

Katie Hornor knew from a young age that wanted to serve God. She also realized that she had a teacher’s heart, so she majored in education.

After finishing school with a degree in education and a minor in Spanish, Katie and her husband moved to Mexico as missionaries. While in Mexico she worked at a Bible college and local mission college.

But one of the most pivotal decisions in her life was deciding to home school her children. This was the moment she realized that other parents in Mexico had no resources for home schooling their children.

So, to supplement her income and help out parents who wanted to home school their children, Katie and her husband started a home school blog. Katie realized their was a massive whole in the market for home schooling in Spanish, so she filled that gap.

Her home schooling blog became so successful that bloggers started approaching her asking how she grew her business. Katie now helps teach bloggers from all over the world how to grow their blogs and businesses.

In this episode Katie talks about sharing your gifts with the world, respecting everyone even if they don’t deserve it, and defining what  success means to you.

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“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting… for something extraordinary to happen to us.”  ― Khaled Hosseini Quote Art

“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”

― Khaled Hosseini

Buy this print from Storenvy.

Great things happen to those who wait. I’ve heard this advice for as long as I can remember. This advice tells us to be patient. It tells us to persevere when things aren’t going our way. It tells us to let things sort themselves out.

While this advice is great in some situations, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand it advocates for patience, but it also builds a sense of complacency. It tells us to persevere, but it also tells us to wait our turn.

This advice makes us believe something extraordinary will happen to us if we just wait patiently enough for it. If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of waiting. I want to seize the day.

If you’re tired of waiting too, there are some things you can do about it.

Seek Out What You Want

We have two choices when it comes to getting what we want. We can wait for something good to happen to us or we can seek it out for ourselves.

If we seek what we want for ourselves, we have a much greater chance of getting it. Click To Tweet

The problem with waiting is, we are putting our fate in the hands of others. We are letting other people dictate what happens to us. But if we seek what we want for ourselves, we have a much greater chance of getting it.

Let’s say, for example, you want to get your art into a gallery. You can either wait for a gallery to approach you about exhibiting your art or you can approach the galleries yourself.

In one scenario you are waiting for something good to happen. In the other you are trying to make good things happen for yourself. Which method do you think is more likely to work?

Put in the Hard Work

Another thing we do far too often is rely on luck. We believe the only thing that separates us from those who have made it is luck.

While luck does play a role in our lives, you can’t rely on it to get what you want. What you can do is work hard and try to create your own luck.

People aren't going to find you if you don't put yourself out there. Click To Tweet

Instead of creating your art and hoping people “discover” you, seek out your audience. People aren’t going to find you if you don’t put yourself out there.

That means trying to get into galleries. It means going to shows and art fairs. It means entering competitions. It means talking to people in your local community to see if they are interested in displaying your art.

Stop waiting for your lucky break. Do the hard work and create your own luck. Click To Tweet

If you want something bad enough, you have to be willing to put in the work to get it. Stop waiting for your lucky break. Do the hard work and create your own luck.

Set Yourself Up for Success

If you really want something extraordinary to happen in your life you have to take action. That is the best way to improve your circumstances.

Unfortunately taking action won’t do enough on its own. You also have to do research. You have to be intentional. You have to be willing to experiment. You have to carry on despite your failure.

  •  Research helps you avoid mistakes others have made. Learning from others will make your path easier.
  • Being intentional is also a must. You can’t just try everything under the sun. You need to pick and choose your fights.
  • Experimentation is one of the most important things an artist can do. But you can’t just experiment with your art. You also have to experiment with your pricing, your marketing, and where you sell your work.
  • Persistence is also necessary for anyone who wants to find success. There are very few instances of people finding immediate success. Don’t let failure get you down. Learn from your mistakes and try again.

It’s Time to Get Started

There’s no better time to get started than right now. We usually wait far too long before we commit to changing our ways. Inspiration is fine, but if you don’t turn that inspiration into action, nothing will change.

Great things won’t happen unless you take matters into your own hands. Luck can only get you so far. Prepare yourself for the journey ahead and make the extraordinary happen.

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Photo by Benh LIEU SONG

Ron Dawson on the Power of Stories, Putting in the Work, Learning on the Fly – Cracking Creativity Episode 85

Ron Dawson‘s earliest experience with film came through a time traveling caper film he created when he was a kid. Unfortunately, like many creatives, “real life” aspirations took over.

Instead of following his passion for film, he followed his interest in business.  Ron’s first endeavor in business was attempting to buy and sell businesses with his cousin. Although this idea did not work out, it gave him a taste of the  business world.

After failing to launch his business buying venture, and graduating with a business degree from UC Berkley, Ron got a job at Screen Play Systems.  After some time there, he later moved up to become a business manager at Intuit.

While working for these different businesses,  Ron was also working as a wedding videographer on the side. This was a pivotal crossroads for him. He could either continue with his six-figure salary, or he could venture out on his own. Instead of continuing to work at a high paying job he didn’t love, he chose to do a job he did love, making films.

In this episode Ron talks about the power of storytelling, putting in the work, and learning on the fly among many other things.

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“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” Quote Art

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”

Buy this print from Storenvy.

Inspiration is a cruel master. It pushes us to create. It tells us what to work on. It dictates what we do.

The problem often lies in when inspiration strikes. It is a great giver, but it is also a fickle master. You can’t summon inspiration on command.

That’s why many of us have trouble coming up with our next great idea. We will spend countless hours wracking our brains for the next great idea but still come up empty handed. This brute force tactic rarely works.

You know what does work? Creating consistently and building good habits. I know what you may be thinking. You like being an artist because you are free to create whatever you want whenever you want to. You hate restrictions. You like the freedoms being an artist affords you. But this way of thinking only leads to more frustration.

The key to building a great creative practice is to build a habit around it.

Let’s take a quick look at that quote again. “I only write when inspiration strikes.” That sounds like many of us who like to create on command. But the second part of the quote is key. “Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” This seems contrary to the first statement, but it isn’t. It speaks to the fact that you can’t just pull inspiration out of thin air. Inspiration comes when you build a habit and schedule around creating.

You know a saying has merit when you can’t attribute it to a single person. In the case of this quote, it has been attributed to at least six people including William Faulkner.

These people all believed in the consistently working on your craft, whether you want to or not. They believe it is important to keep a schedule instead of waiting for inspiration to strike.

If you constantly rely on inspiration to create, you won’t create much. That’s why building a consistent habit is so important.

The time you choose to create is not important. You can start right when you wake up or right before you go to sleep. What matters is that you stick to the same time and make it a part of your daily routine.

Stop waiting for inspiration to hit. Build a habit around your creative process and inspiration will find you.

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Photo by Dariusz Sankowski

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