Getting Down to Business: Research your Market & Develop a Plan

 

Now that you’ve determined who you are, what you want and how you’re going to get there, it’s time to find out how you’re going to earn your daily bread along the way. Who’s going to pay you for having such a great life?

The primary lesson here is that it’s not about what you want, it’s what the world wants. Even the people who love you don’t want your trinkets; what they want is comfort and happiness. If their basic needs aren’t met, they’re certainly not going to care about what you want. Instead, when you fulfill other peoples’ needs with a skill you enjoy sharing, then you’re meeting the mark. Your work is incomplete without a recipient. This is a reciprocal relationship; are you making the connection?

 

How can you add value to your relationships with your unique skills? Determine the ways you are an expert in your world. What knowledge and skills have you developed that exceed those of the people around you? Compare your expertise to your audience; be a teacher by enticing others to learn: fascinate, engage and connect. Take confidence in what you know, establish yourself with credibility and reliability. Trust breeds trust, so be trustworthy!

 

What does the world want and expect from you? Answer the 5Ws+H (who-what-where-when-why-how) for both their expectations and what you’re willing to offer. In what ways can you align them to achieve mutual satisfaction?

 

How can you develop the goods and services that customers would be willing to pay you for? You may want to build your clientele with the ancient barter system. Does that carpool mom grant you a free hour by picking up your children? Honor her with your work, being sensitive to her needs. Offer something of worth to reciprocate.

 

You must be willing to start small. As the savvy teenager gets his foot in the door by dusting the displays in his favorite gallery, humble yourself in order to establish a credible reputation. Nurture relationships with people who will challenge and respect you, being aware of peoples’ needs, and considering how your unique skills can fill this niche.

 

Start out right where you are. Looking for markets far from home can be very enticing--Resist! The grass may be so much greener in Paris, but it's exhausting and expensive to expand before you've built a strong foundation of knowledge and experience. Don’t overlook the opportunities that are right in front of you. Look at that same place from a different angle. Granted, the 3 most important elements of the successful business are location, location, location, but as you must start somewhere, put your feet in one place and learn to balance.

 

Do your homework: how much are people paying for similar goods and services? Have conversations with people you respect about what you can offer, and listen carefully to the responses. Afterward, consider the appropriateness and relativity of what you’ve learned. You can adapt your skills without compromising your values.

 

For example, all of the lovely compliments about my oil paintings weren’t selling the canvases. Expatriates and university students need luggage that will go the distance, not an investment in beauty to pass through the generations. What they need is a portable Provence. Postcards and posters make more realistic gifts and souvenirs for this market, and thankfully, the options for diversity are greater than ever before. High-quality images of my work and the Internet were my investment that’s returning in high-volume sales, as opposed to selling a few higher-priced pieces.


Other options include the art licensing business, in which I will find a company that will lease the rights to my work. This requires a visit to the local art and tourism industry trade fairs, seeking out directories and industry publications, as well as exploring retailers and finding the manufactures of copyrighted items. I will compile various themed portfolios of 20 designs each. You can do the same with your unique goods and services. Find out what the rest of your community is doing with their skills. What have they got that you haven’t, and likewise, what do you have that they’re missing?

As you develop an understanding of your place in the scheme of things, you will begin to determine appropriate pricing of your work. It makes sense to make your work more available to the masses from the beginning. The feedback of increased sales will indicate when it’s time to raise prices.

 

Keep your pricing straightforward and easy to quote. The work you offer from your website or home should not be cheaper than your gallery or other intermediary source. Respect the work of the salesperson who serves you, keeping in mind that this, too, is an important relationship. Understand one another’s expectations and communicate your needs for mutual benefit.

 

Don’t put a skyrocket price tag on an item that is priceless to you. Instead, keep it as your own investment. Dwell on it as often and for as long as you like. Come to an understanding as to why this is such a precious piece. What makes this work so much better than the rest? Let it inspire you to do similar great work. In time, you will know when it’s time to let it go (if ever), and subsequently, you will see all your work rise to this higher standard.

 

Start small and start realistic, and start today. Celebrate your expertise! What can you give away that you want to see come back tenfold? It is reasonable to expect payment for your work. The challenge is to negotiate a fair trade. How will you bless the world today?

 

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