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Selling Without Fear: Your Branding Journey

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This is not a post about how to build your brand. If you are looking for a quick guide to branding, look elsewhere. There are professionals out there who can help you do this a whole lot more effectively than me. But be warned, if you are new to selling, there are no quick fixes. Branding is a journey. When I work with artists, this is the part I pray they have done already, because it makes my job loads easier, and I literally cannot do it for them. I can interpret their brand for my store, but I can’t give them their identity. If you have a clear idea of who you are and what your company does, it makes it a million times easier to sell your work.

This is why you need things like the following:

  • a mission statement
  • a vision statement
  • a logo
  • business cards with your logo on it
  • any pertinent labeling for your product that is consistent with your logo and business cards
  • a website
  • social media accounts that reach the right demographics and a plan for how to reach them
  • and most importantly consistent presentation across all of these
An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography
An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography

Full disclosure, to me, this is the scariest part of starting a business. This is the step that takes a lot of reflection and introspection. It takes work. Real work. It is the opposite of doing all that fun creating, but deciding how you represent what you create is just as important as creating it. And yet, this interpretation is also the part that is most often skipped or half-assed. My best guess at why artists-as-entrepreneurs, myself included, have difficulty with this step is because it can be really, really scary.

If building your business were a story, this would be the part where the hero has to confront his demons before he can go on to be victorious. That is how scary I find it. It is like Harry Potter going into the Forbidden Forest to give himself over to Voldemort scary.

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Why do I find this so scary? Because I’ve read a ton of those business branding guides. I’ve got notebooks full of notes on who I think I am and what Tiny Dino Studios could be. What I have never once seen is someone deal with the emotional side of what these guides ask you to do. They ask you to knock down all of your protective barriers. They want you to demolish the walls you’ve built around yourself, take a step back, and examine your true self. They might ask you in ways that don’t feel so navel-gazey, but for each exercise they give, they are looking for an authentic answer. No perfunctory words will do.

You are not going to be good at branding unless you are 100% honest with yourself about what you want your business to be. And if you don’t like yourself, if you are afraid of what you’ll find if you lower defenses, confronting that can be the scariest thing in the world.

jurassic trex sock yarn

It takes guts to fill out one of those brand building guides and mean every word of it. It most likely won’t be quick, and a lot of it probably won’t be fun. Don’t let fear hold you back from tackling this. Just like any business, if you put in the hard work now, it makes your life easier in the long run. Developing your brand is like a good workout, getting up the motivation might be difficult, and the work is hard while you’re in it, but the way you feel stronger afterward is worth it.

It’s OK to wrestle with yourself. It’s OK to not like yourself very much or feel inadequate or scared. It’s OK to ask for help. What’s not OK is giving up before you’ve even started. No one can do this for you. They can guide you. They can coach you, but in the end, it’s just you and Voldemort.

If it feels like too much, check out my blog and business tips pinterest board. It’s full of people who break marketing and business planning down step-by-step. I’ve also found that just because the advice is for writers or bloggers or etsy sellers, doesn’t mean it won’t be compatible with your business.

Have fun. Grow. Sell!

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Selling Without Fear: Believe You Are an Entrepreneur

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Welcome to Selling Without Fear. This is my first foray into writing about specialty retail, but I’ve been working in the field for the last ten years. My particular niche in specialty retail is seeking out up-and-coming artists in my home state and getting their work into stores. While my perspective is colored by working as a buyer for a brick and mortar store, my niche is so precise, that I meet a lot of artists who are just starting out. (For brevity’s sake, we’ll call them artists, but this applies to you, reader friend, no matter what type of work you are trying to sell.)

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One of my early yarn displays from 2012

Imagine a scenario with me. You are at your first art fair. You have a table and a display and prices on your pieces. You know your pieces rock. You are confindant in your work and you are ready to sell. Your prices seem fair, your display looks nice, and you have put in a ton of work to be there. Then, someone like me walks by. A buyer. She recognizes your genius immediately. She asks for your wholesale price sheet. If you have business cards? A website? An facebook page? She might tell you that your prices are too low. She might even say that she’d like to work with you, but if you don’t have a least one, though preferably all four of the things listed above, chances are, she’s not calling you on Monday. (Or in my case, in two or three Mondays, because that’s far behind I usually am.)

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Another early yarn display

Suddenly, all of that work you did to get to the fair doesn’t seem like enough. There’s so much more to do to, and it’s not nearly as fun as making things. And honestly, it’s a little intimidating. Do you really need all of that stuff to be successful? Maybe not, but your chances improve a whole helluva lot if you do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with an artist who wants to sell with me and the artist has said, “I don’t really know what to sell for, I’m just an artist.” No. You are not.

If you are an artist selling your work, you are a business owner.

If you want to be successful in selling your work, you need to act like a business owner. Pull on your entrepreneur boots and start thinking beyond your product.

Yes, your product is the basis of your business, but if you don’t make it easy for shoppers (the public) and buyers (people like me who are stocking store) both to buy your products, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need a wholesale price sheet. A facebook page and possibly a website. And for the love of God, please at least have a business card with your email address on it. One that you check.

Why do you need these thing? Because they make you think about your branding.

My super simple logo
My super simple logo.

Brand. Another scary businessy sounding word. Good news is, when you’re a solo entrepreneur, a maker of handmade things, designer, a seller of one of a kind goods, words, food, etc. more often than not, you are your brand, and your products are a representation of you.

Business cards are you at a glance. They should represent your style, and tell me how to contact you and where I can find you online.

A wholesale price sheet shows that you know the value of your work down to the last penny, that you are confidant in your prices, and that you consider yourself a professional, not a hobbyist. (It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist. The world doesn’t need to know that. When you are selling, you are a professional.)

A facebook page and/or website is your way to connect with an audience. Share with them. Intrigue them. Let them know where you will be or if you’re developing new products. Tell them your story. The whole point of buying handmade is to buy something with a story, to give a gift with a tangible connection. Give your audience that connection.

We’re going to talk about each of these things in turn, starting with branding, then moving into pricing, and then confidence building over the next few weeks. Ask me questions, leave comments, argue with me, and feel free to email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com.