Nobody Talks About This

This success myth will chew you up if you let it.

Written by Clare

You know what?

You should cut yourself some slack.

I mean it. Consider this a great big permission slip to ease up on yourself. And maybe have a hazelnut latte.

Look, you read Indie Retail Academy because you want to be a big, shiny wholesale success, right? You’ve looked around and decided you want to be just like that artist, or that one. Creative people who’ve clearly got it all figured out.

I thought so. Now answer me this.

When things aren’t going so well, when they’re painful, exhausting, frightening or eye-squinchingly frustrating, what’s the first thought that runs through your head?

If you’re like most of my students and clients, it’s:

This is all my fault.

You almost certainly think that you should be working harder, faster and longer. That if you aren’t waving off stacks of orders at the post office every day, it’s all down to you.

And maybe it is.

If we got on the phone for a consulting call right now, we could probably identify a dozen specific things you can do to make it easier for shopkeepers to buy your work. But that’s not the whole story.

Because when creative people say “This is all my fault” in relation to their business they often mean something else. And it’s not just about fixing their wholesale catalogue or putting in more hours at the studio.

What they’re really saying is “I’m not the shiny, successful type of artist. At a fundamental level, I simply haven’t got it in me to make this work.”


Quick! Slam the glass down! Don’t let it get away!

Oh, excellent. I’ve been trying to capture this particular specimen for quite some time. Now that we’ve caught one, let’s take a closer look.

This species of monster is very common among artists. It often shows up as the haunting idea that you just can’t “do” business. That no matter how hard you try, it’ll never work out for you because your brain simply isn’t wired that way.

It’s not who you are.

And the artists who are successful? Well, they’re the lucky few. Somehow, through fate, circumstance or because they’re special, they made it. But they’re the exceptions. Because as we saw, at a cellular level, this is all your fault.

Usually I throw these guys out of the nearest window. In this case, however, I’m tempted to buy the pernicious little git a plane ticket to Siberia. He can drift about the tundra, making rock ptarmigans and rough-legged buzzards feel bad about themselves.

[Read: Advice for the stressed and overwhelmed]

Because here’s the thing about success.

You know those artists you admire? The ones you see on twitter, announcing their latest partnership with a fancy store? Or on facebook, promoting their prestigious solo show and saying how they feel incredibly blessed?

They’ve been where you are now, and they don’t want to talk about it.

They don’t want to remember the mornings they woke up feeling afraid or the moments of black despair. They won’t share the painful stuff, or the humiliating mistakes, or the long blank days when they only kept going because they simply didn’t know what else to do.

They won’t tell you that it hurt.

You might therefore imagine that their journey was a smooth, perfumed glide – when it was actually an undignified, bewildered crawl. Some days, at least.

People want to show the best of themselves. When we finally get to where we want to be, we tend to cover up our scrapes and bruises and move on.

If you’re not careful, you can be fooled into thinking the polished, edited version of someone you admire is real, and draw some pretty bleak comparisons with your own situation.

So, not got it all figured out yet?

Congratulations. You’re keeping up a fine tradition.

Blow a foam-hole in your latte and give yourself a great big break. Don’t beat yourself up if your wholesale business isn’t yet a success.

Because, believe me, the artists you look up to aren’t some rare breed – they just survived the crappy times and eventually made it work.

You can too.

Clare Yuille Bio Picture

Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.

Worry less. Sell more.