If you’re a writer who wants to write for magazines, be a bestselling author, or have any kind of readership for your work, you’re in the creative industry, but you’re also— like it or not— in sales.
Don’t panic, however!
Artists sell differently. Artists SHOULD sell differently. And the kind of sales and marketing that works for artists is entirely different from the kind of sales and marketing that works for traditional businesses and even non-creative online businesses.
Yet, ask any business guru about sales and you’re given the same strategies and formulas to sell your art that you’re given to sell a car or a refrigerator.
It doesn’t work.
I know because I’ve been selling books and products online (not to mention articles, essays, and features) for the last fifteen years. This year, as The International Freelancer grew and we turned into a “real business” with directors and contractors, I decided to start bringing some professional advice in.
This was a mistake because I am, at heart, an artist and everything I create and sell is a part of that calling.
I launched The Finishers and taking some business advice that went against what I believed (because the gurus know what they’re talking about, right?), I priced it at $49 a month.
Today, I’m cutting down the price and doing it my way, as I envisioned it from the beginning. (More on that below.)
The Finishers membership will now be priced at an annual $199.
AND, because I love (re)launching with a bang, you will have the next week to sign up for the inaugural $99 pricing for the year.
Sign up here: http://theinternationalfreelancer.com/finishers
So, want to know why I’ve changed my pricing and what I’ve learned about selling as an artist in my 15 years online?
1. Let your instinct be your guide
The price that feels right TO YOU is always the right price, no matter what anyone, including the market, says. And here is why: You will only ever sell effectively at a price that you feel connected to. As an artist, you will be required to sell your art, whether that is a course, a self-published novel, or a painting. We are not trained salespeople nor do we have any interest in becoming so. Which means that we’re only ever going to feel comfortable selling things we believe in at the price we ourselves would have paid for it.
Ever seen authors apologize for the price of their books because their publishers set the price and they have no control over it? With The Finishers, my instinct went in a different direction from all the business advice. I took the business advice but then stopped showing up when it came time to sell.
If you resist promoting your product because you’re not 100% behind it, that’s a problem. Having a lower-priced product that you’re happy to sell is any day better than a higher-priced product that you can’t put your force behind.
2. Know what your readers want and give it to them, but honor yourself FIRST
You will never write or create anything new and genre-bending if you consistently write for the market and for the readers, especially if you’re dulling down your own true voice in the process.
Steve Jobs once said, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” As a creator, this will become your mantra. Sure, you can sell articles, books, courses, and digital products based on customer research and what people want, but I now run a six-figure business and it all started with a course called 30 Days, 30 Queries, which no one would have “wanted.” Indeed, before I launched it, experienced writers told me that no one wanted to send 30 queries in a month and that it wasn’t even possible. Now it’s one of the best-known, highest-recommend, and most-loved courses on querying online.
The Finishers has really taken off as a community and I consistently get feedback saying that it’s helping people do things that they’ve never done before and stay committed to goals in ways they never have before, but I didn’t create the community based on feedback from readers. I wanted to be part of a community of writers I adored, couldn’t find something that worked for me, and so I created one.
I fulfilled my own vision first.
3. Make it so good, they can’t say no
Listen, I completely understand and agree that if people can pay $9.99 for Netflix and $14.99 for a family Spotify account, they can and should certainly pay $49 for a membership that will give them all the resources they will ever need to change their life and career. And I’m with you. That’s exactly how I feel about The Finishers. I cannot say strongly enough how much value I am putting in there and intending to over the next year but here is something I have learned and that you need to remember, too: When people invest in Netflix and Spotify, they are being passive. It is entertainment. It is mindless.
What you’re asking them to do with your novel and what I’m asking them to do with The Finishers is actually pay me so I can put them to work. Will it help them in the long run? Yes, of course. Will it change their life? I believe so.
But that’s logic. Sales are never made on logic. They’re made using emotion.
So yes, you have to throw everything you have at your product, your course, and your book. Because not only are you competing with those easier options, you’re asking for more effort on top of it as well.
4. Believe passionately in what you’re saying, doing, and offering
When you believe in something, the sales material pretty much writes itself. I don’t have to “sell” you on The Finishers, any of my books, or my courses because I’m so excited about launching them and putting them on the market. To me, it seems more like coming online to tell a bunch of writers I really care about and want to succeed about things that I know and can teach them that will help them to do so too. To me, telling you about The Finishers doesn’t seem like selling because I’m so excited to tell you all the cool stuff we’re doing in there, such as creating an online co-working space and doing weekly Q&As and giving you a bunch of my courses for free (five so far!)
I want you to come and join us in our accountability and the behind-the-scenes conversations we’re having about what agents want and how I’m working with my editor and what telling my story has REALLY been like in terms of dealing with family. I WANT to share this stuff with you because I know it will help you. Why would I NOT want to tell you about it?
When you care about what you publish and promote, you won’t worry about being “too salesy.” You will go the extra mile and push yourself and say things like, “You must buy this book” because you truly believe that the people you’re talking to must buy this book. You’re confident that it will help them and when you truly believe that, saying it won’t be hard at all.
5. Provide value even when you sell
Every sales message that you put out there— every single one— should have some value beyond just the sales message. If you look at the way I sell, you will see that every single time I sell, I also offer something of value. I write a blog post such as this one that gives you insight into why I’m selling or how I’m doing it or I will share with you the story behind the product or I will just give you some of my best advice and show you where to find more.
Because here’s the thing: Am I interested in having you buy from me? Sure, of course I am. The products that I typically offer will help you create a fulfilling career and a fulfilling life. Why would I NOT want you to buy something that will show you how to create a writing career that’s fulfilling, makes you money, and gives you freedom?
But am I interested in selling to you? Nope. I’m interesting in telling you stories, I’m interested in having you read my work, I’m interested in being the best writer I can be and having a wide readership for that work. I’m interested in sharing those things with you if you’re resonating with them. So I give you those stories, my work, and some of my most personal writing and if you feel like you want more of that, I give you the option to buy it. Easy for me, easy for you. No sales “tactics” necessary.
The most important thing to remember here is to know who you’re writing for. Don’t dumb down your work for hundreds of thousands of people in the mass audience. Write for YOUR people, the unique subset of people who will resonate with what you do and believe in the same truths that you believe in. Write for yourself. Write what is true for you. Your tribe will find you. The people who resonate will stick around. The people who find meaning in your work will support you and continue to do so with whatever you create and publish because it is not your product that they’re buying, but your vision.
Don’t be a company, be a PERSON. Be an artist.
Most artists start acting corporate and what they consider to be “businesslike” when they realize they need to start selling. That is a big mistake.
To sell like an artist, first be an artist.
Delight your small audience. They will carry you and your work if you believe in it and allow them to share in it.
6. Always practice integrity in selling
You can always find someone ready to criticize your work and your prices. Just make sure that person isn’t you. You can stand true in your products and in your pricing if you remain a person of your word and stay consistent in everything you believe in. Here’s an example: I teach my students to charge what they’re worth. I show them how to create the best, most authentic, most original work possible. I show them how to find stories no one is telling. And I show them how to get the best possible rate for that work. I encourage them not to undersell themselves.
So if I preach charging what you’re worth and honoring your work and your gifts, how hypocritical and inauthentic would it be for me to not do the same?
How ludicrous would it be for me to give away for free things that I know will change your life? How inauthentic of me as a teacher to not show you the ways in which I can teach?
I never worry about what people think of my work or my pricing because I stand firmly by everything I create and what I charge.
And if ever that rare circumstance occurs where I feel I’ve made a mistake in charging either too much or too little, I fix it, just like I’m currently doing with The Finishers.
7. Your opinion is the only one that matters
Know your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with this project and what do you need to do in order to sell it in a way that helps you achieve your goals?
Be true to you. What is YOUR vision? What is YOUR priority? What is YOUR ideal in this situation?
The market may have something different to say but don’t forget what I said at the beginning— you’re an artist. Follow your gut, both when it comes to the creation of your work and when it comes to how you sell it, and you can’t possibly go wrong.
With The Finishers, in the end, this is what it came down to. My business friends and coaches were interested in ensuring that I earned the most money possible from this venture.
That’s not my priority, however. My priority was to create an amazing, kickass community, where writers come together to talk art and business and sales and productivity and where we could all hang out and help each other soar. I realized after a certain point that not only was the $49 a month prohibitive for my readers who need this community the most but also for me— I’m interesting in spending all my time being part of the community and sharing what I know, not constantly hustling to get new members.
I want a group of 1,000 Finishers who help each other, motivate each other, push each other on and share stories, anecdotes and secrets that will help us all succeed.
I’m already sharing behind-the-scenes details of working with an editor on my book, finding an agent, sending query letters, negotiating with New York Times editors, and lots more.
I think The Finishers will become one of the biggest, best, most supportive, and highest-paid communities of writers on the Internet— writers who create incredible works of art and get paid highly for them.
And so I want to make it accessible.
That is why membership to The Finishers will now be $199 a year.
And for this week only, I’m offering a 50% discount on that as well.
If you sign up at the $99 price, you will be grandfathered in, which means that for as long as you stay a member of The Finishers, you will be charged $99 annually.
Next week, the price doubles.
If you’re looking for a community of writers who have your back, who will push you to do your best, hold you accountable when you procrastinate, and empathize when you fail, you can find no better place than The Finishers.
Sign up here: http://theinternationalfreelancer.com/finishers
The $99 pricing goes away on Sunday, July 23, 11.59 p.m. EST.