I have to tell you something tough today: the amount of talent you have doesn’t matter very much. Whenever I have a new client sign up for Business Re-Boot Camp, I don’t spend a lot of time looking at their work. I get the first impressions that I need, and throughout our time together I’ll dig a little deeper, but from the beginning I recognize that it doesn’t matter how talented that person is. It doesn’t even really matter what field that person’s in - I could coach a photographer, a florist, heck, even a taxidermist just as easily as I could coach another stationery designer.
There will always be people less talented than you that are more successful than you, and there will likely always be someone who’s more talented than you who’s not as successful. This isn’t to say you aren’t talented at what you do, but it’s to say that talent isn’t what actually matters.
Why Doesn’t Talent Matter?
Well, first of all, talent is subjective. So there’s really no way to definitively judge who’s got “it” and who doesn’t. Sure, you should be improving, practicing, learning new techniques always, but there’s still gonna be some kind of unidentifiable factor that changes how someone might view your work. This is actually GREAT news, because that means there will always be someone who likes your work. Basically, there’s a niche for any type of art, and it’s up to you to find it.
Won’t my Art Speak for Itself?
To some extent - yes. You can’t convince someone who hates abstract art to buy your art no matter how compelling your framing and story-telling are. But the framing and story-telling are what can get your art seen by the people who already like abstract art, better than the photos alone can.
How do I Frame My Art?
Well, go to a frame store! Just kidding. When we talk about framing we’re talking about adding context to the art itself. It’s not just a photo of a painting somewhere on social media - it’s a painting about something, that says something, that means something, and it’s up to you to discover what that something is and tell the world about it.
Discovering your Message
This takes some time and careful observation - and frankly, maybe an outside look - but is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business.
My favorite exercise for nailing down your company’s vision is simple:
Step 1: Mood board your “ideal” job, with existing work, inspirational photos, things you like, etc.
Step 2: Look at the board as a whole. Write down words that come to mind, that feel cohesive and consistent with what you’re seeing. Colors, shapes, styles, emotions, symbols, vibes - all of it.
Step 3: Personify it. Who is this person? Where do they live? What do they eat? Where do they shop? What do they like?
This can be a bunch of random thoughts - don’t think too much about it while you’re in the moment. Maybe have a friend look it over too and see what they think. Words will rise to the surface that just “fit” or make sense with where you want your company to be, and your “message” will be a couple sentences using those words that answers the question “What do you do?”.
Telling Your Story
Now, after you’ve narrowed things down to 20 or so words, we want to do the opposite. Take a single word, feeling, style, etc. and expand upon that with a story. You don’t have to use the word in the story even, but you want the story to evoke that feeling - maybe it’s “timeless”, “modern”, “comfortable”, etc.
Say we’re using the word comfortable, and you’re a wedding photographer. Talk about how you first connect with clients, how you use silly props to make them laugh during the wedding day, what makes you feel comfortable with clients, or maybe even tips for how couples can feel comfortable in front of the camera if they’re not used to it. Maybe you did something awkward one time (oh, is that just me?) and made a connection with your clients over it - that’s a story I want to read, and a story that would make me feel more comfortable with you before I’ve even booked you.
The market is overrun with talented artists in every single field - but that never worries me or any of the other successful art businesses out there. We understand something that a lot of artists don’t, which is that the talent is only one part of the puzzle, and an equally large, if not even larger, part of the success puzzle is being able to tell your story.
I don’t consider myself to be the most talented artist by *any* means, but I recognize that I have a leg up on some of those more talented ones because I know how to tell my story in a way that shows value to potential clients. The more you practice this, the more confident you’ll feel in your story, and your story-telling abilities, and the more clients will start to feel all those things you want them to feel - even before they’ve reached out to you!