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Making the case that Artists are Direct Sellers

Or: I’m making the case that I am an Artist [specifically a visual artist: mosaic and painting] and see my business as a direct selling business.  First, a couple definitions to help this conversation along:

"The Jazz Player" acrylic painting by Linda C Smith

"The Jazz Player" acrylic painting by Linda C Smith

  • Artist: first some quotes: “…What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit….  ~John Updike”  and my personal favorite: “…I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for….  ~Georgia O’Keeffe” – my personal definition of “artist” is someone who translates what they see either outside themselves or from within themselves through artistic media – could be paint, pencil, mosaic tiles, dance, music, poetry, prose, photography and more.  I think being an artist is something you have to do…like having no choice.
  • Direct Selling: the best definition comes from DirectSelling411 : “…Direct selling is the sale of a consumer product or service, person-to-person, away from a fixed retail location, marketed through independent sales representatives who are sometimes also referred to as consultants, distributors or other titles….”

Taking these two definitions then, you could say that the artist creates a consumer product and then sells that product person-to-person through shows, festivals, physical galleries and online galleries.  I consider a gallery to be a direct selling situation rather than a fixed retail location as purchasing a work of art is nothing like purchasing a gallon of milk.  In a gallery setting it takes person-to-person interaction between the gallery personnel and the prospective purchaser.  There are quite a few artist-owned galleries, so this is even more the case.

Having stated my case it’s my contention, as a business person, that it would benefit artists if they did a bit of learning as regards direct selling.

(1) How to do direct marketing: “…Direct marketing is a method used to distribute advertising and marketing materials such as catalogs, brochures or other items to consumers through mail, e-mail, telemarketing or other methods. Direct selling is NOT direct marketing.…”[again from DS411].  This is an important distinction and often the two get confused.  The key word is “marketing.”  Marketing is giving people information so that they can make an informed buying decision.  Once you’ve given someone information about your product [marketing materials] you still have to engage them in a buying situation [selling].

(2) How to be an effective direct seller: I found at the DirectSelling 411 site, in the FAQs for selling, a list of points that I think would be valuable for anyone to adopt [this list is copied and has my annotations in italics]:

  • Tell your potential customers who you are, why you’re approaching them and what products you are selling.believe it or not, I’ve seen artists at outdoor shows who stand in their booths with their artwork and never engage the people who come to look…these are prospective art buyers who need to know who you are, why they need your work and what you have available.
  • Explain how to return a product or cancel an order.this is as valid in an art transaction as for any other type of consumer product.  Sometimes an art buyer will get a work home then discover it just doesn’t “work” for them…art is “subjective” and human emotion has much to do with the initial purchase and the purchase retention.
  • Respect the privacy of your customers by calling at a time that is convenient for them.- this is good, basic business advice.
  • Promptly end a demonstration or presentation at the request of your customers.- some artists will take a selection of works to a prospective buyer’s home and do a “presentation;” this is good business advice.
  • Provide accurate and truthful information regarding the price, quality, quantity, performance, and availability of your product or service.- in the art world, consistency of pricing is often a difficult animal to master; sometimes a buyer will be interested in a work you have displayed, but wish it were in another color combination – as the art business person, you have to know what you will and won’t do for a client…and if you do it for one, you’ll have to offer it for others.
  • Offer a written receipt in language your customers can understand.this may, or may not, be an issue in an artist’s business; having said that, if you are an English speaker and are doing shows in a community where another language is predominant, you might want to offer materials in that language.  Some American artists travel to Italy, for instance, for shows…this might be good business in this case.
  • Provide your name and contact information, as well as the contact information of the company you represent.- you would be amazed at the number of artists who do not provide this valuable information to buyers of their work…referral sales are as important for artists’ “products” as for any other consumer products.
  • Offer a complete description of any warranty or guarantee.as an artist, do you offer services after the purchase such as fixing damage?  Everything needs to be clearly outlined and understood between the artist and the buyer.

It’s difficult for some artists to put aside the fuzzy feel goods of getting their hands paint splattered and exchanging that for the cold realities of doing business.  However if an artist has decided to make a business of their work and efforts, then the two hats must be worn.  The business hat needs to fit as well as the creative one.  There is much more that goes into a discussion of art plus business; but for me, it helped to define my home-based business as a direct selling enterprise.  I could then further define what I needed to know and what skills I needed to learn to have a balanced business: creating work on one side and marketing and selling it on the other.

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What’s so bad about direct selling?

Direct selling is a great vehicle as a home-based business. That said, why does it get such a negative vibe?  You mention “direct selling” to someone and they squish up their face as if they’ve just bitten into an unripe lemon [which is a truly bad taste].  However, people all over the world purchase products from direct sellers every day of the week, every week of the year.  Products like cosmetics and functional beverages and vitamin supplements and baskets and food containers and scrap-booking supplies and home decorative elements and health and life insurance are all examples of direct selling products.  In fact, some of the most well-known products in the world cannot be purchased in a retail store…they have to be purchased from an independent contractor [or consultant or distributor or agent].  Billions of dollars in sales every year are generated through direct selling.

So what’s so bad about direct selling as a home-based business?  Here are some of the inaccuracies I’ve heard:

  • I don’t want to go door-to-door.  If you were interested in my product, you would never hear about it because I knocked on your front door.  Most products sold by direct selling independent contractors are done by invitation and referral.  In fact, the income opportunities with which I’m affiliated discourage this type of selling mechanism…it’s a pure waste of time and effort.
  • I can’t sell. Good, then don’t.  As sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says, people don’t want to be sold they want to buy.  Don’t “sell” something, share information.  Ask questions.  Let’s say you are in conversation with someone and the subject of health comes up and your product is a vitamin supplement; ask the person how they are managing that aspect of their health maintenance and would they be interested in some information about your product?  Give them the information and let them make their own decisions.
  • I can’t represent something I don’t believe in. Well then, don’t.  You can’t get excited about something you aren’t excited about.  For instance, I could never talk passionately to you about the juice product I represent if I was not already passionate about it.  And I’m passionate about it because I use my own product for my own health benefit.  And because I do benefit from it [and so does my family] then I’m quite excited to tell you about it.
  • I can’t afford a large inventory.  That’s a good thing because now-a-days not only don’t you need one, with many direct selling companies you ought not to have one.  With the internet and the availability of sales websites, your customers have the convenience of shopping online and having their orders drop-shipped to them.  You don’t have to stock your garage with product that you aren’t sure will move.   To me, in my business, this means I have the assurance that my customers are getting the freshest product direct from the distribution point…not from stock I’ve had sitting in my garage.
  • It’s too expensive to start a business.  Depending upon the product or service, this may not be true.  There are some direct selling companies that cost in the $200-300 range to enroll [which includes kits/samples] and there are direct selling companies that cost far less to enroll [one of the two income opportunities with which I’m involved is offering no-cost enrollment this year as example].
  • I don’t have the time.  Time spent working your business is a personal choice.  A direct selling home-based business differs from a “job” where it is your employer who sets your work hours.  With your own business, you decide how many hours per day/week you’ll work, what time during the day – when you start, when you stop…you even decide if you don’t work at all any given day.  It’s your business.

There is, in actuality much that is great about direct selling…so much so that about 59 million people worldwide are involved in this industry.   If you are among the thousands of people wondering if a direct selling income opportunity would help you in your current financial situation, then give it a look.  It costs nothing to look and the benefits of involvement are rich.

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Direct selling business and health emergencies

At first glance you might think that these two things – direct selling business and health emergencies – wouldn’t have a commonality…you’d be incorrect.  [I hate to tell people they are wrong, so I like the term “incorrect.”]  The commonality in these two things is that it is possible to have the one and know that the other will remain viable.

My direct selling business has been chugging right along for the past 8 days as I’ve dealt with a health emergency.  [I’m doing much better now, thanks.]  I actually have two businesses I work from home, one is brand-new and not yet incorporated into a system...the other, however, is incorporated into a system that keeps working 24-7 even if I’m laid up on the sofa mind-numb on pain killers.  And, for that, I’m very grateful.  The letters keep going out and the information remains available and the website for ordering and/or signing up is always available. This is one of the beautiful things of having a home-based direct selling business.  My being ill or injured or otherwise laid up [or even on vacation] doesn’t hamper the business of those people whom I’ve sponsored…they continue working their own businesses…and my current efforts at growing my business don’t stop just because I do.

The particular business I’m a part of has a weekly paycheck compensation plan so that if your business is producing a profit, you will continue to get that weekly profit even if you aren’t “on the clock.”  This can’t be said for many jobs anymore.  I know people who literally can’t financially afford to get sick.

There are many good benefits to having a home-based direct selling [or use the term ‘network marketing’] business.  If you haven’t looked into this, you might want to.  Listed in the right column on this blog page under Business Links are links to my two businesses.  Take a moment to check them out.  Send me an email if you have a question or comment.  Can you afford to get sick?

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New network marketing income opportunity

Diversifying in this economy is a very good idea.  To that end I’m using my own platform to tell you about something new.  Look into it if you wish:  the pre-launch of  The Trump Network:

  • Timing Could Not Be Better
  • Experience A Major National Media Blitz
  • Discover The Difference Between Opportunity And Success
  • We expect 1 million members the first year
  • Work from home with your own Trump Network distributorship

To find out more go to http://www.thedonaldgoesmlm.com/6139975

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One of the beauties of having a direct selling business

There are definite advantages to having a home-based direct selling business.  One of those is time control.  When you have a home-based direct selling business you are the boss. You decide when you work and when you don’t. Your business doesn’t control you, you are in charge of it.  And, if it is one of the good ones, it will keep on ticking even when you aren’t present.

I just enjoyed a three day mini-vacation, spending a Friday-Sunday with my husband at Maker Faire Bay Area 2009.  If you haven’t heard of this celebration of the DYI – Do It Yourself, Maker Faire is:

  • “….A two-day, family-friendly event to MAKE, create, learn, invent, CRAFT, recycle, think, play and be inspired by celebrating arts, crafts, engineering, food, music, science and technology….” [from the website]

There were all kinds of robotics, electronics, electricity and eclectic gizmos of all sorts. I’ve never been to Burning Man, but I understand there was lots of Burning Man “stuff” there. 

weird stuff                                                                                            faire

 

 

We’re members of BayLug, Bay Area Lego enthusiasts who, well, love to build “stuff” with Lego bricks. We had a huge area with two large displays…one was an amusement park and the other a city complete with train yard…and, yes, Lego does make model trains.

park entranceeaterypark area

One of the cool things I did while there was to visit the needle craft area and do some embroidery on a quilt square for the “thousand hands” crazy quilt this group was constructing.  They literally want one thousand hands sewing something somehow on this quilt…I asked one of the ladies at the booth what they’ll do when it’s finished and she said they would auction it off for charity.

me embroideryAll-in-all it was a crazy, busy, fun and interesting three days.  Next week I go on a one-week vacation.  The beauties of a home-based direct selling business.  If you’ve never thought about it, why not now?

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What’s not to like about a commission-based compensation plan?

I recently had an email conversation with someone about business…specifically home-based business…specifically about network marketing business. This person remarked that the product I represent looks wonderful but was taken aback by the binary nature of the compensation plan…saying that it looked like it takes “too much work.”

Well, I wonder what kind of business doesn’t take some work?  Because part of  marketing I do for my business is done online, I get my share of people sending me their marketing pitches for businesses that “require no work at all” in order to earn “millions.”  Frankly if I see these phrases, or ones very like them, I delete them asap. I’m actually not interested in anything that smacks of “get rich quick” with no work at all.  My parents didn’t raise me to be lazy.

Having said that, I am, however, a proponent of a business that builds residual [or passive] income.  This is income you continue to receive once the work is already done.  One simple example is a book royalty – you work hard to write and publish a novel, then you sit back and enjoy the residuals that come as the book is sold, reprinted and sold again.  Residual income.

There are network marketing [direct selling] businesses whose compensation plans are built in such a way that residual income is a very real possibility.  One type has a binary system.  This simply means that you build a team of distributors by sponsoring new people into the company- who in turn do the same thing.  You work your business in three ways by:

  • being your own customer first and foremost
  • retailing your product
  • sponsoring new distributors

In a binary system the organizational chart of your business has You with a Right Leg of distributors whom you have sponsored and a Left Leg of distributors whom you have sponsored.  They are doing the same three things you do…and one of the ways in which you earn income is by earning commissions and bonuses based on the overall sales volume of your Right and Left Legs.  This is not hard.  Yes it is “work,” but it is enjoyable work.  You work by talking with people about your product and the possibility of an income opportunity for them.  They may decide to become a retail customer and simply enjoy the benefits of your product….just like they do products they purchase from the grocery store.  They may decide that a home-based income opportunity is something they’ve been looking for and your opportunity appeals to them and you subsequently help them to enroll [sponsor].

If you do this consistently and often enough your business will grow.  Your “downline” will grow to a point that it takes on a life of its own and you will earn income whether you are actively working or not.  The caveat is that to receive continued commissions and bonuses you comply with whatever conditions your company establishes, but in some cases simply by purchasing the product for your own use on a monthly basis will satisfy that.  Why will you then receive residual income? Because all the people in your downline [those distributors in your Right and Left legs] are busy building their businesses…and you continue to receive commissions and bonuses based on overall sales volume.

To me, this all makes perfect sense.  I chose the income opportunity I did because I truly love the product. I don’t want a business whose product or service is something either I don’t use myself or really can’t feel proud of.  I chose the company because of its values and culture…it really is a company I want to be associated with.  I don’t mind the “work” involved because I don’t see it as “work.”  I like talking about my product.  I’m pleased with the way the work I do is compensated.  It does make sense to me.

You see, money itself is not enough for me to have a business I do at home.  I am the kind of person who has to believe in the product and the company behind it.  So, what’s not to like about a commission-based compensation plan?

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Network Marketing requires a paradigm shift

The definition of paradigm shift has to do with making a change in basic assumptions.  Let me give you an example.

A person is blind.  Most of the world believes you need sight in order to climb a mountain.  But this person doesn’t subscribe to that assumption [the assumption is that without eyesight a person cannot climb a mountain].  This person’s paradigm shift is that nothing is outside his desire to doErik Weihenmayer  may have had a genetic disorder that stole his sight, but his mind was able to make a paradigm shift.  And, once the shift was made, the how became only a matter of adaptation.

Thinking about Network Marketing is no different.  There exists a basic assumption that a network marketing business is something a little off-putting, something not-quite legitimate.  There is an assumption that a network marketing business will work only for those with super sales abilities.  And it’s a shame, really, because the network marketing industry is the fastest growing industry in the world.  In 2007, in the United States alone, over 15 million people were involved in a direct selling business.  – You’ll note I use direct selling and network marketing interchangeably.  That’s also a paradigm shift.

The idea is to re-think how we think about network marketing.  Network Marketing companies are big business…with people signing up every day in an attempt to augment their current income.  And, for the most part, the products and services of these companies are high quality, competitive and in demand.

So what is a network marketing or direct selling business ?  It’s a business where the business person is an independent contractor with the parent company.  The goal of the parent company is to have a large number of independent distributors who both sell their products and are themselves consumers.  This type of business model is attractive for the parent company because it doesn’t have to build individual brick-n-mortar retail outlets [even a franchise parent company has to have buildings]. 

The goal of the independent distributor is to build up a retail customer base and, depending upon the organizational and pay structure of the parent company, also help to sponsor other people into the same company…the reward then becomes possible commissions and bonuses based on overall team sales volume.

And here is where the paradigm shift is needed most: the whole sponsoring idea.  You can use the word sponsor and you can use the word recruit.  There is an assumption that this is a negative thing.  Not so.  If the company is a good one, with sound management, a good product base and fair compensation plan, why wouldn’t someone want to tell others about it?  There is also the assumption that only a few people ever succeed…only those at the top.  Another wrong assumption is that the reward comes in the sponsoring activity itself.  Time for another shift in thinking.

Network Marketing/direct selling opportunities are not pyramids…corporations are.  People succeed – or not – with a network marketing business based on their own efforts.  If Person Ahas attained a level of financial success with his distributorship, it is not because he’s at the top of the pyramid…it’s because he has retailed product and built an organization [sponsored] large enough with sales volume large enough to warrant size-able commissions and bonuses.   It’s quite possible, and actual, that people down the line organizationally from Person A earn greater income due to their own business efforts.   Person B does not do well…and that, too, is his own doing.  He hasn’t retailed the product, may not even be his own customer and does not share the opportunity with others and then help them get started.

Network Marketing is all about networking…working with people, helping other people to succeed.  In every case I know of, no one succeeded without helping others on their way to success.  This is a business model built on human relationships…it’s relational marketing.

One more paradigm shift – marketing.  The assumption is that the marketing in network marketing is sales.  “But I’m not a salesman!” you cry.  Well, I’m not either.   Marketing is telling other people about what you’ve got.  They will either buy or they won’t.  The shift in thinking is from “selling” to “telling.”  This shift in thinking takes the pressure off – once you’ve done your part and introduced the product, then the person will either buy or they won’t – what you’ve done is to give them the opportunity to buy.  

New way of thinking.  Changing assumptions.  Assumptions are usually based upon false or nonexistent information.  Before jumping to conclusions, find out the facts.  Then make decisions…not assumptions…based on those facts.

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