ATTENTION: This post is for any creative type – NOT JUST artists. Writers, content producers, musicians; this is for you.
As an artist, it’s easy to get caught up on trying to please everybody, but there are really only 2 people you actually need to please, and I’ll share that in a moment.
Before I do, let me address a common pitfall that I’ve come across:
It seems to me that a lot of us have people in our lives that have demands on our lives, whether that’s friends or family or heck – even complete strangers!
And oftentimes – these people mean well. They start giving us thoughts or ideas or suggestions that they would like us to complete to give THEM some sort of satisfaction.
I’m not sure if this comes from some desire for them to live vicariously through us, or they simply want to be known by association if that thing is a success or what – but it can cause us to derail from we know we SHOULD be doing.
It stops us from doing what we feel in our core is what WE want to accomplish.
You as the artist know what you’re trying to achieve.
And when you have all these background voices – these other cooks in the kitchen so to speak – trying to direct what you should do, it takes you away from the important stuff.
It causes your work to suffer.
It makes you less productive because you’re chasing these different avenues.
It makes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
I get it. I’ve been there.
So who are the two people you need to satisfy as an artist?
The first person you need to satisfy is yourself.
Most creative people I’ve talked to know the quality of their work and what is most fulfilling about it.
And because of this, they (if they’re being honest with themselves) know if their work is up to their standards or not.
Is it good quality?
Does it achieve the goal or message or look you wanted – at least in a way that it feels complete?
If someone sees it, do they see my style or personality in it?
Only you can answer these questions as the creator, and if you’re too busy trying to chase other people’s versions of these things…
…You may never live up to it because it’s THEIR VISION.
When I started painting, I had a ton of people ask me if I did landscapes or portraits or murals. And I told them “no.”
But almost every one of them came back with “you should totally do this because of XYZ” or “I think you’d be really good at it if you just gave it a shot”. Things like that.
But truth is – I knew right away that I would not enjoy painting those things.
Even if I took the time to become semi-decent at those methods, it wouldn’t have fulfilled me.
It was the same thing when I was writing before this.
I’d tell people about a project I was working on, and they’d say things like “what if the characters did this” or “you know what would be cool? If XYZ happened in the story…”
There’s not enough time to try every idea, nor enough energy to entertain every direction your creative work could go.
The second person you need to satisfy is your buyer.
I care so much about what people think of me as a person, that I’m literally AFRAID of disappointing them.
In fact, recently, I had someone buy a small painting of mine. I had another similar painting that I actually felt went with it, and because I didn’t want to fail them, I over-delivered, and sent the other panting AT NOT EXTRA COST.
Now, I did this because I felt it was right at the time (and it served me well) but I also did it because I didn’t want the customer to have a bad experience with me as a seller.
But look- you’re going to get tough customers – even if you do over-deliver. That happens.
And if you’re just starting out or every sale counts and you can’t pick and choose your buyers, then you will have to deal with these customers eventually. It’s a nature of business.
Maybe they don’t like your product for some inane reason.
Or they just want this one thing changed. Again.
Or maybe they simply had buyers remorse.
But here’s the thing: you can still continue to over-deliver, and if it’s not right – simply don’t do business with them again after this and move on.
These people tend to be the minority.
While I think that customers should be treated with respect, I don’t believe they’re always right. Sometimes the expectation just can’t be met no matter how hard you try.
If it comes down to satisfying you or the buyer in the end, I say choose yourself.
If you create what you genuinely like or are passionate about, you can enjoy the process.
Bu this only works if you’re not worried about what everyone else thinks or wants.
If you enjoy the process, and you don’t make any sales – well hey – at least you enjoyed making the damn thing. And you can now move on if you’re happy with it.
At this point, I pretty much only create pieces that I know that I will like.
Of course, if someone requests a commission (not just making a suggestion but is ACTUALLY WILLING TO PAY FOR IT) – then I’ll make a piece and they can buy it if they like it, but it still has to conform to my styles in it’s final form.
Just keep putting out the work and enjoy the process, this way you don’t hate it and give it up.
And you never know when you might put out the right piece at the right time and someone who has never purchased from you might buy that particular piece, and that’s the one that kicks bigger things into motion.