“If You Only . . . “

Whether you are an artist, an instructor, or ready to run for office, watch out for a common stumble on your way to success. It sounds like this: “I’d buy that [take that class, vote for you] if only . . . ” followed by a request that is very specific. Sometimes it’s followed by “and I’ll tell my friends and they’ll [buy it, take the class, vote for you] too.”

Owen Egerton's book cover, which has that phrase "everyone says" in it. It wasn't true in the book , either.

Owen Egerton’s book cover, which has that phrase “everyone says” in it. It wasn’t true in the book , either.

What sounds like a simple change to make money is actually a huge mistake you are about to make.

What you are hearing is one person’s idea. What it can easily sound like is a marketing plan. If you act on it you are simply making a decision. It doesn’t obligate the other person and if there is no money exchanged up front, there is no guarantee that your idea will be successful.

Examples:   1. When I was in high school, I’d have an idea that required Mother Superior’s approval. And a change in the school rules. Three or four other students would tell me, “You go to Mother Superior and ask her, we’ll back you up.” It was all I needed to hear. My heart swelled with possibility. I marched into Mother Superior’s office. “A lot of us think that it would be a good idea if. . . .” I’d explain. Mother Teresa Joseph would raise an eyebrow, visibly moving her wimple, and say, “who are these girls who agree with you?” and I’d happily list my supporters, who had vanished. They denied knowing me, hearing the idea, much less supporting it. And I looked like not only an idiot, but a liar. And yes, it happened more than once before I caught on.

2. When I made jewelry, there was a woman who insisted that if I made silverNo-deal beaded barrettes, “all my friends and I would buy them.” She said it so often, I began to believe her. So I made a set. They were custom made, with the bead color she wanted, and not cheap. I was thrilled when the woman came into the booth. You already know what happened, don’t you? The potential customer looked at the barrettes and said, “I didn’t know you were going to make them long. I wanted them round. Now, if you made them round, I would buy them.” The barrettes, in silver and with 20 hours of work in them never sold. I melted them down a year later.

3. I posted a class I was teaching. Two people emailed me and asked for a date change. Another two asked for a slightly different class. Thinking I could fill the class simply by making a few date and content changes, I made them. All four decided they had promised their family to spend more time that particular weekend, and the class didn’t make.

People asking for custom work or classes or special times are just asking for what they want. Two emails don’t create “everybody.” It’s just people asking. Unless you do custom work or have a contract, or get paid ahead of time, you don’t have a real offer. You have one person’s (maybe two) opinion.

Listen to yourself. Stick to your own marketing plan. And as always, don’t make any decisions because one or two people make suggestions. Trust what you know. Or do research. But before you go running down the street, sure you have a massive following, look behind you and see how many people are still behind you after the first block.

–Quinn McDonald has new classes coming up. She isn’t changing her plans.


15 thoughts on ““If You Only . . . “

  1. The first example really resonated with me . . . when you get out on a limb it’s very quiet and sometimes, in the silence created by the absence of those ‘supporters’ you can hear the sound of a saw. I’ll always go out though for a cause I think just, or simply more sane than what the situation in currently.
    As for the other examples . . . listen, but to thine own self be true!

  2. SO TRUE!! my Mom, rest her soul, always said THEY SAY was a liar from birth. that is in line with “if you would only”…Smile and ignore. I had that happen to me with silk work, too, and I fell for it, almost, silly me!

    • Wise Mom. I think every artist falls for it, because we hear a client expressing a wish and generalize to a wider audience. It’s not that much different from hearing our kids say, “Mon! EVERYbody is doing it!”

  3. If you win the lottery, I will help you figure out what to do with all that money, and for only a small percentage; definitely less than 100%.

  4. Or: “If you do this for free/cheap, we’ll tell everybody what a wonderful job you did and you’ll get a lot more business coming your way!” Possibly – more freebies that is….. Actual business – hardly.

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