Selling Your Story

Selling your talent is tough. It may even be distasteful, especially if you don’t believe in yourself. Many creatives defend their inability to sell as an unwillingness to sell out.  Get off your high horse. I am not the devil because I believe you have to get the word out.

As a creative, you are always pitching your stuff, wherever you are, whomever you’re talking to. You pitch people you want to work for, and those you want to work for you. Your style is a pitch of its own, a demonstration of your uniqueness.

To get paid, to make a living, you have to sell. You don’t have to lie, cheat, deceive, or wear polyester suits and gaudy ties. To sell effectively, you must help people, heal them, entertain them, fill their needs. These are good things.

Don’t treat selling as if it were beneath you. If you don’t think you can do it, then you can’t. The sooner  you accept that you have to do it, the better. Everyone sells something: ideas, information, talent, skills, products, dreams, energy, art.  If you have something to offer, and you want to earn money for it, you sell.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.

Try to get some intelligence on your client. People like to do business whit those who know what the hell they are talking about. They will test you. You need them to say yes to your plan, tape, project, promotion. You must motivate them. Find out what it will take to get them to say yes. Work backward. Talk with others who know the client and may have some tips. Visit their website to gain insights.

Don’t get hung up on the first no. 

People want what they can’t have.  Sold out.  Standing room only.  For a limited time.  I am booked solid through July, but I think I could squeeze you in the first week of August.

Shut up and listen.  Ask questions and let them do the talking. Don’t ever ask a question to which they can answer to.

Trust your gut. Use your intuition to judge the situation and react

People buy from friends.  So make more friends, treat people like your friends. Borrow other people’s friends. Keep in touch with old friends. Get referrals, testimonials, leads – and work them.

Be passionate.  Being pumped will influence people more than what you actually say.

Don’t be dull!.  Don’t be desperate.  Interject some humor, an anecdote, a personal story, an example. Make it real. Entertain. Personalize it with your wit. Relax and have some fun.

Be ready to pitch on a moment’s notice.  Have your verbal brochure ready to go. It should be so well rehearsed that it doesn’t sound rehearsed.

Lead with your best stuff and keep it short.  Be clear and concise about what you’re selling. One to two minutes is a good pitch.

Persistence pays off.  Walt Disney was turned down by 403 banks before he found financing to make a mouse-themed park.

Set realistic sales goals.  Invite ten interesting people to you today on social media to connect.

Act as if.  Don’t lie about your background, but I have read enough biographies to know that when someone is asked if they can play bass guitar and they are a guitarist, they still say yes.

Always have something to give.  A demo. An invitation. Photo. Carry them with you at all times.

No matter what you are selling, stress the benefits. People are influenced by WIIFM (what it is in for me). Tap into that. What is their dream, their desire? Sell them on it.

Be reliable so they will want to hire you again.  Never miss a deadline.

If they say no, ask for a referral to someone else who might like what you have to offer.

Don’t take no personally.  If you don’t get it, who did? Why? What did they do? What do they have that I don’t? How can I improve?

Don’t handicap yourself by saying ‘I am not a salesperson’. You can be whatever you want to be.

What is your bottom line? Ask them what theirs is. ‘What will it take to close this deal’? Find ways other than money to negotiate. Let them make the offer first.

Recognize a poor fit when you see one and back down gracefully.

Thirty Seconds to Yes

Simplify your story so that it is crystal clear. In general, you’ll have about 30 seconds of someone’s attention before they lose interest.

Energy and enthusiasm are catching. You’ll be more likely to make someone else excited if you’re excited first (this works in many areas of life, not just your career).

Practice and be ready for objections and negatives. Treat it like a game.

Put yourself in their shoes. What would it take to get me to buy if I were they?

Take the risk away. Do it on spec. Consigment. Barter. Guarantee.

If selling yourself is a problem, get an agent.  An agent serves as a buffer. They cover their fees by getting you more money than you could get on your own. Some will work for you on a contingency basis.

About Peter de Kuster

Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey & Hero’s Journey project,  a storytelling firm which helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lives and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.


Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing,  MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences