Well, it's ironic that I should be writing this, because I'm definitely not the poster child for this particular situation. However, as with all of my writing, it's all freaking for me and my own brain anyhow. Getting it out in the open is a way for me to hold myself accountable and actually articulate what those hamsters on their wheels in my head are churning out.
I should point out that I was raised by the hardest working man alive. I know you all think that you know people who are hard workers, and you're simply wrong. My dad just started producing, probably when he was born, and never stopped. However, despite being this pinnacle of carpentry and construction, working on countless multi-million dollar homes, and making more little old ladies happy than "Matlock" ever could, he's never charged people enough. Ever. He is the kind that will bid a job for $200 and then proceed to spend 200 EXTRA hours working with the client, drawing and re-drawing plans, listening to poor, ignorant suggestions and then using his skills to expound on them and create a masterpiece, and simply using his talent and amazing mathematical brain to produce stunning work. By this time, he's formed a relationship with them, and he literally cannot bring himself to say, "Hey, I've neglected my family, slept for 5 hours a night for two months, and used up all of my mental energies to produce this one of a kind spinning, articulated, African Black Wood spice rack that also plays dubstep with voice command. I understand that it was originally supposed to be a simple 1'X2' pine shelf, but it is not that thing anymore. I am going to need another $20,000. Thanks. I will deliver your piece when I have received the payment in full.
And then, there is me. I grew up watching this happen over and over again, and I'm afraid to say it was often a point of contention between my parents. I mean, it's not like they had 8 kids to raise or anything. No biggie. Luckily, I took this life experience, and slowly turned it from a source of pain to a source of intense learning and growing. I would like to share a few things that I have learned along the way, in the last 12 years of building Damsel in this Dress. I hope my suggestions will be taken in the very best light, and don't taint your view of my company. ;) Namaste.....I guess?
Rule # 1: Love Yourself!!!
Yes, I'm going to get woo-woo right off the bat. I need you to know that if you don't respect and love yourself, you make it incredibly hard for others to do the same. Think about times when you haven't demanded respect for yourself. Let's say that you have a co-worker and she is constantly asking you to handle parts of her job that she couldn't get to, blames you when things go bad, and demands that you do it right next time. If you respected yourself, you would say, "Hey, you're awesome and I want to help you. I know that you are not the kind of person who would want to take advantage of others, yet I feel that it is happening this situation. I respect my time and limitations, and in the future, I cannot take on work that was your own. I am accountable for my own work, assignments and actions, and I am proud of what I accomplish." However, if you don't respect yourself, you would just keep on making up for her lack, resenting her AND yourself, and nourishing a toxic situation. YOU MUST learn to cultivate an environment of love for yourself, and it starts in your brain. Every time you hear a bitchy thing that your brain says so you, you can practice filling that lie with a truth....which brings me to my next point.
2. Examine your BeLIEfs.
This last weekend, I heard one of the best tips I have ever received. The basic idea is that our actions in life are all based on our core beliefs about ourselves. If you think about the word "belief" there is another POSSIBLE word right in the middle of this word, and that is "Lie." You can know if your personal beliefs about yourself are LIES if they produce the following:
*Fear *Doubt *Depression *Anxiety *Anger *Resentment toward self *Stoppage of Dreams
On the other hand, you can FEEL a truth in your body. I know, in a deep and profound way, that the very cells that form our body respond positively to truth. When you think a thought about yourself that is pure truth, it feels exactly opposite of the "lies". You feel:
*Light *Peace *Power *Love *Compassion *Forgiveness *Refreshed and Renewed *Confidence *Focused and Clear *Closeness with people around you
Now, I won't say that the "truth" thing is easy at first. After all, sometimes, when I've listened to the lies long enough, if I just blast a truth thought into my mind, it goes haywire. It would sound something like this, "Maybe I'm not worth it. After all, that lady that just walked into my booth sneered at my prices and talked about how she couldn't afford any of it and it was too expensive for what it was. I feel sick and embarrassed, and after I've worked this hard and long, I'm not going to make any money, because my art isn't worth anything. I suck. I freaking suck." .............."Oh my gosh, this feels horrible. Surely that lady wasn't right. I SHOULD be nice to myself......Um......I'm AWESOME!" Nope, doesn't work.
Oh, boy. This needs a whole entire blog on it. I will get to that. For right now, remember, to "check in" with how your thoughts are actually resonating in your body. Sometimes, all it takes is one little trigger to produce the avalanche.
3. Step Back
I don't always do this at my shows, and I really should. However, when I'm thinking clearly and feeling good about myself, I remember to step back from my booth and take a good, hard look with my heart. Do I see a good energy flowing from it? Is there clutter? Is is light, warm, and inviting? If I'm walking through the event, am I naturally drawn to this booth? Have I created a place where you would EXPECT to see quality items at quality prices? My husband has this wonderful analogy where he says, "Michelle, think about when you walk into Nordstrom and there is displays and lighting and luxury and a guy in a tux playing a piano. How much do you expect the price tags to reflect that? Now, think about walking into a K-Mart. What if you saw those same Nordstrom price tags?" Yeah. Wow....yeah. This year, I have a personal commitment to make my tent reflect how I feel about myself, which is mighty fine!
By the way, this also goes for your website (ugh. I know. I know. Hard for a lot of us artists!). If your website LOOKS and FEELS professional, and you've taken the time to really make it so, you will get paid for that time and effort. Somehow, some where down the line, you will reap your rewards.
4. Build Trust
I am incredibly passionate about this one, and it's because I basically founded my whole company on it. When I first started out, I charged WAY too little. I know that. It's okay. I think it's completely acceptable in certain realms to start out with a more entry level pricing, so that you're more accessible to people, and then work your way up from there as your product gets better and your business grows. I understand this doesn't work for everyone, though. Either way, no matter what, always ALWAYS do your best.....which, by the way, will never be perfection. It will NEVER. BE. PERFECTION. What the heck do you think perfection is anyhow? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. BAM. How's that? You, yourself, could kill yourself and finally have your idea of "perfection" and some A-hole could walk up and point out all the flaws. You will never reach perfection. However, if you know in your deepest heart of hearts that you are doing your very best, you will always feel a peace and steadiness. You will radiate that to your customers, and they will pick up on that. They will understand that this is your best, and they will see it as "the best". They will trust you and the fact that you will stand by your art, no matter what. They know. They always know.
5. Your Art and "Work" can Speak for Itself
Ideally, you will never have to use phrases like, "What can we do to get you into this car by the end of the day? " or "Let's get to YES". Quality pieces that were crafted with care, skill, time, love, and freedom will always show up as such. Remember, most of my experience comes from Renaissance Festivals, but I also attended many craft shows with my mother in the 90's. Even as a kid, I would be walking through the booths, taking everything in, and I could just TELL the difference between people who had slapped some pine together and painted it and the lady who carefully sculpted hundreds of beautiful little beady-eyed animals out of Sculpey clay. If there was a booth that just bought and sold purses from China, it had this completely different energy than the sweet little lady who was paper-piecing together intricate boats and rabbits and stitching them into ornate quilted tote bags. I really have a lot of faith in the "public" and their ability to see the energy of the art. Even way back when I started out, and my booth was a pathetic EZ-UP, my racks were bare, and my little hang-tags were like the ones stuck on things at yard sales, people could still somehow "tell" what I was about. They would pick my booth over tons of other costuming booths, with much more professional displays. How could they tell? I just can't explain it. All I know is that I've spent all these years with a pure, true intent to provide the best quality I possibly could and to help women feel more beautiful than they ever have in their "normal clothes".
6. Do Not "Play it Safe"
There will always be a part of me that just HAS to believe that when you really push yourself and create something CRAZY, the exact right customer will walk in and it will be like your souls had communicated to each other! I try to carry plenty of "solid black" corsets in my booth, because I know that those will always sell, but there is no word to describe the inexplicable joy that I feel when I make a true connection with a customer. I can think of thousands of instances where I was hanging up a piece at a festival, and as I was putting it on the rack, that mean voice in my head would say, "Really? Michelle....Um..no one is going to like this. It's too weird. Why are you even hanging it UP???" But then, in walks this woman, and the magnetic pull is so forceful that I don't even have to greet them before they run to the piece and pick it out. The BEST is when it's a corset, and it JUST HAPPENS to be the exact right size! And do you know what? This happens ONLY to women that believe that it happens to them! Yes, I said it right. Women that know, on a deep level, that they will always find exactly what they want.....um....find exactly what they want. But, guess what I hear more often? "Oh, I never find my size. They never have it." Ah, once again, a whole entire blog will be written for this, because it's eerily, creepily true.
Anyhow, take a dang chance. You'll thank yourself later. The money will come. It will. Be trusting, and take joy in what you do.
As promised, I will be forming blogs on the other ideas as well. After all, remember who these are for. Yup. For me. Dang Advice for Dang me. However, you are more than welcome to share them. ;)