Do You Know Your Own Strengths?


holdingaweightIt’s a new year–have you made any resolutions for your art or art business yet?

As my longtime readers know, rather than create resolutions, I prefer to make an annual theme for my year.

Themes are neat because:

  • you can’t break them
  • thinking up a theme helps turn your mind to the larger ideas about what you’re wanting for yourself. (As opposed to losing 10 pounds or going to the gym more.)

But whether you’re wanting to create more art on the side or you’re trying to sell what you make, I’d like you to consider adopting the theme I made for myself last year because it really woke me up.

(And for a fuller explanation on how themes work, along with specific ideas on how you might create one, click here.)

Go to Your Strengths

Last year I made “Go to My Strengths” my theme for my coaching business and it was a game changer for me. I was amazed. It really made me conscious of all the ways in which I distract myself and helped me streamline my actions and focus my choices.

But when I say “go to your strengths” I don’t mean “only do things you like to do or think you’re good at.”

This is especially important for those of you trying to sell what you make because it’s so tempting for artists to look for reasons to avoid the business stuff that makes you uncomfortable–like marketing and selling.

So going to my strengths didn’t mean I avoided business challenges that I found hard or scary. But it did change the way I experienced those challenges.

For instance, one of my strengths is public speaking. Last year I made it a priority to improve my public speaking and connect with my right people by giving talks.

So I joined Toastmasters and began to develop my talks on topics relevant for artists and creatives. I then started to schedule talks and workshops at regional arts organizations.

But when I gave my first talk, I was a wreck. A wreck. Who did I think I was? What was I thinking?

Driving to the venue, I thought, Oh Lord they’re all going to say, “This is so simple, we know this already, why are you wasting our time?” and then throw me out. I actually pictured jeering and a lot of bored, disgusted artists. (Ah, the inner critic!) But instead, it went great. I helped a bunch of people and I received lots of wonderful feedback. And then, of course, I remembered why I knew it was a good talk to give in the first place.

In July, I upped the ante and submitted my creativity workshop at the last minute to the big, fancy SXSW festival in Austin, which involved creating a video on the fly and asking everyone I knew–even a teeny, tiny bit–to vote for me. Which, may I add, gave me a complete heart attack.

Make no mistake: A. Complete. Heart. Attack. Getting into this festival was a long shot and I had to create my video (required for the application) in a hurry to meet the deadline. I felt super self-conscious about sharing that video with so many people. I wanted it to be better. It was one thing submitting it to a committee of strangers thousands of miles away. But the idea of making that video public by personally inviting hundreds of people I knew to view it and vote for me felt almost….stupid. I mean, why directly point out how goofy I am?

But attending the festival was a great opportunity and I genuinely felt that my workshop was a good fit. I needed votes to make it happen.

After much hand-wringing, I just decided that I’d risk looking ridiculous and I hit “send.” Lots of you voted for me, wrote nice comments, sent me encouraging emails, and……….I got in!

Maybe it was less goofy than I thought. ;-)


These descriptions of all my fear and anxiety may sound a little crazy because I started this article stating that I was good at public speaking. And I am.

So why was it still hard and scary if I’m good at it?

Well, it’s like making a work of art you love. You think it’s good, which gives you the confidence to submit it to a juried show. You’re nervous about getting in, but you do it anyway and you’re accepted! You’re thrilled, but then you’re a nervous wreck on your way to the opening. What if it doesn’t look good? What if people think it sucks? What if everyone else’s work is better?

The fear is part of the process of going from the easy vague world of the theoretical (I should apply to a be in a show) to the unromantic, matter-of-fact world of the actual (I got in! Yay. Gulp.)

It’s the rubber hitting the road. Trying to sell your work is basically selling yourself..it’s much more public than having a job and that makes most of us feel very exposed. Especially for artists who would be quite happy to stay home, create quietly and mind their own business!

That’s why it’s important to wrap what you have to do to succeed (market your work) within the cocoon of what you’re good at. It makes it easier to take yourself to your personal edge because something about it feels solid, familiar, and strong.

Drawing on your strengths helps you continue forward (because the sane part of you knows you can do it) and more importantly, you’re aligning your actions with your essential nature, which in and of itself increases the likelihood of success.

Let me say that again. You’re aligning your actions with your essential nature, which in and of itself increases the likelihood of success.


Now, the challenges of marketing and selling your work can make you feel like you’re never using your strengths. You might feel like you’re constantly forcing yourself to do things you barely understand or are convinced you’re no good at–which can take a toll on your confidence and make you forget why you started this little art business venture in the first place!

So you may be thinking—“All my strengths are artistic or creative—how can I use them to tackle all these hard, confusing marketing tasks required for selling my work?”

Well, it requires that you use your imagination to interpret your strengths in this new context—and as an artist, chances are, you have a good imagination. (In fact, your imagination and creativity are strengths you’re probably not maximizing when you think about marketing and selling.)

So I ask you, what are your strengths?

These can be personal qualities like being a great team player, having a knack for remembering names, or being hilarious. Or they can be technique-type skills like graphic design ability, social media savvy, or superior draftsmanship.

After you identify them, own them. Write them down. Say them out loud to yourself. Tell other people. Feel them and believe they are true. You aren’t being arrogant by being honest about what you’re good at. What we’re good at makes us happy. It’s okay to like it.

Then ask yourself: How can I make my strengths a key part of marketing my work so that I’m aligning my essential nature with the challenge of getting my art out into the world?

(And if you’re not selling your work but focusing on making art you love and living your life as the artist you are, this still works. How can you use your strengths to make room for your art? Even telling yourself that your artistic skills ARE one of your strengths is an important first step to moving them to a higher spot on your priority list.)

What do you think? What are your strengths? Are you maximizing them? Is it embarrassing for you to say them out loud? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts and your personal experience might really help another reader!

Hugs, Sarah

P.S. If you’d like to explore how you can improve your art business or dig deeper with your creativity with the help of a coach, email me to set up a complimentary phone consultation–sarah@makegreatstuff.com.


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