Sometimes, when we enter into a small art business, we think “Hey, I’ve got this great idea.” We create our art, put together a dazzling display, take it to a show, and then, lo and behold, you find someone two booths down is doing the same thing as you!
Maybe the material is different or the colors, and their prices may be lower or higher. Yet similarities exist between your work and theirs.
Say “hello” to your competition.
Unless you work in a vacuum and never take your art outside your home, chances are someone out there is making the same or something similar to the art you make. It happens. We take influences from a variety of resources. Some say there is no such thing as a truly original idea, just a different way to present it. And when you enter into a small business (or any business for that matter) you need to determine who your competition is and how you can “stay on top of the game.”
Find and Define the Competition
In order to find the competition, think about the venues where you sell (or want to sell) your work: retail shows, art galleries and consignment stores, Etsy, Wholesalecrafts.com, area guilds. When you visit these venues, whose work most closely resembles your work? How is it similar? Think about the physical aspects and pricing. How is it different?
Write it all down. I created a chart in my notebook to use when I check out other artists on Wholesalecrafts.com who also make wine bottle stoppers or business card cases.
Now take it a little further.
Ask yourself what does your competition do better than you. Again, consider their technique, price, and quality. Other areas to consider are their marketing, packaging, and display. You may not be able to answer all these aspects; though at a show you could certainly ask the other artist about their display or packaging or even marketing and in art galleries and stores you can get an idea of how the other artist handles the packaging of his/her work.
This is a good time to really think about and analyze your work as a whole, from the product to the packaging to how you market it.
Once you’ve looked at all these aspects, try to determine what opportunities your competition leaves open for you. Are there other venues to consider? Is there a different market to target? Do they only sell in a certain geographic area, or only use certain colors?
I understand some of this may seem speculative. In essence you are doing a bit of research and sometimes in research you have to make hypotheses. At the same time, this type of research may also trigger an a-ha moment for you which will lead you down a path you had not considered before. And it will also give you the opportunity to think about how to make your art even better.
The intent here is to differentiate yourself from your competition. When you understand who your competition is, you can begin to develop ways to distinguish yourself from them.
Next Week: Know your customers/collectors