How You Should Regard Your Competition

It’s important to stay competitive within your industry in order to achieve success and remain successful. This is a commonly accepted fact within large and small businesses of all kinds. Maintaining a competitive edge is smart business 101.

But… you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you? …I implore you to re-think the current way you may be perceiving the individual sellers you are in competition with. Rather than regarding them with suspicion, envy, or as anchor points with which to measure your own success by, think of these sellers as your colleagues. Particularly in the handmade industry, we need to remember that our fellow sellers are also people with similar goals, hopes, and dreams. They want the same things you do. They are your fellow knitters, jewelry makers, painters, ceramic artists, and so on. There is so much you can learn from one another, and so much benefit to be gleaned from cooperating and supporting each other.

In fact, there is so much more to be earned by lifting each other up than by pitting yourself against one another. By creating a community of handmade sellers, that work together and help one another, everyone wins. Not only that, but everyone wins by margins that are much larger than they otherwise could be.

Beaded Red and Crystal Bracelet

Before you assume the worst of another seller favoriting your items, consider the possibility that he or she actually likes your items and wants to help promote you or even buy from you. (YES, I have had other beadweavers buy my stuff! It does happen!) Similarly, please don’t get angry with other sellers for asking you for advice or tips. They aren’t trying to “steal” your business formula, they simply look up to you as a leader within your industry, and are hoping for some help. If you give it to them, there is a very good chance karma will return the favor in your direction.

I’m not saying that you need to bend over backwards for other sellers requesting favors, but it doesn’t hurt to point them in the right direction. For example, you can lead them to an Etsy team or blog that has plenty of good advice that might be useful to them. This hardly takes any time out of your day, and there’s a good chance that the seller will be grateful for the help. We all start out inexperienced and could use all of the help we can get. Besides, wouldn’t you like to be mentioned a few months down the road on a prominent blog as the “seller who helped me get here” so readers should “go buy from” you?

Rhinestone Hair Clip

In general, I believe what goes around comes around. That’s why I’m not the least bit hesitant to give other sellers–even sellers who make the same kind of jewelry that I do–advice on how to run a successful business, tips on how to make items, or where to get a deal on supplies. Believe it or not, this has not hurt my business at all. No, really! I truly believe that it has only helped it. As a result of being a helpful contributor to my sector of the handmade community, I often get mentioned and featured on blogs, recommended to buyers from my fellow sellers, and even gifted handmade goodies as a thank you. Not to mention, I don’t have to deal with the stress of worrying about other sellers “stealing my ideas” or “copying my business strategy.” To me, that sounds like a lot of wasted energy.

But what about what I said at the beginning of this article? Don’t businesses need to stay competitive in order to succeed? How do we do that if we aren’t going to regard other sellers as our competition?

What I actually said was, you need to stay competitive within your industry. That means designing new, unique creations that stand apart. It means coming up with clever marketing strategies that will get noticed. It means having enough product on the web that you are bound to be found by anyone looking for what you make. It means having a strong brand image that comes to mind whenever people think of your particular items. It means offering a quality, fun buying experience for your customers so that they will become loyal and come back for more, eager to see what you are going to come out with next.

Anklet

There are 7 billion people in the world, and plenty of customers for everyone. By regarding your fellow sellers as colleagues instead of competition, you can work together to increase the chances that more people choose handmade. By it’s very nature, one person or even a team of people, could never handle all of world’s demand for a certain product at once. Unlike car insurance or cell phone companies, us crafters have to actually MAKE our products, and therefore, can afford to share the love. A community of friendly, helpful sellers is so much more inviting than a cut-throat, distrustful selection anyway. It makes for not only a more pleasant buying experience for customers, but also a much less stressful selling experience from our end.

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36 thoughts on “How You Should Regard Your Competition

  1. Monique U (A Half-Baked Notion) November 14, 2012 at 7:22 am Reply

    Love all your positive, common-sense advice, Megan!

  2. Between The Weeds: LRStudio November 14, 2012 at 8:17 am Reply

    Fabulous post!

  3. Emma November 14, 2012 at 9:59 am Reply

    Very well put. Refreshing and freeing. I would always try not to sigh audibly when “jewelers” would complain about all the “jewelry” at local shows… So hard to hear over and over whining rather than action. At one point I suggested a pre Mothers day all jewelry show, ie why not promote the fact that there is a great myriad to choose from. You would think I had offered to tar and feather them all. Sigh.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 14, 2012 at 10:03 am Reply

      Aww, Emma, I think that you offered up a great idea. Sometimes people can be short-sighted, not realizing that an all-jewelry show would mean every single person coming through the doors would be looking for one thing: jewelry! What an awesome opportunity THAT would provide everyone!

  4. Cynthia@OrnamentalStyle November 14, 2012 at 10:57 am Reply

    Thanks to Monique at A Half-Baked Notion for sharing the link to this post. It’s so nice to see a different perspective on competition, especially the sharing of resources and “how tos.” I asked three jewelers what they use to seal metal but they didn’t respond (the fourth did). You would have thought I was asking for trade secrets. Anyway, I will try to remember the spirit of this post and share with those who ask me for advice. We are all in this together.

  5. twistedpixelstudio November 14, 2012 at 11:01 am Reply

    Excellent! I do give my “secrets” away. I figure if someone really wants to try their hand at what I do, then let ’em rip. Its a compliment, and really, everyone’s take is a bit different. Especially in the photography world.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Precisely Debbie. You can teach someone your techniques but it doesn’t mean they will come up with the same ideas and designs as you. We are all different people, and those differences can often be observed in our finished works of art.

  6. wishingwellstudio November 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm Reply

    Thank you Meg for such a well grounded perspective.

  7. homegrownjoy November 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Great advice. I’ve always believe there is enough success for everyone :)

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 8:09 am Reply

      Especially with handmade, there is no way one person could make enough for everyone! We aren’t machines! lol

  8. Joelle November 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Megan, awesome post! I totally agree with you , as I never look at my other sellers as my competition. I look at my own self in how to be more creative how can I stand out and how do I want to brand myself. I try to match everything so when people look at my shop Joie Joelle, you know its my stuff. Even if means its a matching label of mine. Honesty, if I see other shops items, I look at it as inspiration to be more creative in the future to my own store. :)

  9. Kim @justByou November 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm Reply

    Excellent post! I’m pinning it!
    Growing up in the US of A, we are highly competitive as American culture would have it. Instead of competing, we can play nicely together! We can learn from each other, and we can help each other. And, as you said it, there are plenty of customers for everyone.
    ~Kim
    from Blogging Buddies

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 8:18 am Reply

      Exactly Kim, when handmade artists help one another, we can accomplish so much more!

  10. kait November 15, 2012 at 12:37 am Reply

    Good advice. :) I love promoting other bloggers and sellers on my blog, because I think their work is awesome and I want them to be successful.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 8:11 am Reply

      That’s awesome kait. And like I said in my post, what goes around comes around. I’m sure that by promoting these sellers many of them are directing people to your blog, thus, giving your own shop more attention from more people.

  11. Heather McCaw November 15, 2012 at 7:12 am Reply

    Awesome post! We visual artists steal from each other and seek advice/collaboration constantly. It is the key to moving creative ideas forward – it’s a task too big for any one person and, even if you look back in history, all the greatest artists were heavily influenced by other artists who were either contemporaries or predecessors. And I think you make a great point about how there are more than enough customers out there to share. Thanks for sharing!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 8:17 am Reply

      You’re welcome Heather, thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  12. Sally-Ann November 15, 2012 at 7:41 am Reply

    I’m glad you have expressed this, so eloquently too. I agree. We need to change our perception of the concept of competition. Humanity as a whole seems to be shifting (faster than you might think) towards interdependence. Read that again: inter-dependence. Working with and for each other. Yay!
    My only question about this post is that you mention ‘having enough product on the web’. So, as an Etsy creatrix, selling jewellery and accessories, how many items should I aim at stocking in my shop?
    Sally-Ann of The Navigatrix

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 8:21 am Reply

      Sally-Ann, as a jewelry and accessories seller myself, I personally have found that when I have over 250 items in my shop, I get more sales. Most likely, that’s because I have enough items to show up in multiple searches (I show up in a search for “green hair clip” AND “red hair clip,” for example.) I think the amount of items needed depend on what category you sell in and how many items are already there. The bigger the category (jewelry is the biggest), the more items needed to increase your chances of being found.

      Hope that helps!

  13. sueswordfitlyspoken November 15, 2012 at 9:32 am Reply

    Meagan, I had to laugh out loud when I read your stat about how many people there are in the world. That certainly did put it all into perspective, didn’t it?
    Well said the whole way through!
    Sue Mongen of A Word Fitly Spoken on Quilted Treasures

  14. Nelson Jewelry & Gemstones November 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree. Nobody makes the same piece of jewelry I do. That’s what’s great about jewelry: so much diversity.

    I don’t mind promoting other people’s beautiful pieces that I admire on my Facebook page. Even when they do the same thing I do, which is wire wrapping. Their work inspires me, gives me something to aim for, and it offers something to my customers that I don’t currently offer.

    I also have customers who make jewelry who buy beads from me, and I enjoy Liking and Commenting on their posts knowing that that will give them more reach. When they succeed, I succeed.

    Yahoo groups are great for meeting up with very helpful people, many who don’t mind sharing their secrets and tips.

    We who make jewelry make beautiful things. It would be great if our respect for one another also reflected that beauty.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm Reply

      I think its fantastic that you promote other wire-wrapping jewelry designers! I the the overall benefit of promoting those within our medium is that we are drawing an even great attention to our art form, increasing customer awareness where there might have otherwise not been any.

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. creativeclayartist/Lora November 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm Reply

    Megan, I just love your blog, especially this post!! I am just starting out and have received lots of help and advice, most especially from your blog! The best part is, that now that I am gaining experience with selling my work, I am able to give back to those who are just starting out. I have yet to sell anything, but with time I know I will! For right now I have gained more than money from my work, I have gained lots of new friends and lots of great experience!!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm Reply

      Awww, Lora, that just warms my heart to hear! I’m so glad I could be of help to you, and thank you so much for reading!

  16. torisophia November 18, 2012 at 9:22 am Reply

    Love this post (thanks Monique at A Half-Baked Notion for sharing the link). Its how I feel. I LOVE encouraging other artists and sharing their work with others. I wear other’s work more than I wear my own. I usually ask the artists that I buy from to send me extra business cards which I share with people whenever they may ask or marvel about a piece of jewelry I am wearing. I know others do not agree with this philosophy but its brought me great bead karma! I love my fellow artists and am not afraid to let them know it! THANKS for this post it is a definite keeper!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns November 19, 2012 at 8:14 am Reply

      I’m so glad you feel this way! Thank you for sharing and spreading the love! We all appreciate it! :-)

  17. colormusing December 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm Reply

    I totally agree with you, Megan– we’re far better served by focusing on our customers more than on our competition. However, competition is good in that it motivates us to be creative enough to stand out in the crowd of sellers!

  18. leallyson December 15, 2012 at 8:24 am Reply

    Just discovered your blog. I couldn’t agree more. I have sometimes felt constrained to ask my handmade jewelry colleagues a question about their marketing techniques or other things. I am willing to share and from now on I will take a more open approach to this. I admire my fellow artists, and do not want to steal their ideas. But I think we can all help each other be more successful.

  19. Sandra Ellen Bradshaw March 29, 2013 at 10:02 am Reply

    I love all the positive feed back. Thanks for a great article. I teach out of my studio anyone who wants to learn my technique. If you desire to do this, first thing you must do is get a business license and insurance. The insurance was surprisingly cheap. I think a couple of hundred a year. I charge $100 per day plus materials. I am talented in many areas of enameling including plique a jour and Limoges painting. There are very few people in the US who do these. Lots of times students then appreciate how time comsuming both techniques are and they end up purchasing my work.
    I tried your suggestion of Ertsy, but got lost in the throng. I could probably come up with 250 pieces of the Limoges painting technique, but I doubt I could put out enough in plique a jour. I have my pieces on Facebook and the feed back is phenonenal! Thanks for the encouraging article. I will try Ertsy again with more product. I do custom Limoges portraits necklaces with a deceased loved one on the back and their favorite flower on the front. I also give them as condolences gifts to friends and relatives who lose a loved one. The sales are finally coming for me. Good luck and keep doing what you love!

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