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.
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?
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.
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.