What You Can Learn from Your Competition

Building a small creative business doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel. There is plenty to learn from people who have already done it.


Meeting in an art business consultation. Read about it at www.ArtsBusinessInstitute.org


What does your competition have to teach you? Plenty. Other artists and makers who are in the same “space” in the market have run into similar problems, and many have found solutions and ways to grow. Here are a few ways to learn from others:

Work as a studio assistant. If you are just getting your feet wet and want to learn the ropes, there is no substitute for real life experience in the studio of a successful artist who can teach you the business while using your skills to help them grow theirs. Similar to the time-honored practice of apprenticeships in many of the trades, working as a studio assistant will show you how it’s done as a preparation for opening your own future business.

Get a mentor. Many mature and seasoned artists are happy to share their knowledge and experience with newer ones, and this can be an extremely satisfying relationship for both parties. Where do you find a mentor? Start by joining groups and associations that cater to your medium or specialty to make connections and network. Let people know you are looking for a mentor, with the intention of getting a referral. Ask others in your art community (see below) to recommend someone they know who may be interested. Or, consider shorter-term mentorship through a professional consultation if you are searching for business strategies to find your market, get focused or do big picture planning.

Study the careers of artists with similar work. You know the artists in your niche who have become successful, because they are well known and recognized. There will be information about them out there, through articles in publications and online, on their own website, or contained in interviews with them that can give you insight and information on “how they did it.” Podcasts are widely available on the internet, and artists often are openly willing to share their strategies, and their methods. The Clark Hulings Fund has many artist interview podcasts available, which can be inspirational as well as informational.

View their online presence.  Take a look at the websites of artists who are doing what you want to do. What type of customers do they have? Would this type of client be a good prospect for you as well? Social media platforms also share lots  of information about the daily activities of successful artists you may want to emulate, as well as their planning. They will often post about their studio projects, and shows, fairs and festivals they attend. Observing the projects and the schedule of successful artists can give you a good idea of the flow of the business, and how you might also want to shape your own.

Join a community. Artist communities come in many forms, from salons and meetings at local art organizations to online forums, and they can be a great asset to any creative who wants to learn from others who have been successful and have lots to share. Face to face meetings can be especially helpful, and give you the opportunity to build strong personal relationships with others. If you belong to an arts group, check to see if they offer any professional development programming in the form of live training, webinars or online courses. Communities attract a wide range of people with a variety of experience, and they can often recommend resources, vendors, or introductions to potential mentors.


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