Steps to Build a Market for Your Creative Work, even if others sell the same thing you do.
The other day I picked up a new hobby, and started knitting handmade dish cloths. Initially I started because I found some cotton yarn in a bright colour I loved, and needed some new cloths, so it seemed a natural progression. After I made enough to stock my own drawers, as well as some for gifts, I kept making them. I enjoyed the process, and I liked the quick work of it in the evenings when it was time to wind down. Of course, being business-minded, I started to consider selling them. The first question I had was, “If I sell these, what would I sell them for?”
I believe pricing your work is a very personal thing. After all, there is so much to take into consideration, including your goals, your time, your expenses, and your circumstances. Your pricing should reflect all these things, and it should be a number you set, and not necessarily just be what your competitor is charging. It is PERSONAL TO YOU. When I thought of selling my cloths, I thought through all of these things and settled on a price I was happy with. (And if you’re currently wondering how to price your art and handmade goods, you can get my guide HERE)
The problem started the minute I walked into one of our craft markets and noticed that everyone else who made dishcloths was charging half of what I was planning on charging for mine. If I were to sell these at the price I wanted, would I risk not making any sales because of my higher price? Or would I have to lower my price to match and then risk my sales being only enough to recover my expenses?
There is always going to be someone else who does what you do. This is just a fact. If you put your work out there and then try to compete on price, everybody loses. I will repeat that again: EVERYBODY LOSES.
Don’t get me wrong – there is value in knowing what your competitors charge and in understanding your industry’s benchmarks for pricing. But how do you resolve the issue of competing in a market with multiple competitors, where the main price point does not allow you to meet your income goals?
Create a new market, just for your work. Nurture a group of people on why your work matters and guide them to choose you over others, even others that are more readily available, or come at a lower price. As a creative, this has extra value, because we often bring to the table intangibles such as our artistic voice and visual style. When we choose to showcase that in our work, and communicate what makes us unique, we elevate ourselves and begin to stand out as more than just another product on the market.
To begin doing this, ask yourself:
1: What makes me unique over everyone else who does what I do? Is it your materials? Is it your story and background? Is it a cause or something that you value that fuels the work you do?
2: Who would value the elements that make my work special? Why do they value this? (And if you don’t know, ask!)
3: How do I communicate this unique element of my work in a way that resonates with the people who find value in it? And remember – once you’ve answered this you have to communicate it all the time! Share the stories and special elements behind your work!
4: Lastly, consider your distribution channels. Is the way you choose to sell your work and the locations you pick for your sales in alignment with the people you are trying to reach? If not, ask yourself what you can do to get your wares in front of an audience who will connect with your work.
It’s still too early in the game for me to know if I will do anything with all my extra dish cloths but I’ve got all this written down and organized should I wish to pull the trigger. And if not, then hey, I guess my family will never have to buy wash cloths ever again!
Cheers to the creative life!