Just steal it #2.

This is the second instalment of the “Just Steal It” series. If you missed part one you can grab it here. 

That email garnered all kinds of responses – thank yous, gratitude, agreement and quite a bit of dissention. 

One reader actually called me reckless and harmful (but didn’t unsubscribe… so hello there! Good for you for sticking it out – but this one is more about stealing… just saying).

It’s great – I love the feedback, but let me be very, very clear.

I do not, in any way condone plagiarism or outright copying.


That’s NOT what I’m saying and don’t read it like that.

If you get anything out of this series, it’s basically to lift your head out of your studio for a second and look around. 

We miss an awful lot of great ideas for our own businesses when we put blinders on and only pay attention to our own little piece of the pie. 

Your second customer.

Steal from your competition. 

Steal smart. Steal often.

Your first customer is your loyal, devoted, loving fan. That customer who loves everything you do and comments, shares and buys everything that you offer.

We want more of them.

And your competition is a great place to start.

Your second customer is your competition’s loyal, devoted, loving fan – who could, with some effort, become your first customer too.  

First, you first need to do some sleuthing work about your competition. There must be a significant overlap in:

• genre
• medium
• subject and
• style

You must have overlapping &/or closely related niches or else you’re trying to convert cat people into dog people… and that’s just a lost cause. 

Choose local AND global competition. 

Global artists can be tracked and watched online, but the local competition will give you physical access to their events and shows. 

Make sure that the competition you’re watching is actually successful… sometimes that’s hard to discern online because there’s an awful lot of exaggeration (and sometimes out right lies) about people’s successes.

However, a good rule of thumb is to watch their social media and see how they’re tweeting and posting.

Are they filled with positive experiences and successful stories? Or do they complain a lot about having no money and a day job that they hate?

Avoid the negative talkers – we don’t want to copy anything that they’re doing.


Avoid negative talkers.


Ideally, watch those artists that are working full time and earning a sustainable income from their art. We want to watch and take advice and direction from artists who are currentlyliving and working where we want to be. 

Keep everything in perspective and take it all with a grain of salt.

This isn’t a comparison exercise and I don’t want anyone thinking they’re behind on their path, or their life is shit because they haven’t yet reached the potential of their competition.

We’re after business ideas and good practices, not more reasons to feel bad about ourselves.

Here’s a secret no one talks about…

Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve admired and watched my competition and marvelled at their ability to create a sustainable and apparently thriving art business in a few short years, only to find out that they are being supported by a wealthy spouse, family member or trust fund. (Seriously.)

Things are not always what they seem.


Our path is our path, their path is their path and we’re watching our competition to steal good ideas for ourselves, not become depressed enough to eat a whole bag of BBQ chips.  And maybe too much of that McCain cake. In the freezer. Right now. 

Calling me. 

I’m super competitive. 

To the point where my first instinct is to ignore the competition. 

I hate losing – so I don’t like seeing people doing better than me, because it triggers feelings of “not good enough” and “not deserving”.

It’s all my own insecurity stuff and I don’t begrudge anyone else’s success – I just tend to beat myself up about why I’m not making the numbers or making the sales or getting the clients of X, Y or Z.
(But seriously, at the beginning of a business, everyone’s doing better… so wtf? Who cares…) 

It’s a bit like “keeping up with the Jones'” and it makes me feel bad about myself – so I’m often tempted to keep my head down in my own work and not concern myself with what others are doing. 

This does have it’s place and is recommended when you’re in the middle of a series or deadline – but if we don’t pull our heads up every now and then, we miss the opportunity to steal our competition’s great ideas for ourselves! (haha!!)

Do your research.


Get to know as much as you possibly can about your competition:

  • Go through their website with a fine tooth comb – look at every page:
    • The about and bio – what can you apply to your own website?

      Where/how can you improve?


  • How do they organize their art portfolio?
    • Can you do yours better?


  • Join their mailing list/newsletter if they have one.
    • What service are they using?

      How have they branded their mails?


  • Pay attention to the sales mail especially.
    • How to they craft their sales message?

      Why do you think it’s effective? How do you think you could improve?


  • What groups are they a part of?
    • What memberships or associations?

      Maybe you should join too.


  • What awards have they won?
    • Maybe you should apply/enter too.


  • What partnerships are they nurturing?
    • Who are they working with?

      Showing with?

      Licensing &/or creating events with?

      Maybe those are markets you should look at too.


  • What galleries have they exhibited at?
    • Go physically to check it out if possible.

      Maybe it’s suitable for your work. 


  • What kinds of events do they run during the year?
    • Seasonal?

      Special event/purpose?


      Would that fit with your business plan?


  • What events/shows/conventions have they run or participated in year after year?
    • Unless they’re a terrible business person and aren’t counting costs – the repeat venues are likely a very lucrative event/market and you should check it out.


  • Create a Google Alert for your competition to track what they’re up to.

    Apparently Google Alerts is more broken than working. (Which is true – my Google Alerts have been returning me very little in the way of notifications even when I KNOW that my competition are doing and posting great stuff.)

    You can use the tips in the link above with these Google Alerts alternatives to keep track of your competition and create more opportunity for your art biz.


The IRL bonus.


    Go and physically see your competition at an event / show / convention. 

    See them in action – meet them and watch how they interact with potential buyers/collectors. 
    • how have they arranged their booth/show?

    • how are they displaying their merch and originals >> are they doing anything unique to create more value for some products over others?

    • do they have a sell sheet? flyer? or takeaway postcard? Take it away with you. 

    • Is there a business card?

    • are they doing any thing really neat or special to attract buyers?

    • Are they doing anything special to reward VIP or collectors? 

    • Is there a mailing list sign up? Sign up. (Even if you already have – maybe they’ve got a segmented list that differentiates between online sign ups and IRL sign ups.)

    • Watch them work their booth for awhile – see how they sell and what they’re doing to connect with their audience. If they’re successful – they’re doing this well, so watch.

    • What are they selling well? What’s popular? WHY >> why would that item be popular with YOUR audience… 
    Never lose sight of they psychology of marketing – there are always reasons why some things connect and others don’t. Sometimes there are mysterious, magical reasons that don’t have an obvious answer…

    But often times it just takes a little bit of sitting with the question for a bit to come up with an understanding that will help you create art that connects better with your audience and understand better WHY they want to buy it (which helps you sell it easier and make more stuff that people want…. on and on…)



There is infinity pie.


    Whenever you can, make friends with your competition.

    Be kind.

    Be generous and helpful – it’s a better world when we view our competition as a friend rather than an enemy.

    The truth is, my competition are my mentors and role models. They are blazing trails that I will follow.

    Not all of them, and not in everything – but I’m mostly grateful for their work and their successes because it means I don’t have to make it all up from scratch. 

    There’s already a map that I can follow and put my own stamp on. 

    You never know where you’ll end up – when you’ll have the opportunity to turn your competition into a partner and add to your mutual success. 

    You could even thank them in person, or digitally for how they’ve inspired you in your own art business by what they’re doing in theirs. 

    There’s enough pie for everyone – someone else’s success doesn’t mean that we get less. 

You are still YOU. 

    Do NOT become an identical copy of your competition. 

    DON’T try to be someone else or replicate someone else’s results.

    You are amazingly YOU and your loyal, loving fans want you to be exactly who you are. 

    Be aware of your competition. 

    Be aware of what they’re doing and constantly test whether that will work for you too. 

    Be aware of your competition and what they’re NOT doing. 

    Garfield was a conscious commercial creation based on what Jim Davis saw his competition NOT doing. 

    A good idea is a good idea. 

    Don’t shy away from it because someone else thought of it first. 

    Steal it.
    Then do it YOUR way.


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