The Importance of Being Different

Being different makes all the difference.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels


In both art and business, the importance of being different cannot be overlooked. In artrepreneurship, we call what makes our creative business unique, our differentiator. Understanding what your differentiator is affects how you market yourself, how you run your art-based business, and ultimately, the success you’ll find within your market. There are a few ways you can differentiate your creative business:

Differentiation in your product or service

This kind of differentiator is focused on the actual product or service you’re offering. In this case, your offering is so different that no other company is providing what you provide. Customers can’t get what you’re selling anywhere else. This means that if customers want what you’re offering, they must come to YOU.

For example: The Game Crafter is a super popular creative business that allows people to design and print their own high-quality board games. When the company entered the market, they had no real competitors. Now their trade-secret software and process allows them to maintain their competitive advantage by making it tough for other companies to duplicate their service offering.

Differentiation in the way you deliver your product or service

Maybe you provide a fairly common product or service, but the way you deliver your value is totally unique. This can become an important differentiator for your creative business. Delivery can include how customers order, receive, or even use your product.

For example: Before Netflix become the streaming giant that it is today, it was mailing DVDs to customers. The movies they sent were not unique, but the way those movies were delivered to customers was. People loved being able to order online and pick up their DVDs at their mailbox. During this time, Netflix found a way to differentiate themselves through their delivery.

Differentiation in your brand

Finding a differentiator within your brand is all about sharing your value in a way that stands out from your competitors. You might find that in your market, many business sell their products in the same way. Brainstorm ways to brand your creative business in a way that’s unique, eye-catching, and relatable to your target customers.

For example: Betsey Johnson is a fashion designer and fashion brand that has been wildly successful in the fashion world. Betsey Johnson sells clothing and accessories like many of it’s competitors. But Betsey Johnson has a very unique brand that is known for its bright patterns, whimsical joy, and female empowerment. In the world of high-fashion, Betsey Johnson was able to stand out by being different.

How do you know if something is truly a differentiator?

Competitor analysis, aka research! You must know what’s happening around the market to understand if what you’re offering is unique or not. Start with Google. Find out who your competitors are and what they’re offering. Do not offer the same thing as those who are successful. Offer something different, or offer it in a different way.

Remember: You must be honest with yourself.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking at your own differentiation is honesty. It’s really easy to think that we’re providing something super unique because of a small detail that might not really matter much to customers. Try to view your creative business from an outside perspective so that you can truly understand whether or not you have achieved the differentiation you’re looking for.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When thinking about differentiation, it’s important to consider how duplicatable your differentiation is. When another artrepreneur sees your creative business, how easy will it be for them to copy your strategy? The goal in any creative business is to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. A competitive advantage is only sustainable if it’s hard or near impossible for others to mimic.

Thinking about differentiation can be a long-term process. One of my favorite quotes reads: “Direction is more important than speed.” If you can build a creative business that has differentiation in one or all of these categories, you will be one (huge) step closer to becoming a successful artrepreneur.

Peace, Kayla

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Why Vision Matters in Artrepreneurship

Vision is a critical component to building a creative business. So I’ll start by asking: What’s your vision for your art-based business?

As an artist, you already understand how important it is to have a vision for a project before you start creating it. A vision helps you make decisions as you start building your artwork. A vision helps you to stay on track even when you feel discouraged. A vision helps you to understand if you’ve created the final result you hoped for. It’s no different in business. Vision is a critical component to building a creative business. So I’ll start by asking: What’s your vision for your art-based business?

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Long-term vision

Growth company: If you’re envisioning a large company with a worldwide presence and a mega customer-base, you’re going to need to think about the scalable part of your business model. In this case, you want to build a growth company and need to start thinking about about how you can create a brand and business model that will cater to your strategy as you grow (check out this article for more on scalability). For example: When you’re branding, you should focus on the company and how it can be shared by many people over time. As your company grows, you may expand locations, hire managers, and grow a large team of employees. Your brand needs to be relatable to them and easy for them to share as they become part of your creative business.

An example of this kind of creative business might be a clothing brand, a film company, or a music label. But remember, any kind of creative business can be a either a growth company or a lifestyle company–you just have to make that strategic decision and act accordingly.

Lifestyle company: If you’re envisioning yourself as a highly paid individual who holds the ultimate value in your own talent and time, then you’ll need to think about how you can access markets with customers who will pay more and more for your value. For example: When you’re branding, you’ll need to think about how you can brand yourself and your artistic talent. You might still employ a brand name, but artists who pursue a business of this sort will rely heavily on their networks in order to grow. This means that you are your business’ money-maker, and you’ll need to focus on small markets where there’s lots of money to be made.

An example of this kind of creative business might be a high-end muralist, couture fashion designer, or upcycler who creates art pieces for high-end businesses. I mention high-end in most of these examples because, as this kind of artrepreneur, it’s important that you identify ways to continually increase the amount of money you charge for a single project or product over the course of your career. But of course, you don’t have to pursue high-end markets. What’s beautiful about a lifestyle business is that it’s main purpose is to support your lifestyle. If you’d prefer maintaining a simple lifestyle, you don’t have to pursue high-paying jobs. You can serve your local community at reasonable prices and still be a successful artrepreneur.

Understanding what you want your creative business to look like in the future is the first step in understanding where you need to start today.

Short-term vision

Vision is also important in the short-term, as it allows you to understand how you can complete projects in a manner that aligns with your long-term vision. Whether you decide to pursue a growth company or a lifestyle company, each of your upcoming decisions should reflect that strategic goal. Most artists have a strength in short-term vision because it’s what helps us to build artwork according to our inspiration and plans. But just like with art, don’t be afraid to pivot and change directions whenever you feel it’s necessary. Just remember to consider your long-term vision first. If you want to adjust your long-term vision, too, do it! Just be strategic and intentional about every choice you make.

Creative vision

Creative vision probably isn’t new to you, but using it in business might be. One of the most important benefits of creative vision is that you can use it to help rally others around what you’re doing. Your vision is what you’ll use to share your plans with others, to convince them to partner with you and to buy from you. Most artists have creative vision in the bag, but sharing that creative vision can be hard for anyone. Practice talking about your plans with others. Try to understand whether or not they can see the same vision as you after you’ve spent time explaining it to them. Wherever they have questions, try working on sharing that part of your vision in different ways. Test out your vision on those who are close to you and who will give you honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to take their criticism and apply it to what you’re doing.

Understanding how to share your creative vision with others will make all the difference in your success as an artrepreneur. If you decide to pursue a growth company, you’ll need to encourage others to join your creative business and help it grow. If you decide to pursue a lifestyle company, you’ll need to convince others to work with you and buy from you. Having a clear creative vision and knowing how to share it will help you do both.

Challenge: Try writing down, drawing out, or in some way making your vision tangible. This will help you see it from an outsider’s perspective and will allow you to make adjustments where necessary.

As an artrepreneur, vision is critical to success (however you decide to define it). Once you feel confident about where you’re headed, check out the rest of Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet to help you start executing your vision and building your very own creative business!

Peace, Kayla

How to Gain Life-long Customers and a Dedicated Creative Team

It takes trust.

Artwork by PLotulitStocker

There’s all kinds of literature out there that talks about the impact trust has on entrepreneurs and their businesses. The more people trust you, the more likely they are to do business with you. Sounds easy, but as most of us know, trust can be hard to build and even harder to regain once it’s lost. If you’re thinking about how you can ensure that you’re building trust with your customers and partners, focus on these three factors:

[Note: If you would like to read my full research paper on this topic, with citations included, please click here.]

Trust = Benevolence + Integrity + Ability

Some of the most respected researchers in leadership have identified three important factors in developing trust with others: perceived benevolence, integrity, and ability. Note the word perceived. Trust from others doesn’t depend on how well-meaning, honest, and competent you think you are. It depends on how well-meaning, honest, and competent they think you are.

Benevolence – Defined as: “well meaning and kindly.” Benevolence is present when others feel like you have their best interests in mind, when they feel like you mean well and don’t have a hidden agenda.

Integrity – Defined as: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Integrity exists when a person acts in accordance with his or her beliefs and values, and when a person does what they say they’ll do.

Ability – Defined as: “possession of the means or skill to do something.” Ability is what allows you to do what you say you’ll do. Ability is a requirement for getting things done. Understanding your own abilities and promising accordingly is important in maintaining the trust of others.

The combination of these three characteristics is a perfect catalyst for building trust with others, and trust is one of the most important factors in gaining life-long customers and a dedicated team. In the research paper linked above, I looked at multiple studies that show how important trust is for encouraging people to share in your vision. A shared vision is at the core of successful relationships with both your customers and your team. When your vision is clear and when you, as a leader, are trusted, magic happens. Customers recognize your value and share it with others. Your partners work hard to push the common mission forward. All things work together in unison, and creative businesses thrive.

Think about how your customers and partners perceive you. You’ll have to ask them, and try picking up on social clues that can give you insight to the way you are viewed. Then think about how you can increase your benevolence, integrity, and ability. Oftentimes, just being aware of these characteristics can help you to improve them. How can you work toward increased trust between yourself and those who make your artrepreneurial success possible?

This week’s blog posts have been centered around integrity, relationships, and trust for a reason. Emotion is so deeply tied to the way business is done, that a successful artrepreneur must visit these topics in order to find the success they know they can accomplish. As you work on becoming a better leader for your art-based business, you’re gaining lifelong benefits that you’ll come to be grateful for down the road. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the more technical side of building your creative business in the next few articles, so stay tuned!

Make your artrepreneurial journey easier by following Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet below!

Peace, Kayla

How to Strengthen Your Weaknesses to Become a More Successful Artrepreneur

The short answer? People!

The short answer? People! But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, you have to start by really understanding what your weaknesses actually are. For example, I have a weakness in operating technology. I can get by, but don’t excel in utilizing technology to it’s fullest potential. That’s why it’s so great to have a tech-savvy business partner! He teaches me new things and is responsible for the technological aspects of our work. We balance each other well in our strengths and weaknesses.

That’s what I mean by people. We can select creative partners in accordance to our relative strengths and weaknesses so that each person has a unique value to bring to the table. And it doesn’t have to be a permanent partner. Often artists must partner with others to get a project done, and once the project is over, each part of the team moves on. [Hollywood is notorious for utilizing this sort of collaboration. Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt refer to this kind of business structure as “nano corporations” in their book A World Gone Social. ] Together, nano corps create something awesome by allowing each member to contribute their unique strength. Plus, when the next project comes along, you already know who to call when a specific skill is necessary!

Photo by LivDeco

Building a (permanent or temporary) team around your weaknesses is helpful for many reasons:

  • Two heads are greater than one: These team members can help you find easier and more efficient ways to do things in their field of expertise.
  • Working with others gives you the opportunity to work on more projects, or to add more of your own value to a single project.
  • They can bring creativity to the table, and so can you. Having multiple perspectives not only breeds relatability for multiple potential target markets, but can help the creative process expand further than you could have originally imagined.
  • More hands on deck means more work in the queue. Again, working as a team increases efficiency, giving you the opportunity to work on more projects at a single time.

Start by thinking about your own strengths and weaknesses, and find trustworthy individuals who complement you. Look around your existing network and within your local community. But first, make sure you truly understand the value you can bring to them, because the benefits you’ll give each other will help to build a creative team that is efficient and perfectly interdependent.

Network effects

Yes, bringing in more people will help you to work on more projects faster, but it will also help you to reach more people faster. Creative partners are often some of the biggest promoters and evangelists for your work, because it’s really our work. If you’re trying to build a brand, the more people sharing your work, the better.

Remember: It’s important to be genuine when building your creative team. You want your potential partners to know that you have their best interests in mind, and that you are capable of executing your own responsibilities. Make sure your creative partners recognize your integrity when they work with you, and you’ll be one step closer to becoming a successful artrepreneur.

Peace, Kayla

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How to Become the Most Successful Artrepreneur You Can Be (Hint: Integrity)

Want to change the world with your creative business? Here’s one thing you’ll need.

Every person who sets out to start their own art-based business has the intention of becoming successful. No one wants to become an artrepreneur just to fail. But when preparing to become a creative entrepreneur, our research is usually limited to how to build a solid business and how to market and how to sell our product. What’s not so popular is discussing the personal strengths that are needed to become a happy, successful entrepreneur.

In my time of learning through University education and real-life business mentorship, one commonality has remained: Integrity is a critical component to becoming a successful business owner who leads change in their business and in the world.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Integrity can be defined in many ways, but three ways have stuck out to me most:

Integrity is doing what you say you’ll do.

Integrity is about doing the right things for the right reasons.

Integrity is present when you act in accordance with the beliefs and values you say you hold.

Most of us like to think that we are good people who have integrity. And that’s usually true. But let’s talk about some situations where good artrepreneurs are faced with challenges to maintaining their integrity:

Reporting income

As an entrepreneur, you’ll be faced with much autonomy when it comes to reporting your own income, especially if you’re taking payments in cash. It can be easy to write everything off, or report less income than you’ve actually received. I’m not here to tell you what is right and wrong, but I am here to encourage you to think about what choice is right for you. A mentor once told me to make decisions under the assumption that every decision would end up on the front page of the New York Times. Silly, considering that the NYT isn’t exactly following my every move. But helpful, because it got me thinking about the kind of person I want to be. Think about what kind of person you want to be when making these types of decisions.

Plagiarizing

This one’s tough, because sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. But, there’s a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. If you make a mistake and realize you’ve plagiarized someone else’s work, just be honest and give them the credit they deserve. This can happen when an artrepreneur brings assistants and other partners in to help with executing projects. Make sure to credit them with the work they’ve done, and be clear about the team that helps make your creative business successful.

How you treat your customers & employees or partners

You’ve probably heard the popular saying that the customer is always right. Obviously, that’s not always true–but customers love when business owners accommodate them anyway. This might look like NOT placing blame on a customer, even when the blame is theirs to take. This might look like being completely honest when you make a mistake, and providing a way to “make it right.” When mistakes happen, entrepreneurs are presented an opportunity to build relationships that will last by showing their customers that they have integrity. Emotions are a huge part of customer loyalty. Appeal to your customers’ emotions by being honest, helpful and genuine.

Another issue that entrepreneurs face is evading the truth or inferring things that aren’t true when they’re in a bind. Sometimes its easier to say nothing than to tell the truth, but this can often hurt your relationship with customers and partners. Again, transparency and honesty are critical for developing and maintaining relationships that are going to help make you a successful artrepreneur.


Integrity is something that’s always growing, with every choice we make. I don’t say these things to assume that you need this advice, or to pretend like I’ve got integrity all figured out. But I’m working on it–I’m committed to choosing integrity. I say these things to give you food for thought that will hopefully help you become an even better artrepreneur.

Peace, Kayla

P.S. Here at Artrepreneurship – where ‘art’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ meet, it’s all about giving you straight-up, honest, helpful information about the artrepreneurial journey. Follow below for more honest conversations about finding success in your own artrepreneurial journey!