How to Do a SWOT Analysis for Creatives

SWOT Analysis for Creatives

In the business world, a SWOT analysis is a common introductory tool for examining your business for both the good and the bad. SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Strengths

It’s a simple way to break down what you’re doing well and what areas could be improved, and can give you many starting points for further growth. While it’s limited in scope, it’s a fantastic first step for any business seeking to identify how likely a project is to succeed. Today we’re going to explain how creatives can use a SWOT analysis, whether you’re a photographer, graphic designer, or content creator. Cover photo by: Kristin Hardwick

What Do You Put in a SWOT Analysis?

sqot analysis example
An example layout of a SWOT analysis, courtesy of the Wikipedia page on the concept.

A SWOT analysis is broken down into four categories. It is often put on a two-by-two grid, but it can be written in any ways that makes sense to you. Here is a breakdown of exactly what each category means.

Strengths

Strengths might be the easiest part of a SWOT analysis, because it’s where you get to write down all of the the things that make your business great. These are internal factors only, and should be the things you do best or that set you apart from the competition. Examples of strengths are passionate employees, unique product, lowest price, or most experience.

Weaknesses

The weaknesses category forces you to look within your business and admit your faults. They are internal factors that may put you at a disadvantage compared to your competition. Examples of weaknesses include lack of a solid marketing strategy, bad public image, or lack of investors.

Opportunities

Opportunities are the most exciting part of a SWOT analysis. They are the external elements of your business that you could take advantage of. This can range all the way from opportunities for a new business partnership to taking advantage of a world event. It’s also about turning strengths into opportunities, so take the time to see if any of your strengths can be leveraged to find new business.

Threats

Threats are the external elements that could cause issues for your business. These will be things that haven’t happened yet but loom on the horizon. This includes things that your competitors are doing, manifestations of your business’s weaknesses, and market changes that are likely to bring you harm.

Common Strengths for Creatives

Creatives sometimes have a problem with being overconfident or underconfident, so it can be difficult to accurately asses your strengths. Luckily, there are a few great external sources of strengths. Praise and compliments from clients and peers will be your best source. What specific things do people say about you? Are you really good at designing event posters? Do you have a super-fast turnaround time for projects? Check your reviews for trends, and then fill in the strengths with anything else that you can think of.

Common Weaknesses for Creatives

Weaknesses are also hard to admit, and it’s not fun to identify them. The first place to start is any skills that you’re lacking in your craft. Is there a certain type of photography that you need more experience in before you can effectively make money off of it? Could you be interacting with your audience more? If you have an objective or a goal, try focusing on what is keeping you from that goal. These may be glaring weaknesses in your strategy.

Common Opportunities for Creatives

As a creative, you probably have a lot more opportunities than most other professions. You always have the option of scaling up your operation by hiring assistants. You can also start to offer more services. Broadening your horizons is a common move for creatives who are tired of their current work. That’s the great thing about creative work – there is a lot of flexibility!

Common Threats for Creatives

The creative field is incredibly competitive, so threats should be easy to identify! Other creatives in your field are direct threats to your own success, as clients may choose them over you (not that you should be overly paranoid about that, or start acting hostile toward other creatives). Another common threat is unpredictable income streams. If you don’t have regular work and often work on single-project contracts then this might be an important weakness to identify.

graphic designer working on computer

How to Act on a SWOT Analysis

So you’ve filled out your SWOT analysis, but now what? If you’re just an individual creative, then you may lack the time and money to make the sweeping changes necessary.

Overall, you want to maximize strengths, minimize weaknesses, pursue opportunities, and defend against threats. That seems obvious, but acting on that can be its own challenge. Firstly, decide what the most critical step is. Is there an imminent threat or a crippling weakness that absolutely needs to be addressed? Or is there a profitable opportunity that you’re able to take advantage of right now?

Strengths can become weaknesses if you use them to pigeonhole yourself into a certain category, or indulge in overconfidence. Similarly, opportunities can become threats if you take a risk or take advantage of an opportunity that turns out poorly.

As mentioned before, working in a creative field likely gives you a unique circumstance to take advantage of opportunities and try new things. Don’t be afraid to do something different!

How to Use the SWOT Analysis

Your completed SWOT analysis can be used for many things. It can be a constantly updated list that you return to whenever you accomplish a new goal or make new business moves. It can also be used to decide if a client is a good fit for you. Does working with this client expose one of your weaknesses? Or does it give you an opportunity to fix a weakness? Are there any risks associated with working with this client, or are there instead opportunities for growth or future referrals?

Additionally, if you find that your strengths and opportunities align well, you may have room for growth and more aggressive strategies. Similarly, if your weaknesses and threats coincide, you should be able to build a solid strategy for improving the company while treading cautiously in the meantime.

Why Should Creatives Use a SWOT Analysis?

While a SWOT analysis is usually used in businesses with multiple employees, it can certainly apply to a lone designer trying to make it on their own. When you’re working alone or in a small team, it can often feel like you’re in a bubble. There is no one to tell you whether you’re doing well or not, and no one to compare your work with. You may overlook your issues and overemphasize your successes. A SWOT analysis gives you an honest chance to critique yourself. This makes it a great starting point for creative people to take a professional and calculated approach to improve their business!

Read next: Can the Eisenhower Matrix Make You Work Smarter?

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