First of all, you need to accept the competition. More and more people are going freelance these days so there’s a good chance that there are several competitors offering similar services to you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competition shows that there is a need for your services.
Competition is a fact of life. You’re in competition applying for jobs, setting up a business and bidding on eBay. Freelancing is no different. You can’t hope that other freelancers will suddenly disappear. You can’t stop potential clients from going to other freelancers, so why waste energy worrying? Once you’ve accepted that competition is not going away, you can work out how to deal with it.
How NOT to deal with competition
How do you plan to deal with competitors? Do you ignore them or do you actively try to compete? Are either of these approaches actually benefiting you and helping you to grow your business?
Or worse, are you actively trying to discourage people from working with your competitors? That will not go down well with anyone. You’ll look bitter and difficult to work with.
The damage of making comparisons
When you’re doing research for your business, (yes when) you should be looking at who your competitors are as well as possible clients. The more knowledgeable you are the better.
Here’s the dangerous part – when start constantly comparing yourself with others. It is a natural to compare and that’s fine as long as it’s helping you to focus on your goals. If it’s damaging your confidence and causing sleepless nights, then this isn’t great. If you are constantly comparing your services and successes with others, aren’t you doing yourself a disservice?
Every business is different and you have to find out what makes yours unique. All freelancers start off from different points. Some may begin with more experience, contacts and money than others. Some may start off with nothing. In fact, many freelancers have blog posts about this. They detail all the mistakes they made, their humble beginnings and it can be helpful to read through these to remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere and it is possible to become successful.
Why you should make friends not enemies from your competitors
You can share advice
Whether you’re stuck on a project or need to rant about that nightmare client, who else to understand you better than another freelancer? You can try complaining to your friends and family if all you want is a sympathetic ear but if you want actionable advice then another freelancer is your best bet. Reaching out to others helps you to build a support network to fall back on should times get tough.
Say you want to have your blog posts published on a well-known website and you’ve been closely following your favourite freelancer who just so happens to have been published there. Well you can reach out and ask them for advice on how to apply. Just make sure you return the favour and offer help to others.
You can share work
If you belong to a support network like this, who do you think your fellow freelancers are going to turn to if they’re too busy to take on a new project? They’ll turn to you before they turn down work and disappoint their clients. In return you can do the same. It’s a win-win situation. Most established freelancers get their clients from referrals, from other clients or even other freelancers.
You look more approachable & gain authority
If you’re active in the freelance community you’ll look more approachable both for other freelancers and clients to connect with you. You’re also more likely to be noticed because you are actively interacting in this market as opposed to just throwing some marketing out there and hoping it will stick. Connecting with others and sharing advice will also help you to gain authority in your line of work. This is also why you should have a blog as part of your marketing plan.
Put the social back in social media marketing
If you’ve got a Twitter account, think again before plugging sales tweets and links to your blog all over the place. People don’t like being sold to. The focus in marketing now is to offer free, valuable content in order to get people to your website. Rather than just tweeting links to your website, share blog posts from others, comment and connect. This way you connect with influential freelancers and you also fill your social media profiles with useful content.
No more lonely freelancers
Working for yourself and from home can mean that you don’t have the office chit-chat that a lot of freelancers end up missing. Co-working might be good for you but can get costly. Having an online community of people in the same line of work as you can be invaluable.
But will this just mean more exposure for your competitors and less for you?
Not necessarily. As long as you have a solid, professional online presence and the services to rival others, it shouldn’t cause harm to your business. If your business does not appear to be growing, don’t just blame it on the competition. Look at what they’re doing right and see how you can build on it. If you’re struggling then you might need to rethink your online content, branding or come up with a new angle or niche to your services.
Everyone is different. You might be working in the same industry, but the chances of you doing the exact same thing are slim. You may have different styles, brands or experience that might mean you’re a great fit for a company in comparison to someone seemingly similar.
So long as you’ve chosen a profitable niche to work in, there should be plenty of clients to go round. You just have to convince them to come to you in search of work but not at the expense of others.
How do you deal with a little healthy competition? Are you part of a freelancing community? Share your thoughts and tips below.