I recently received this email:
"My biggest struggle this week has been a competitor. Both their success and bewilderment at how they succeed. My focus has frequently been taken away from my own work to theirs. I welcome competition and think it’s good but this is unhealthy and I’m trying to figure out what to do about it."
Ah, the classic comparison is the thief of joy. It’s easy to get distracted by what those around you are doing. The more time you spend comparing yourself to others, the more time you’re taking away from yourself to create good work.
Spending too much time being paralysed by what others are doing will negatively influence your own output — either the quality or pace.
Comparing yourself to others isn’t a fair way to measure progress. Instead, look at your previous work or efforts from two years ago or even as recent as six months ago, and compare that to where you are now. Comparing to your past self is the best indicator of your progress and how far you’ve come.
Yes, it’s true that there are people more successful than you. It’s natural to be bewildered as to how. Chances are they’ve probably been in the game longer than you. They’ve likely had more time to build a foundation for their business.
You too can do this if you spend your time, energy and focus in the right places. This should be a motivator to knuckle down and get to work. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be at that level.
As humans, we’re good at downplaying our successes. There’s always someone who’s achieved greater success than us — so why should we celebrate?
While you may not be on the global speaking circuit or asked to write a book, I bet you’re doing things way beyond the majority of people. There’s at least one person looking up to you for where you’re at right now.
We’re often quick to assume that competitors are bad. They’re stealing potential clients, offering gimmicks or using greasy sales-tactics to get people to buy. In our heart we know our services are better, yet people seem to flock to them.
While competitors can be bad for you, there’s a silver lining. Such as:
- They’re validation that there’s a market (money to be made)
- You can learn from their mistakes and skip ahead
- There’s opportunities to niche down
- There’s available data and research to confidently forecast growth projections
- You can find opportunities to work with or against them
There are many reasons why someone might choose a competitor over you. Perhaps the competitor has been in the market longer than you. They’ve had more time to build up a good reputation and client base.
Alternatively they might be especially skilled or experienced in a particular skill that you don’t offer. Lastly, there’s often practical factors too when it comes to buying decision making such as location, language, availability and cost.
Leading competitors are there because they lead the way, not because they followed.
There’s only so far ahead you can get if all you do is follow or copycat a competitor. Asses what they did and then consider what you can do differently to get ahead faster or more efficiently.
This is where your unique selling proposition comes in handy. Stop focusing all your energy on what others are doing and create your own path instead. This is the only way you’re going to get ahead — by creating a unique path that’s 100% focused on YOU.
Some think it’s healthy to compare yourself to those far ahead in the game. As a one-woman band the scope of work I can produce is only so much. Is it fair to compare myself to world class agencies and studios? Grant Cardrone believes it is:
"People make the mistake of getting too caught up in competing with the wrong players. They are too busy looking at the person at the desk beside them instead of the top three players in the industry."
– Grant Cardrone
The takeaway here is that if you want to be the greatest, you have to beat the greatest. Channel your focus on success, which may be further ahead than you think.
So far I’ve talked about competitors being a threat. However there’s also the opportunity for competitors to be a friend. Making friends with other creatives in your community is a massive opportunity for you to connect, collaborate and learn from others.
Competitors can be friend, not food.
My friend Charli Prangley is a fellow designer who also works freelance on a range of projects. While I could view her as a competitor, instead she’s a friend. Together we’ve worked together a tonne from collaborating on projects to running a podcast.
The opportunity to work with others in your field is rich, and when join forces this puts you on the fast track.
Forming these connections with others in your industry is like strapping a rocket to your career. It allows you to build mental wealth from like-minded people. In the past I wasn’t very active with my community. I viewed my peers as competition and closed myself off in fear as I thought it would help me get ahead.
That got me no where. I designed in a silo and my learning was slow.
Since participating and opening myself to my community I’ve gained friends for life, collaborated on projects and joined a MasterMind group. Find those like-minded people who can challenge and push you to succeed.
Don’t let competition distract you from your own mission. Channel your energy into your own stuff. The more time you give them, the faster and further ahead they’ll be of you.
Focus on what sets you apart. You’re one of a kind and nothing can compete with the uniqueness and special qualities of you 💕