The very word can strike fear and excitement into the heart of even the seasoned entrepreneur.
“What is the competition doing?”
“How competitive are we?”
“How can we beat the competition?”
These are all questions that every businessperson wonders at one time or another. There’s no doubt that a freelancing business must be competitive in order to survive.
But, what does being competitive really mean?
A Quick Working Definition of Competition
If you’re competitive in your field, then you are probably able to match or exceed your competition in the one or more of the following aspects:
A freelancer who doesn’t anything to offer to their clients in any of the above areas probably won’t stay in business very long.
What About Being Hyper-Competitive?
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a negative trend that goes beyond mere professional competition. It’s an overly competitive spirit that says “I’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead of my competition at whatever cost.”
I’ve come to think of this attitude as hyper-competitive (or, being unnecessarily competitive). I don’t know exactly what has fueled this new increase in excessive competition, but I suspect that the economy might have something to do with it.
I remember my first brush with a hyper-competitive individual. Back in school, I was signing up for classes for the next semester when a classmate approached me and asked to see what classes I had enrolled in.
When I asked why he wanted to see my class list he said with a smirk, “because I am going to take every class that you do and do better in each class than you.”
My reaction was probably not what my classmate anticipated – I said, “so, what if you do?”
Instead of worrying me or goading me into a performance race, my classmate’s hyper-competitive attitude was of no real consequence to me.
The Only True Competition
If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, then you know that I’ve always been an advocate of competing with yourself rather than with others.
It’s best to focus on self-improvement and on overcoming your own past problems rather than focusing on trying to meet or exceed someone else’s achievements. An even worse competitive strategy is trying to tear another person or business down. (Besides, steamrolling the competition rarely works.)
Self-competition is the only real valid type of competition that there is. Measuring your success against someone else is inherently flawed because you don’t know what advantages (or disadvantages) another freelancer has. Your competitor could be working with:
- Better equipment
- Assistance from others
- Longer timeframes
- More cooperative clients
Your competitor could even be lying about their success.
Instead of Hyper-competition, Why Not Cooperation?
Rather than viewing other freelancers as the “competition to be beat at all costs,” why not view them as peers, colleagues, potential mentors, and/or friends?
In fact, if you choose not to cooperate with your fellow freelancers you may be missing out on a very powerful freelancing advantage.
Exactly how competitive are you?
Do you prefer to compete or cooperate with your fellow freelancers?
Share your thoughts in the comments.