Does a Freelancer Need to Be Hypercompetitive to Succeed?


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:

  • Pricing
  • Abilities
  • Experience
  • Creativity
  • Quality
  • Timeliness

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.


  1. says

    I love this post.

    I always say there’s not competitors – only colleagues. Viewing freelancers as competition only makes for a lack of confidence and lot of frustration. Not every freelancer is looking for the same job. Plus, if you’re the best candidate for the job, the client will pick you over all the others anyway. Freelancers refer each other for jobs, offer tips and advice to each other. I never see others as competition – only people who share the same profession, and people people who I can learn from.

  2. says

    I think I’m a naturally competitive person, but I think you got it right when you talked about competing against yourself. I feel sometimes like that’s all I have time for: I can’t get out of my self-induced little writing corner enough to see what everyone else is up to!!! I have these specific goals, and they tend to take up all my time.

  3. says

    Thanks Deb and Allena!

    Welcome to the Freelance Folder community!

    Coming from two writing/blogging colleagues who I respect (and whose work I’m familiar with), your comments mean a lot to me.

    I also believe that, if we work hard, we can achieve our goals without pushing anyone else out of the way. In my opinion, it’s much more rewarding to work cooperatively.

    Keep the comments coming!

  4. says

    I wholeheartedly agree that is is important to compete with yourself instead of others. At the end of the day your technical and people skills are what is going to keep you employed, not the fact that you can swindle your way into landing more clients. I like doing things that help focus on the long term success of a project.

  5. says

    I feel clients aren’t people who will only work with highly skilled people, who lack values. They’re human too. If any attempt to trick our fellow peers will be viewed as a negative attitude. If they’re clever enough 0).
    So, try to develop a good relationship with clients – giving utmost commitment to their jobs. I think that part would surely bring great deal of goodwill towards us.
    I liked this post very much which brings out the psyche of most of the businesses.

  6. says

    Thanks Solomon!

    Of course everyone is different and one can always wonder how much competitiveness is too much.

    Personally, I think it’s too much if it becomes destructive or devalues the individual.

    Great discussion!

  7. says

    Great post. Like wolves, freelancers are more successful when they work as a group, supporting each other, sharing jobs, giving feedback and growing. A mass of creatives can create energy that attracts clients and multiplies the work so everyone benefits.

  8. says

    Great post, and I agree with everything you wrote!

    It took me a while to learn that I need to only compete with myself and not compare myself to others. And although I don’t know too many freelance writers, I’d much rather cooperate than compete with them.

  9. says

    I don’t think I have ever read a post that echoed my own thoughts so well. I seem to have this fierce independence that I will do what I think is best even if it seems not to be popular. When I think of competition I think of trying to do the same things someone else does or making your product just like theirs. Satisfaction comes from doing what you like not what the competition does. Who ever heard of an artwork that tried to better that another artwork?

  10. says

    Another great article Laura,

    I totally agree about competing with ourselves rather than others. It’s a healthy way of gaining improvement and growth with various aspects of life. This act also lessens the chance of internally harming your emotions due to insecurities and other negative vibes. When you compete with yourself, you are focusing with your own weaknesses and try to resolve them. However, when you compete with others you emphasize your insecurities and try to identify the weak side of your competition instead working out your own gray spot. Indeed, people around you doing the same stuffs and with the same interest must be treated as friends and not as enemies.

  11. Paul Shangwe says

    This must be the best advise I’ve come across today 30th of September 2009, there is no doubt that competing with the self as opposed to other freelancers is a sure way to personal growth and improvement. “Me-must-beat-em-at-whatever-cost” kind of attitude is a perfect recipe for frustration and failure.

    Thanks Laura for this informative piece.

  12. says

    GREAT Article!!
    “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?”
    Perfecto!!!! I totally agree!

  13. says


    This is a great post! It took me a long time to learn this lesson. Fortunately, I was working in a corporation and not freelancing at the time, so I had ready mentors who helped me understand the value of cooperation vs. competition. Understanding this changed my life. For me, competitiveness is a physical feeling (at least for me). If I feel this, then I know I need to rethink my reaction to a situation.

    Thanks for writing this and the reminder!

  14. says

    I absolutely agree with your post. Actually, being competitive only with myself has garnered me a lot of work through peers. I’ve done a lot of sub-contract work through studios that I could have competed with, but rather, we’ve found each others’ strengths and weaknesses and used those to our advantage—to get projects done that would have been harder for just on of us to do on our own.

  15. says

    I’m the opposite of competitive, and I don’t think it’s done me too wrong. To be honest, there isn’t much competition in the area that I’m in, but because of the downturn there are people who _think_ they know how to design a site overcharging unfortunate individuals who are wasting their money. Sorry, I digress but it’s something that really bugs me.

    I’m all about co-operation. Remember, it’s all about who you know, not what you know (to an extent).

  16. says

    Hi Laura,

    I am actually figuring out that it’s your post at the 1st paragraph of your blog. You’ve written worth reading posts, and kudos to that!

    I myself have been guilty of checking out other freelancers’ sites and comparing myself to what he knows to what I dont know. Then I’d spend a couple of days thinking about it.

    But now I realized that I am my own’s competition. I got enough clients, got referrals, earn more than enough, so what’s my problem? : )

    Great Post Laura!

  17. Alexey says

    I really haven’t thought about it. I thought that if you look for people as competitors than it gives you energy to be the best. But this is the bad way because you will always find people who are ore smart, more rich and etc. Your post has opened me eyes that instead of looking to others as competitors to compete with yourself. Thank you for the post.

  18. says

    Competition is an interesting issue. We’re brought up in a competitive society and are taught to compete in school at sports and we naturally like to do well so we can feel good about ourselves and look good in front of our peers. With competition in the freelance world I totally agree that there is no need for hyper-competitiveness. It creates a negative environment and is unhealthy.

  19. says

    What a brilliant article! You’re absolutely right, I couldn’t agree more… What is more, if we compete with ourselves, we become better collaborators.

    Thanks for sharing… love this post.


  20. says

    Hi there

    I feel that when you are a freelancer, it’s not about being competitive but just being able to stand out in your field by the work you do.

    All other freelancers in my field of work are colleagues and I would feel great if I could work together with them or just hand over a job to them.
    Life is too short to have enemies :)


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