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Dealing with Competitors

How Freelancers Can Succeed: The old adage “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” is

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The old adage 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer' is good advice for freelancers to consider when dealing with competitors, says Ande Schurr.

Schurr outlines his thoughts on the role of the competitor in a freelancer's life and how to enjoy good relations with them.

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My sound mentor once said to me "you are 60 per cent friend, 40 per cent competitor". It was the biggest complement he'd paid me. He meant, of course, that he considered me good enough to be a threat to his business.

We all have competitors; another business, publication or person who is after the same market as us. Whatever it is, it's important to be aware of who they are so you can assess your work in comparison to them; assess the technology and tools they use, the quality of their ideas, the manner they do business. These things become more important when you are having a quiet patch of work. It's then that you may look more closely at them to see if it is you or if it is the market that is causing the slump of work.

This is a simple and intellectual analysis. Simply look around you, do a little research and assess. However, when a competitor becomes a friend, the dynamics change; it becomes more an emotional consideration than before.

I care about the success of my friend-competitors and genuinely want to help them. However, no matter how much I respect and appreciate that person, business is business. It must not be at your expense. Business will always be about money although the means you acquire that money vary greatly.

If it so happens that your friend-competitor gets a job you were going for, then you can marvel at him, that he had the connection, skill, experience or plain audacity that you didn't have and then try to remedy what you lacked. It never becomes a negative situation; the friendship remains.

Three kinds of competitors

1. Those below or at your level.

Good Mastermind potential (read below about the Mastermind); the relationship is built on friendship and mutual respect

2. Those above you but unapproachable.

No Mastermind potential because the Mastermind will only work when two or more people are in complete harmony with each other and no negative feeling exists between them. You've tried to initiate a conversation, but there is no good-will or respect coming from them. You may not admire them personally but you admire their skills or ability to get the sort of work you want. In this situation, learn about them as much as possible from what you read and hear.

3. Those above you and are approachable.

Excellent Mastermind material if they are willing since it may be a one-sided exchange in your favour.

The Mastermind

If you have a good rapport with your competitor, as in number 1 and 3, then forming a Mastermind group with them is a powerful thing to do. It will increase your motivation, increase your skills, increase your thirst to succeed because you know that someone is watching you and reminding you to be at your best all the time. A Mastermind, in the way I am describing it, is when you sit down together and discuss your careers, your problems, your gear, your ambitions. This is what I understand Philip Patston was describing in his June post The new mentor is a peer. It can do wonders when you have the support of a colleague who has experienced many of the same things that you have.

Although, I emphatically add, this form of mentoring relationship can never replace the traditional kind between the wiser, more experienced mentor and the student seeking wisdom and experience. This is as old as civilization itself and for a good reason too; if you consult the masses for advice you will get a safe level of support, but when you consult an elder of your craft, they will help you leave behind the safety of your own limitations, then you will separate yourself from the masses and theoretically, with enough effort, attain or surpass their level.

I hope I have been clear about the benefits that exist when a freelancer swallows their pride and befriends competitors in the purpose of improving their craft and themselves.

Written by

Ande Schurr

11 Aug 2010

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.